Could You Be Happier?

Alright, so we all want to be happier.

We make, save, and spend money to increase our happiness. We increase our productivity to achieve more success in order to be happier. We manage our time better so that we have more free time to pursue things that will make us happier.

But can we actually make ourselves happier?

Before diving into an exploration of the things that will make us happier, it is worth stopping and understanding whether it is even possible to improve our own happiness in the first place.

Genetic Happiness

Should I start with the good news or the bad news?

Alright, here’s the bad news: 50% of happiness is completely out of your control.

Half of your happiness is determined by genetics.

You know how some people just seem naturally happier than you? They probably are. Sorry.

Scientists have done all sorts of studies with twins and happiness, comparing identical and fraternal twins as well as twins raised together and twins raised separately to try to nail down what role genetics plays in happiness.

The findings are quite interesting (check this site for a starting place if you’re interested). But for our purposes we need only the conclusion: 50% of happiness is based on your biological parents.

Situational Happiness

Okay, so our first 50% is off the table and we’ve got 50% left.

Next up is the amount of happiness determined by our situation.

This is a very broad category. It includes whether we are rich, poor, healthy, or ill. It includes where we live, what our job is, and whether we are employed at all.

All of these factors combine to make up around 10% of our happiness.

This is really tiny when you stop and think about it! Especially when you consider that these are the type of things that we focus on when we want to be happier.

We tend to believe we’d be happier if we were richer, better looking, retired early, and living in Hawaii. And we probably would! But not by much.

A rich, beautiful, perfectly healthy person with everything going for them has only a 10% head start on the person whose entire life is a complete mess.

It’s not nothing, of course, but it isn’t where we should be spending the majority of our time if we are trying to live a happier life. If all of these things combine for only 10%, then working on each of them in an effort to be happier is not going to yield much benefit.

Plus, for reasons that we’ll explore next week, each improvement that we make in this category only makes us happier on a temporary basis.

This is all to say that we should redirect our attention from this category to the next.

Happiness and Our Thoughts and Actions

After accounting for genetics and our situation, we’ve got 40% of our happiness still unaccounted for. And this is where we have the most power.

This final 40% is essentially based on what we think and what we do on a day to day basis.

This includes things like helping others, having cool experiences, practicing gratitude, and building a positive mindset.

This is where we can take positive steps to make our lives noticeably and measurably happier. Most of them aren’t even that hard!

We’ve been missing out on a big chunk of happiness for no reason!

But don’t worry! We’re going to take some time over the next couple months to review the research and remedy this.

Let’s Get Happier!

50% of our happiness is based on birth and 10% is based on our situation. But even if we lucked out in both areas, 60% is still failing.

Whether you’re the happiest person you know or you have a reputation as the family grouch, there’s plenty that we can learn and plenty of room to grow into happier lives.

Join the Conversation!

What do you think? Are these stats about what you expected? Way different? What have you tried in the past to be happier? Has it worked? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Could You Be Happier?”

  1. Wow. This is eye-opening. It’s scary that 50% is genetic. I’d also have guessed way more than 10% would be based on the situation.

    When I really think about it, I’m happiest when I’m being productive. That probably falls in the 40% category. I’m looking forward to learning how to improve in that area. It’s good to know I don’t have to get to FI to move up the happiness ladder.
    Jason@WinningPersonalFinance recently posted…I Love Credit Cards and So Should YouMy Profile

    1. Happiness from productivity is a big part of the 40% in a bunch of different ways. When we’re lost in our work, we’re experiencing happiness through flow. When we feel like we are getting better at something, we get happiness from that growth. And when we feel like our work is meaningful we experience happiness derived from that sense of purpose. Working on something that you believe in is a great way to get a happiness boost across a bunch of different categories..
      Matt recently posted…Better Life – First Quarter UpdateMy Profile

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