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Happiness May Not Be What You Think!

A lot of people seem to have very different opinions as to what exactly it means to be happy.  So I want to add some clarity to the conversation.  The consensus seems to be that happiness is personal, that what brings joy to one person can be drastically different than another.  I agree, but I do believe that there is a core of happiness.

So what is happiness?

Short Definition: 

Happiness is feeling good.

Long Definition: 

Happiness is the experience of all positive emotions, individually or in any given combination.

Now this comes with some qualifiers, of course.  Studies have shown that altruistic activities(serving others) tend to bring more (and long lasting) joy than hedonistic activities (self-serving). So sure, indulge yourself, do something just for you, if it brings you some happiness, but then think about what you can do for others as well.

According to “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, our happiness can be broken down in the following way:

  • 50% genetic (set point) – can’t change – may be low or high (Static)
  • 10% life circumstances – mostly out of our control and fluctuates (Fluctuates – but out of our control)
  • 40% ours to work with – under our control if we work at it. (we can increase out happiness if we put concerted effort into it)

This means that you can increase your happiness significantly, with your own efforts, assuming your set point is low.  Even if your set point is high you can still increase your happiness a lot with intentional activities.

When you look at the 12 activities that Sonja talks about, and how you need to find your personal fit, those activities which work best for you, then you can start to see that yes, happiness is different for every person.


It all comes back to what are those activities which you … feel good … doing.  Find the activities which bring you the most joy and learn how to practice them properly, with the right timing and frequency and you can do a lot to increase your happiness. Some will bring you satisfaction in a job well done, or pride in accomplishing a goal, others will bring the warm joy of helping others, or the sturdy comfort of being grateful for what you have.

These are just some of the 80 or so positive emotions that are out there, that all contribute to our happiness.

What to know more?