What Really Makes us Happy?

What makes you happy?

I imagine everybody has asked themselves the question: What will make me happy?

If you have, how do you answer?

Money? Time with your family?  Chocolate? A new handbag? A meaningful job?  A husband? A sunny day?  Keeping in touch with friends regularly?

I seem to ask this question of myself quite a lot, and I don’t always know the answer. (Which is probably why I am now a happiness coach, because people tend to become experts in what they struggle with.)  So over the last couple of years I have read many books and research coming from the relatively new area of Positive Psychology. This is the study of happy people, and what makes people happier.  One of the most interesting theories that I’ve come across is one from  Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues.  She discovered through her research that our happiness is made up of:

  • 50% genetics – we inherit a happiness ‘set point’ from our parents, which doesn’t change much throughout our lives.
  • 10% circumstances – whether we are rich or poor, what city or house we live in, how healthy we are, how beautiful or plain, married or divorced.
  • 40% intentional activity – our daily behaviour, how we think and act each day.

While this does sound a bit gloomy (that we can’t change 50% of our happiness level)  it is also great news because it means that we can potentially increase our happiness by up to 40% by copying the daily behaviour of happy people.

7 Happy Habits

So what habits do happy people have in their lives? Below I have listed seven of the happy habits that researchers have identified.

  • They are social.  Happy people spend a lot of time with their families and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  •  They practice gratitude on a daily or weekly basis.
  • They prioritise exercise on a daily or weekly basis.
  • They are mindful, live in the present and savour life’s pleasures.
  • They have an optimistic outlook on life, and think in an optimistic way when things go wrong.
  • They are kind and regularly offer help to people they know and meet.
  • They are committed to life long goals, for example, teaching strong values to their children, building cabinets or reducing crime.

Maybe you could pick one of these habits and think about ways of introducing some intentional activity into your life to give your happiness a boost.

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