Happiness, Part 2

Last post I mentioned that we all have an individual natural set point for happiness. That set point, determined by our genes, determines about 50% of our happiness levels. Our circumstances account for only about another 10%. (People generally overestimate how much good or bad experiences will affect them.) So that leaves a whopping 40% of our happiness to be controlled by our intentional activity! Think of happiness as a skill to be learned. The formula is not the same for everyone, but the research shows it usually involves the following:
1. Play
2. Developing strong relationships with friends and family
3. Having new experiences
4. Participating in meaningful activities
5. Appreciating what we have–Gratitude
Let’s take a look at each of these habits.

The brain chemical dopamine is essential for experiencing happiness, so we need to seek out experiences that produce it, such as physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise. Also any activity that puts one “in the zone” or in a state of FLOW. That is, participating in an activity where you forget all else but what you’re doing–running, yoga, gardening, playing or listening to music. People who engage in activities where they experience FLOW are happier than those who do not.

Developing strong relationships with family and friends

Happy people tend to value relationships and have a strong sense of community. They spend more time nurturing their relationships with family and friends and set that as a priority in their lives. They are there for their friends when things go wrong AND when things go right! They regularly celebrate their friend’s accomplishments.

Having new experiences
Happy people tend to be curious. They go for adventure outside their comfort zone in order to have an experience that is new and exciting. When searching for happiness, variety is indeed the spice of life.

Next time we’ll look at how participating in meaningful activities and gratitude makes us happier. And did you notice what is not on the list above? Notice there is nothing there about making more money! We’ll also look at why that’s so.

Food for thought: When was the last time you engaged in an activity where you were “in the zone” or when you stepped out of your comfort zone for a bit of adventure? Maybe today’s the day!

About Gretchen Derda (Woosley), MSW, LCSW

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in a private psychotherapy practice where I specialize in work with families and children. My focus is to help families improve their functioning so that each member of the family can reach their full potential, becoming the persons they were meant to be.
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2 Responses to Happiness, Part 2

  1. Emily says:

    I learned tons just in that first paragraph!!

  2. Dianne says:

    Boy I wish I had an hour or two to talk to you right now! Trying to guide adult children is so hard and this topic is essential!

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