Maybe you have observed that some people possess a cheerful demeanor that seems almost effortless. Perhaps you know other individuals who have had to work hard to find what makes them happy. That leads us to the question: how much of our own happiness is within our control? In this article we will take a look at the factors that contribute to happiness, and the concrete steps that we can take in order to be happier and more fulfilled in our lives.
What Factors Influence Our Happiness?
Happiness can be thought of as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
In 2005, researchers proposed a ‘happiness pie chart’ that claimed 50% of happiness is determined by our genes/biology, 40% is due to our intentional activities, and 10% is attributed to life circumstances. Over the years, this model has faced criticism for being over-simplified and failing to take into account the complex interplay between these factors.
Recent studies have revealed that genes and life circumstances likely play a larger role in determining happiness than previously thought. Research has shown that certain characteristics such as optimism and happiness can in fact be inherited. Several genes have the potential to predispose us for happiness. The impact of our environment and life circumstances cannot be downplayed as well. In addition to demographics such as age, race, sex, education, and income, where we live also plays a significant role in our level of happiness.
Given the strong role of biology and life circumstances, it may seem like what we do may not make much of a difference on how happy we are. However researchers suggest that our daily habits and behaviors do have a significant impact on our well-being. They state that some people may have to work harder than others, but it is possible to take intentional steps to increase happiness. Let’s take a look at some behaviors that have been proven to elevate happiness and life satisfaction.
For more advice and information about happiness, visit BetterHelp.
5 Activities Proven to Increase Happiness
- Cultivate gratitude.
The experience of feeling and expressing gratitude has been connected with many benefits on mental health including increased happiness and positive emotions. Several ideas for incorporating gratitude into your daily life include starting a daily journal where you note what you are thankful for each day, writing notes of appreciation to important people in your life, or engaging in prayer/meditation.
- Spend more time in nature.
Spending time outside, particularly in forested areas, can have a powerful impact on mood and feelings of calmness. A study on ‘forest therapy’ noted that spending time among the trees reduces levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body.
- Help others.
Getting involved in volunteer work is one of the most effective ways to elevate happiness and life satisfaction. Think about your unique skills and interests, and brainstorm how you might use your talents to give back to the community.
- Practice mindfulness.
Engaging in mindfulness (focusing on the present moment) is linked with increased happiness, decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, and a greater sense of purpose in life. Learn more about getting started with mindful meditation here.
- Pursue what is meaningful to you.
A core aspect of maintaining happiness is putting your time and energy into activities, projects, and relationships that you find fulfilling and meaningful (as opposed to what you think you ‘should’ be doing). Leading a life that is aligned with your values and driven by purpose is crucial for true happiness.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.