By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC
One thing I enjoy about working for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing is giving talks on a variety of subjects.
Over the last year, “happiness” has been by far the most requested topic. Of course, the obvious reason for that is people want to be happy. Behind that reason is its antithesis ― many folks are unhappy and don’t know why.
There’s a lot of science behind happiness and a lot of good news to share about what determines it:
- About 50 percent of our happiness is genetically determined.
We have a happiness “set point” that we return to, regardless of what is happening in our lives. You can probably think of folks in your life who are upbeat all of the time and others who are more melancholy.
- What about circumstances?
By circumstances, I am including where you live, your health, your job, your appearance, and how much money you have or don’t have. Research shows that these things account for only 10 percent of happiness. Most people are surprised by this. After all, so much of our lives can be consumed in pursuit of them.
So, why do we pursue these circumstances if they don’t much matter? Because they work – for a while. I remember the day I picked up my car. I was thrilled. I loved my new car, and I didn’t mind driving at all. I kept it meticulously clean and banned young children or adults with food. My car seemed to make me happy, until one day it didn’t.
Suddenly, I didn’t look forward to driving as much. Instead of people checking out my car, I was checking out theirs. In fact, I can’t remember the last time driving was a pleasure.
Scientists call this the “Hedonic Effect.” Something or someone can make us happy for a while, until normalcy makes it just ho-hum or until the next best thing ― or person ― comes along.
- So what’s the good news?
The good news is about 40 percent of our happiness has nothing to do with things, jobs, money, appearance, genetics, or even health. That huge chunk of happiness comes from what we do with the lives we have and how we think. Our daily intentional activities have everything to do with our happiness.
In coming blog posts, I will walk you through evidence-based strategies that lead to lasting happiness ― the things that happy people do and the way they think.
For now, think about the time(s) in your life when you were the happiest. Consider:
- What was I doing on a day-to-day basis?
- What made life meaningful to me and what motivated me?
- What practices or ways of thinking stand out?
These questions help you understand what you value and what actions will contribute to renewed happiness. I look forward to sharing more happiness strategies in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, I will leave you with a quote: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.
Past LiveWell blog entries on happiness: