Where DOES happiness come from? I suspect if you asked a child, he or she would tell you that happiness is staying up late, one last lap around the playground, or that joyous moment when s/he’s realized that Jenny is going down for leaving the caps off the markers when she didn’t even do that and HAH that’s what she gets for saying my head looks like a malted milk ball! Someone living paycheck to paycheck might say happiness is knowing there won’t be any late charges on bills this month. An excruciatingly wealthy person might tell you that happiness is being in a position to be charitable, but then later, after you’ve left they will probably count that interview as “charity” and celebrate their philanthropy with a new pair of Ray-Bans or something. I guess.
UC Riverside professor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, wanted to know what contributes to happiness in adults. In her book, “The How of Happiness,” she took a shot at finding out. Based on data complied with the assistance of Ken Sheldon of the University of Missouri and David Schkade of UC San Diego, Lyubomirsky has estimated that factors that impact our happiness are broken down as follows: 50% our genes (as in, are we designed to be happy?), 10% our circumstances (aka money, the kind that makes some people happy), and 40% ourselves (ie it’s your own fault if your happy – or miserable).
That 50% number is based on “research on twins,” which is kind of vague. I am assuming identical twins were studied since they will have the exact same DNA for scientists to compare, but I can’t be sure because I haven’t read the book. The 10% is loosely based on a study that showed Americans who made $10 million annually were not significantly happier than blue-collar laborers, office workers, and ramen-fueled bloggers. I would suggest that, perhaps, those people should spend a month as a blue-collar laborer, office worker, or ramen-fueled blogger to see if that $10 million (annual) paycheck wouldn’t perk them up a bit.
This means that an estimated 40% of what makes us happy is us. Our happiness rests in our own hands – or heads, really. I think there is something delightful about that, the idea that after genetics and before money, we control our happiness. It makes sense – only we know what’s going on upstairs. We may not have total control of every thought in our head, but, with limited exceptions, we can control how we respond and what we do with those thoughts. 40% is a LOT of control over happiness- and that is quite empowering. We have it in us to take control of our happiness, so let’s do that. What’s the worst thing that could happen? We could stay the same OR we could assert a little dominance over our lives, and I think that is totally worth the risk.