Did you know that each person has what is called a happiness set point? Well we do. Each person has a built in level of happiness that they innately default to when moving through each day of their life. So just imagine, when you look at a person and think to yourself that the individual just looks like a happy person or vice versa, like an unhappy person, on some level, you may be accurate in your assessment.
Now with this fact, there is some good and some bad news. The bad news is that 50% of our happiness set point is determined by our genetics! 50%! Can you imagine? Right off the bat before you even had any say in how you would be as a person, your innate level of happiness is determined by something you have no control over. Wow!
On hearing this fact some people might be tempted to get discouraged and think that there is no hope for them. However, I ask you to remember that I mentioned there was also some good news. The good news is this. Anyone can change their happiness set point.
Many people assume that the secret to changing their happiness level is to change their situation. They think that getting rich or getting thin or getting married, or divorced or having children, will be the secret to their happiness. However, many find that even when they have realized their goals they have not attained any sustainable level of happiness.
Research into the happiness set point shows that our circumstances only account for 10% of our feelings of happiness. Notably, it also has found that even though we can improve our happiness by creating changes in our circumstances, this is not sustainable. Therefore, that feeling of pleasure that we get when we first achieve our goals is not enough to ensure we are still in a positive state of mind when faced with the next challenge. To create a more enduring state of happiness requires us to make a conscious decision that we are in fact going to be happy and then to commit to practicing the daily habits that will get us and keep us there.
While it is true that some people face circumstances that are extreme and as such they are challenged to find feelings of happiness in the face of their reality, it is important to note that this is not true for most. Individuals who faced extreme poverty or other challenges while growing up and then went on to be massively successful, always reference the faith, hope and other positive outlook that they had in their lives. There is proof that the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer or chronic conditions like fibromyalgia can be positively impacted by the patient choosing to focus on keeping their level of happiness high. Laughter can in fact be a good medicine.
Research has shown that up to 40% of our happiness levels is determined by our intentional practices. This means that we can choose to engage in activities that are deliberately designed to put us in a good mood and we can do this on a daily basis so that it becomes consistent. It is important to note that these positive emotions move beyond just laughter. They also include the feelings of gratitude, hope, faith, kindness to others, appreciation, joy, etc.
Therefore, there is a wide range of actions which we can adopt and incorporate as habits into our daily routines so that we can increase the sustainability of our feelings of happiness. Finding time to focus on what you are grateful for, caring for someone else, finding ways to feel joy or laughter are some of the strategies that are most often recommended.
We know that bad things happen. We recognize that reality sometimes means that things go wrong, tragedies strike or plans fail. However, having a deep reservoir of positive emotions means that we have the capacity to bounce back sooner and sometimes stronger. When we can do this, when we can get to the point where we consistently feel more hopeful, more grateful, more kindly toward others, more joyful or more resilient, we have the power to influence our set point and by extension our potential to be successful.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live