Do you Have a Happiness Set Point?

DG-science-behind-happiness_pt1Are the happiest people blessed with luck that
bestows a better life and fewer worries? Or, could
we attribute their emotional fulfillment to character strengths and mind power?

Happiness research, a field known as “positive psychology,” is chockfull of relevant findings.
Some of the latest research suggests that people
who focus on purposeful living are more likely to
enjoy good mental health and longevity, as
compared with those whose primary goal is achieving happiness.

If you’re highly satisfied with your life, you’re less likely to suffer from psychological or social problems, physical illnesses, stress and work issues.

Everyone, at one time or another, experiences bad luck and the problems life throws at us. But is it possible that some individuals are genetically wired to be happier and more resilient? The great news is if you’re not among them, you can improve your level of resiliency, happiness and satisfaction?


Hardwired for Happiness

It turns out that mood and temperament do, indeed, have a significant genetic component. In a 1996 study, University of Minnesota psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen surveyed 732 pairs of identical twins and found them to be closely matched for levels of adult happiness, regardless of whether they’d grown up together or apart.

While everyone experiences ups and downs, your mood revolves around innate emotional baselines, or “set points.” Current research suggests that 50% of our capacity for happiness is genetically predisposed.  Which mean 50% is within our control to influence and change.

Still, more than half of how we experience satisfaction and well-being depends on our motivations, goals and behaviors. Even with an inherited range of happiness, There is a lot we can do strengthen our resiliency which improves our happiness and quality of life.

Surprisingly, only about 10% of the variance in happiness levels is explained by differences in life circumstances (rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced, etc.).

Interestingly enough the richest Americans — those earning more than $10 million a year — report levels of personal happiness only slightly higher than those of the office workers they employ.

As we attempt to unravel and understand our happiness quotient, another question emerges: How many positive vs. negative experiences must we have before we can consider ourselves genuinely “happy”?   Is there a happiness formula? The magic ratio according to Dr. John Gottman’s research is 5-to-1 ratio of positive to negative statements.

I’m curious. What makes you happy? What do you think about your own genetic set point for happiness? What is your Happiness formula?


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