Can You Create Happiness?

Positive psychology has taken the world by storm in the last 16 years.  Researchers from vaunted academic institutions such as Harvard, North Carolina, The University of California, and the University of Pennsylvania (among many others) have been burning up the nations band width through Ted talks, book tours, and media interviews.  The simple idea: what makes us happy and can we use this information to increase the general happiness level of the masses?

In the frequently cited 2005 review by Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change, the authors theorize a model where 50% of happiness is a set or predetermined point (thought to be genetically determined), 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40% is do to intentional activities.

Studies examining the effects of various intentional activities on increasing happiness have identified several likely methods of propagating this component of our total happiness.  Activities such as committing acts of kindness, savoring joyful events, and expressing optimism or gratitude seem to be promising methods for increasing our overall happiness level.

So how can you use this to add happiness to your life?


1) Express Gratitude—The easiest way to use the positive psychology movement to benefit your happiness is to frequently and sincerely express gratitude.  Research clearly links our feelings and expression of gratitude with increases in happiness.

2) Plan and Savor Events—There is a stronger positive correlation between life experiences  when compared to material positions, and happiness scores.  This holiday try going the extra mile and create an experiential memory that will last a lifetime.

3) Experience the Kindness Effect—Does it really take a lot of research to tell us that doing something nice for someone makes us feel happier?  Seriously, if you need to be told doing something nice for someone makes you feel good about yourself then you should go find your Kindergarten teacher and tell her she failed you. (My apologies to those who struggle with this idea through negative life experiences or neurological impairments.  I mean no disrespect to you).  To all of you with no good excuse, go do something nice for someone!  You’ll feel better.