The science of happiness: Part I

science-of-happiness-625x352When I first started this blog, I purposely avoided reading books on happiness because I wanted to find my own inspiration and voice. Since then, I’ve naturally started reading more about the science of happiness. As I’ve said on my profile page, I’ve always been fascinated with understanding why some people are blessed with approaching life naturally seeing the “glass half full” while others see the “glass half empty”.

There is a Brazilian folk tale that tells the story of the foolish son of a king who is sent on a journey, and after encountering a series of adventures where he acquires knowledge, finds happiness because “Knowledge is the key to happiness”.

If knowledge is the key to happiness, it seems fitting we increase our happiness IQ by learning more about the science of happiness. Here’s today’s installment.

There is a famous study of twins done by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and published in Psychological Science. It studied 973 pairs of adult twins and found that identical twin pairs responded much more similarly than other twins when asked how happy they were based on traits like “being sociable, active, stable, hardworking and conscientious”. The study concluded that genes account for about 50% of the variation in people’s levels of happiness.

What can we learn from this? The glass half empty people might throw up their hands and say happiness is genetic or pre-ordained so it doesn’t matter what I do or how I act. Glass half full people might say we have 50% control over our happiness and the actions we take to create happiness in our lives.

Probably the best advice comes from one of the co-authors of the study, Timothy Bates. To feel happier, he recommends mimicking the personality traits of those who are: “be social, even if it’s only with a few people; set achievable goals and work toward them; and concentrate on putting setbacks and worries in perspective. “

This week’s #HappyAct is to actively seek to understand your natural pre-disposition towards happiness. And the next time you have a really bad day, take a long drink of water from that glass, whether it’s half full or half empty and know that this too shall pass.

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4 thoughts on “The science of happiness: Part I

  1. Hi Laurie,

    Your “glass half full” comments reminded me of a book I was reading last night on a martial artist. This person says seeing a glass a half full (ie, being an optimist) is as counter-productive as seeing it as half empty (ie, being a pessimist). From this martial artist’s perspective, he took the value judgement out of it and simply saw the glass being at “half capacity” which is neither good nor bad, but simply it’s state. This person didn’t want to be anywhere on the happy-unhappy continuum, they saw the problem in an entirely different way. I don’t know if people with that perspective are any happier, cheerful, or more optimistic, but in general they do seem more contented or at peace with themselves.

  2. Pingback: Kick it forward and help women with breast cancer | Happy Act

  3. Pingback: The science of happiness — Part 2 | Happy Act

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