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FILE: Happiness

Science says we can become happier

Do you want to be happy?


Seriously?

(Many of The Furries in The Happy Club watch a lot of Grey's Anatomy these days so that word keeps popping up...)

Well, you’re not alone - the vast majority of us want to be happy.

We might call it other things and try to achieve it by different means but there is a basic human (and furry) drive towards happiness.

In the Happy Club we even argue with our motto that “Happiness is the meaning of life”.

But is it really possible to become happier?

Many, deep down inside, feel that there really isn’t much we can do to be guaranteed a happier life. Some might even find the goal offensive or at least unserious. After all, striving for happiness has been the main focus for philosophers, religions, gurus and self-proclaimed experts since the beginning of time and no one seems to have come up with a given, universal path to happiness - yet.

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

― Aristotle

So the question is:

Is it really possible to do something to become happier? And if there is, what is that?

Interestingly enough we live in a time where social sciences has started to do real scientific research to find answers to these questions.

Starting within a branch of psychology called positive psychology researchers have used scientific methodology to find out what really makes people happy.

As a result the scientific community now knows quite a lot about what makes people happy. The results are very promising.

The researchers have found many things that we can do to increase our own happiness and well-being.

They have even put a number on how much we can accomplish. It turns out that about 40% of our happiness level depends on things that we can control or influence.

I know that science is not perfect but I think that these findings are much more interesting to look into than a lot of opinions and assumptions made by people who really doesn’t know more than we do.

So what does this thing about the 40% really mean? Let me try to illustrate.

Let´s say that we take a whole bunch of furries and ask them to rate how happy they are on a scale from one to seven.

The results will be something like this:

Science Happiness continuum levels diagram

A few furries will be very unhappy and a few will be very happy. But most furries will end up somewhere in between. Now the question is why do we have this variation?

Why does the level of happiness vary so much?

Genes

Because we are born that way, you might answer.

And you would be right. The scientists have found that:

As much as 50% of people’s happiness can be explained by the genes (mostly from research on twins).

So if we took all the furries from our little study and put the same genome/genes inside of them they would still vary in their happiness levels – but the variation would be much smaller.

Okay, let’s try that. We take the genes from one of the furries who rated the happiness level to a seven on the scale and put that individual’s genome into all of the other furries.

Furries science injected with happiness genome

Then we ask the furries to rate their happiness level again.

Now the curve in the diagram above would have less variation (50% less according to studies) – but there would still be a difference amongst individuals.

Scientific studies indicate that we all have a genetically predetermined set point or baseline for happiness. Some are simply born happier or sadder than others. There even seems to be a depression gene.

That does not mean that we should give up trying to do something about our own happiness. On the contrary, the remaining 40-50% (50% if we include changing our life circumstances) is still under our control. Also, genes are not static, they can be turned on or off by environmental factors. Stress for instance, has been shown to increase the risk of depression.

Life circumstances

No one will be surprised to hear that differences in life circumstances can explain some of the variation in happiness amongst individuals.

Factors like wealth, health, education, family, good looks and fame must be part of the picture.

But what´s surprising is that those things matter a lot less than you might think.

The scientists say that only 10% of the variation in our happiness depends on our life circumstances.

So if you are rich, married and beautiful you might be a little happier than most but just a tiny, tiny, bit. The evidence is formidable:

Changing your life circumstances is not the key to long lasting happiness.

So we now have 50% genes + 10% life circumstances - what about the remaining 40%?

Intentional Activity

This is where the really good news comes in.

It turns out that around 40% of our happiness level depends on things that all of us can do something about. What we think, what we do and what attitudes we carry have a great influence on our happiness and well-being.

With the right intentional happiness enhancing activities we can all become a lot happier.

And it doesn’t have to take a lot, some small happiness enhancing strategies or activities can have a dramatic effect.

So the message is quite clear:

Science says: You can become happier!

Trying to become happier is a possible goal.

Happiness is not something that you must wait for or go out and try to find like a long lost treasure. Using the latest results from happiness research we can all start doing the right things and have quick and lasting results.

That’s what we´re going to do in The Happy Club!

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Now I have deserved some chili, don’t you think? Give me chili!

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