How would you feel if someone told you that you controlled 40% of your happiness?

This may come as a surprise to some given most of us tend to assume that our happiness is largely dependent on external factors such as a great job, a loving partner, a steady cash flow etc.

Sonja Lyubomirsky is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California and has spent years focusing on the science of human happiness. In her book, The How of Happiness, she includes a pie chart that theorises what determines our happiness.

Lyubomirsky claims that 50% of an individual’s happiness is genetic. Meaning that half of our happiness is outside of our control, that it comes down to the genes passed onto us by our mothers and fathers, which fortunately or unfortunately we can’t do anything about. She labels this as our ‘set point’, the level of happiness that we return to after ups and downs.

Lyubomirsky also believes that a mere 10% of our happiness can be attributed to our life circumstances, some of those external factors mentioned earlier, which we may or may not have entire control over i.e. our race, gender, health etc.

It all sounds a bit depressing so far doesn’t it?

Yet the good news is that the remaining 40% of the pie is within our own hands to change. And it is this component that can have an incredible impact on our happiness levels. Lyubomirsky labels this as ‘intentional activity’. Despite not being able to control our genes or to some extent our life circumstances, we have the ability to find happiness through the attitudes and behaviours we adopt as well as the activities we pursue. It takes effort to maintain these over the long term but we know how rewarding it can be.

If there is one thing you take away from all of this, it is that your level of happiness is not entirely fixed, and there are choices you can make.

So choose wisely.