The Defy Aging Newsletter

Anti-aging psychology, holistic health, and wellness

a biweekly e-mail newsletter for helping you think, feel, look, and be more youthful and live with purpose.

June 19, 2008 Number 190

This issue:

What Research Says About Happiness


Rather than pursuing the myth that obtaining or achieving something will bring happiness, focus on doing things that help raise your happiness set point.


There is an explosion of books on happiness and how to be happy. The Dali Lama’sThe Art of Happiness, Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness, Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, The Secret of Happiness, Gross National Happiness(about which country is the happiest), Happiness is a Choice, Happiness is a Serious Problem, and many more. We’ve come a long way since Charles Schultz taught us thatHappiness is a Warm Puppy.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky on Ageless Lifestyles Radio. She has spent two decades researching happiness. Her book The How of Happiness is unique in that it focuses on research on happiness, rather than theories or philosophies. So what did she find?

First, 50% of your happiness (i.e., your set point for happiness) is genetic. I see that as both good news a bad news. When bad things happen it is like insurance--it helps you bounce back. On the other hand most people who win the lottery are about as happy as they were a year after their big win. Also, some genes make people particularly vulnerable to depression-especially if they also have traumatic experiences.

While we tend to think that our happiness if primarily due to life events, Lyubomirsky found that only 10% is situational. That leaves 40% to the activities you pursue.

Activities that help raise your set point for happiness include:

  • expressing gratitude
  • cultivating optimism
  • avoiding social comparisons
  • performing acts of kindness
  • nurturing relationships
  • forgiving
  • pursuing "flow experiences"
  • savoring life's pleasures
  • pursuing spiritual growth
  • exercising and good health practices

Put that way, it fits well with what clergy teach us and with common sense. The bottom line is, if you want to be happier, forgot the myth aboutt the achievements or acquisitions that will bring happiness and focus on what you do.


Human felicity is produc'd not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.

~Benjamin Franklin


If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?


Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

~Oscar Wilde

Whoever said money can't buy happiness didn't know where to shop.

~Gertrude Stein

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