Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., an experimental social psychologist, notes each of us is born with a particular “happiness set point” – “a baseline or potential for happiness.”
She has conducted “the first controlled experimental intervention studies to increase and maintain a person’s happiness level over and above” this set point.
In her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want she explains, “50 percent of individual differences in happiness are governed by genes, 10 percent by life circumstances, and the remaining 40 percent by what we do and how we think – that is, our intentional activities and strategies.
“The secret of course lies in that 40 percent. If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings.
“In sum, our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find themselves.
“If an unhappy person wants to experience interest, enthusiasm, contentment, peace, and joy, he or she can make it happen by learning the habits of a happy person.”
She adds in her Psychology Today blog post What Influences Our Happiness The Most? that “the set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight. Some people are blessed with a ‘skinny disposition.’ Even when they’re not trying, they easily maintain their weight. By contrast, others have to work extraordinarily hard to keep their weight at a desirable level and the moment they slack off even a bit, the pounds creep back on.”
She says that “Much like permanent weight loss and fitness, becoming lastingly happier demands making some permanent changes, requiring effort and commitment every day of one’s life.”