In "The How of Happiness," Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky points out that 50% of happiness is determined by a genetic set point, 10% is determined by life circumstances (whether you are healthy, married, rich, poor, etc.), and 40% is the result of voluntary actions. Scientific evidence gives us many reasons to aspire to greater happiness. Dr. Lyubomirsky argues that "becoming happier doesn't just make you feel good; being happier results in multiple fringe benefits."
For example, happier people are physically healthier, more productive on the job, social, energetic, charitable, cooperative, and earn more money.
After reflecting on my personal experiences and reading about happiness I've come to believe that in any situation:
1. Your actions are under your control. For instance, I loved the process of writing Smalltopia. Writing was an action under my control. It's not always easy to write, but it makes me happy. In many ways, I think happiness can be relative to your voluntary state of mind. For me it's all about the journey, having a blast along the way, and completing tiny everyday actions that make me happy.
2. Outcomes are out of your control. Try not to tie any particular outcome to your well-being. Do the best you are capable of in any situation and then let go. I think it's really easy to get wrapped up into achieving x and forget all about the process.
3. The voluntary 40% factor holds a lot of sway in most situations. Finding happiness doesn't have to be daunting. I think it's a matter of perspective and being aware of tiny pleasures that makes life so good.
What small pleasures make you happy? I posed this question to the folks on Google+ last week and received a lot of great replies. Below is a small sample of the responses.
A beam of sunshine slanting across the living room couch where I can take a nap with a cat on my chest. Perhaps I was a cat in a former life. -Victoria Strauser
I love candles and twinkly lights, especially in the early morning or on dark days. They make me feel warm and quiet inside. Add coffee or tea, and it's perfection. -Dawn Gorman
Each mid-day call from my husband, checking in on me. Hiking with my dog as the sun is setting. Watching The Daily Show or Charlie Rose on Hulu. Morning Tea :) I could go on and on. It's nice to think about how many little things bring great joy. -Christine Young
Fresh chargrilled sardines, rocket salad and a class of chilled sauv blanc - yes I miss summer already! -Mark Owen-Ward
I think these responses fit in nicely with Dr. Lyubomirsky's point, that we can "increase or decrease our happiness levels through what we do in our daily lives and how we think."