Say you have two kids you’ve raised just the same, but they have opposite personalities — one sour, the other sunny. This makes it hard to dispute the fact that genes play a powerful role in each person’s happiness. There’s evidence that genetics contributes to about 50% of your happiness set point.

But that’s a far cry from 100%, says Sonja Lyubormirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

“If you do the work, research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is,” Lyubomirsky says. “You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort, as with any meaningful goal in life.”

Not only can you become happier, but it gets easier over time, she says. Do you want to work on nurturing relationships, writing in a gratitude journal, committing random acts of kindness, or developing a program of morning meditation orexercise? Changes like these — proven methods for enhancing happiness — can become habits after a while, which means they eventually take less effort.

“Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy,” he says. It’s beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.

In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students’ ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience — skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity — as well as life satisfaction.

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