For some of us mental health conditions run in our families. Issues can go back several generations. But do these conditions in our family really pass on genetically? And if they do, can we overcome them?
What about life circumstances? If you’re going through a difficult period in your life, can you still be happy regardless? The answer to these questions is actually yes and I’m going to teach you so that you can be as happy as possible.
As a coach public speaker and best-selling author, I teach topics just like this one all around the world. Positive psychology has come a very long way in understanding how happiness is derived.
One of my favorite researchers is a woman named Sonja Lyubomirsky. She’s done a lot of work looking at genetics and our life circumstances. She found that these things really do matter of course. Family traits passed on through our genes makes some of us much more prone to mental health issues than some others.
Certainly we all know that really challenging life circumstances you know- war for example can make it difficult to be happy. Lyubomirsky’s research shows that while genetics and circumstances do affect you, there’s still a lot you can do to make yourself happier. She found that your chosen activities (what you do each day) can significantly influence your happiness. In fact genetics only determines about 50% of the range of happiness we can experience.
So on a scale from sad to happy we will be fixed in a range somewhere in there based on our genetics. But even with this 50% range, the difference within it can be huge. That’s where our life circumstances and our activities come in. And even within this 50% range there’s this big big difference within it. As for life circumstances, the environment you’re in influences your happiness too. Obviously. But it’s quite limited. It only determines about 10% of your happiness, and in some respects this makes intuitive sense.
We can all think of examples of two people who grew up in identical circumstances. Siblings for example. One is perpetually cheerful and the other is a constant downer. The environment is not such a big deal.
If you want to claim that extra 10% for yourself, make changes! Change where you work or where you live. It’s all possible.
Now here’s where it gets really exciting. The very best part of this research shows that 40% of our happiness is determined by our activities. That is just the stuff we choose to do every day. As an adult this is fully in our control.
The best thing about this is that the more you practice happiness the easier it is to be happier day to day. It’s like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger you become. Really learning to use your happiness muscle can be a complex topic, so I’ve included two chapters of my best-selling book below. I’d highly recommend you check it out. Just learning how your situation and genetics affect you is nice to know, but to really maximize your happiness you’re gonna want to dig deeper in these two chapters so you get some in-depth tools to boost your happiness.