Happiness can be described in many ways – pleasant emotions of contentment or joy, feeling positive about an outcome (happy about a good grade), or even absence from pain or boredom. A good general description of happiness is overall life satisfaction. Some psychologists assert that happiness, like other emotional experiences, is 50% genetic. That is, happiness actually has a set point. The good news is that 40% of happiness is under our intentional control. The other 10% is environmental. Since 40% is available to be influenced, it would be quite beneficial to make efforts to increase happiness. Here are several potential ways to increase happiness:

Focus on joy. One can create positive hopes and expectation. For example, looking forward to learning something new when reading this article or attending a conference. Recapturing positive memories of past events by looking at photos or reminiscing with friends and family.

Make Interpersonal Connections.  Research shows a very high correlation between having social connections and having higher levels of happiness. Our relationships with our loved ones can be a good initiator of happiness. So, cultivating relationships can increase happiness. Make time for social outings, invite people to events or over to hangout, call to make contact and check in with valued others.

Have Fun. Happiness is achieved and enhanced by experiencing the wonderment and amusement that so often characterizes childhood. Finger paint, be silly, swing at the park, have a tickling match and find other ways to laugh.

Visualize Your Best Self. Visualizing and focusing on a positive future can encourage happiness or improved mood. Think about your best possible self after everything has gone as well as it possible could in your life. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this visualization as the culmination of your life dreams and your best achievements.

Submitted by Holly O. Houston, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist