Happiness. We’ve all heard the word said a million times, but do we really know what it means? Probably not.

You might think that happiness is simple: it’s just about feeling good, right? Well, maybe so, but what makes us happy is actually a lot more complex and confusing. In this article, we’ll be shedding some light on what really makes us happy, and how to achieve true happiness.

What makes us happy?

It’s tempting to simplify happiness and think that it’s just about the things you have. A lot of us think that if we had more money, or a better job, or a vacation, that we’d be happy. In reality, this isn’t always true. Many people with extraordinarily blessed lives – celebrities, millionaires, and the like – are also extraordinarily unhappy.

According to the experts, happiness actually has very little to do with our individual circumstances. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • 50% of your happiness is determined by your genetics
  • 40% of your happiness is determined by your actions – what you do and what you think
  • 10% of your happiness is determined by the circumstances of your present life

Happiness isn’t just about the quality of our lives – it’s much more complicated than that. For hundreds of years, the world’s greatest thinkers have tried to figure out the science of happiness and work out the recipe for a happy life. And while we’ve definitely made headway towards understanding happiness, we still don’t know for sure.

However, there are some things that it’s believed are very important for finding true happiness – ‘the keys to happiness’ if you will. Let’s look at what these keys are.

1. Social stimulus

Time and time again, studies into happiness – and the antithesis of happiness, depression –  find that social stimulation is incredibly important. Quite simply, it’s people that make us happy, and the interactions we have with those people.

Being around other people that we like makes us happier. Social impetus drives us to be more present, engaged, and motivated to succeed. We think and act differently when we’re around others. We feel differently.

If you’re feeling unhappy, ask yourself how often you interact with others. Would you consider yourself to be socially isolated? If so, it’s probably a huge part of the problem. Try to be a part of a social group. Join a club, course, or transition into a workplace where you’re surrounded by people you like, and you may start to feel better.

2. Spirituality

Let me clarify right away that by ‘spirituality’, I don’t mean ‘religiousness’. Rather, I mean the feeling of being part of something greater. Various studies have found that the happiest people are those that feel part of something bigger than themselves. In other words, they feel that their is more purpose to their lives than the concrete, objective reality around them.

This seems to be a very important component of true happiness. Having a sense of spirituality comes with a sense of fulfillment and purpose that creates happiness within us. This is probably why so many people turn to religion, yoga, mindfulness, and other spiritual pursuits in times of need.

3. Perspective

The last key to happiness I wanted to mention relates to your perspective of happiness itself. It’s the idea that, if you consider yourself to be happy, you may feel it. By that, I don’t mean you should force yourself to deny your feelings of depression – that’s just downright unhealthy.

I simply mean that people whose perspective means they genuinely believe they are happy tend to be happier. It’s kind of an ‘I think, therefore I am’ kind of thing.

As a concrete example of what I’m talking about, we can look at those in poverty. Many people in the world’s most economically deprived regions are equally or even happier than those much richer than themselves. That’s because their perspective of happiness is different. A nice filling meal might, for example, make them happier than a 2-week vacation would make someone with a high income in a developed nation. 

And that concludes this article on happiness. I’m certainly no expert, but I hope this helped you to gain a better understanding of your own happiness. Good luck with the pursuit!