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Things that Determine Happiness

For thousands of years, philosophers and psychologists have argued about the concept of happiness and notions that contribute to it. We can also consider Maslow's pyramid of needs as a part of our happiness research, however now we would like to focus on things that many people share as the ingredients for a happiness recipe (according to many studies).


If We Had to Rate Factors Affecting Happiness, Psychology would Suggest the following Order:

  1. Accepting yourself. Many people think that having high self-esteem helps you build a better life. Although there is no proof for that, many studies have shown that people with inflated self-concept generally tend to experience troubles with communication and ability to evaluate personal competence while planning some work. It is much healthier to accept yourself as you are and be guided by the things you really can achieve, rather than try to accomplish things that will never make you happy.
  2. Genetics. Did you know that personal happiness could be affected by the genetic predisposition? According to the studies back in 2007, up to 50% of adopted children are exposed to the genetic level of happiness, no matter of the surroundings and situation in the family. Even when the drastic change disrupts the life of the person, they are bound to return to their normal happiness level within a year. 
  3. Definition of success. This is a tricky idea. We are not going to talk much about the deceitfulness of the world’s idea of happiness or about how parents may ruin the lives of their kids forcing them to what matches the parents’ idea of happiness. One needs to establish his/her own ground and set the rules for being happy. It may be tough as it often means going against the tide and doing what others disapprove. For example, a friend of mine had to drop the college degree and move to another state as she was suffering from being unhappy and not being able to do what she wanted (her family strongly disapproved that). Now she is living in a small community, running a coffee shop and seems happier than I ever saw her.
  4. Control over your life. One of the basic levels of happiness can be defined by the level of control, which a person has over his or her life. Can you make decisions on your own and predict the way events will unfold? Or do you live according to the plan that someone has created for you? Just remember that the higher this level is, the better you will feel about your life and the place you are in.
  5. Skills and experience. Among other factors of happiness, psychology defines as one of the basic needs (of course, once you have satisfied your physical needs) the ability to develop skills and enrich personal experience. If you think carefully about this idea, you will wonder whether the educational process can contribute to the level of happiness. The answer is ‘yes’ in case it helps you accept who you are and is suitable for your personal definition of success. Moreover, about 10% of people, who may have low genetic set for happiness, can raise it while working on their skills set and building their self-esteem.
  6. Thinking ahead. Many people will argue about this; however, it is your ability to plan your life, project the things you would like to achieve on those events that will happen further in your life. We are not talking about daily planning here (however some people say that crossing out things from your to-do list is rather satisfying), but about planning your life and achieving things that bring you happiness.
  7. Being Spiritual. According to the international study with over 150K participants, any kind of religious or spiritual affiliation can benefit to the general level of happiness, which people experience in their lives. One positive affect that many respondents have shared is the level of hope and positive attitude. Do not also forget about the community that will be sharing your beliefs.
  8. Having a community. We are not talking about college brotherhood with loud parties, we are talking about someone you can talk to and feel that they have your back. While having many friends can be good, sometimes people need at least 2 to 3 people that can hear them out or be there for them. It is also important to have a community of people who share your interests, can help you with some advice or guide your personal growth.
  9. Exacting fairness. Have you ever seen people having inappropriate or weird reactions in some social situations? This is called affect in psychology, the outer expression of the inside emotion. Sometimes people who feel that life or other people are not treating them fairly may expose inadequate or eccentric reactions. You have to remember that situations, which result in fair treatment, can bring personal satisfaction to many people, even in the case of some mournful events.
  10. Having a short memory. You may laugh if you want to, but in case you are unable to forget the grudges, you will feel both miserable and depressed. What causes happiness in these cases? If a person can easily forgive and forget, he/she will be able to maintain low-stress level and to retain positive memories rather than notorious things that happened.

One thing that we have not included in the list is the idea that ‘happiness loves silence’, because it is as biased as the happiness concept itself. On one hand, we understand that people who share their happiness and success with many others are more judged and criticized, however, we can agree that it is much more exciting to share with someone and know that they are happy for you.

Do you agree with our list? What are your top things that define your personal happiness?