The source of happiness

The documentary “Happy” (trailer) investigates the wisdom of maintaining happiness and suggests ways to improve our emotional well being. The movie is available on Netflix. I’ve written down some thoughts about this topic and want to share them here.

Fifty percent of a person’s happiness level is decided by genes. Some people are indeed born optimistic. But a considerable percentage of one’s happiness–40%–is decided by intentional behaviors. The other 10% is decided by one’s circumstances, such as income and social status.

The encouraging  message is: we can become happier by designing our life better. On the one hand, we can participate in different activities and increase the variety of life to makes us happier. Doing exercises, on the other hand, is known to be producing dopamin and simulating happiness. We can also gain a sense of fulfillment and happiness through demanding work, as I always feel when I finish a difficult essay.

Scientific evidence suggests that people who pay more attention to the community rather than themselves are happier. When we are serving for a bigger goal, we gain the feeling of being needed and get recognition from others.

Not surprisingly, happiness is closely related to the goals you have in your life. People go after two kinds of goals: extrinsic ones, include money, image and status, and intrinsic ones including longlasting relationships and personal development. It has been shown that people who value intrinsic goals over extrinsic ones tend to be happier.

A phrase I like particularly from the movie is “in the zone”, which refers to the highly concentrated state of an athlete when he’s playing a game. Concentration improves efficiency and makes people happier.

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