The Pursuit of Happiness- A Scientific Approach
When the great American statesmen drafted the United States Declaration of Independence, they mentioned it clearly that every individual holds the right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” So, that makes us ponder how can we pursue it. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor for Psychology at the University of California tries to solve that query with her research work.
The Gratitude Research
Professor Lyubomirsky led studies to find out how the positive behavior can affect happiness. She has successfully come up with about 12 strategies that might increase the happiness levels in an individual. One such way is through gratitude. To prove herself, Lyubomirsky studied:
- a group of 57 subjects expressing gratitude once in a week,
- a group of 58 subjects who expressed gratitude thrice a week, and,
- a group of 32 who did nothing
They were kept under observation for six weeks. At the end of this period, she found:
- the first group (once a week gratitude) had significant increase in happiness
- the second group (thrice a week gratitude) had less change as the feeling wasn’t fresh by overdoing it.
Along with this, she and her fellow researchers have given other options for happiness like forgiveness, treasuring positive moments, positive attitude etc.
Path to happiness
Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as a combination of “positive emotions” and a feeling that “life is good.” In her book “The How of Happiness”, she points out at four important features:
- happiness is worth pursuing
- 50 percent of our happiness is genetically determined
- 10 percent is guided by the circumstances
- the rest of the 40 percent is in our hands
Based on the scientific research, Sonja gives us remarkable ways to manipulate the 40% of the intentional part to create happiness. This book made iPhone to introduce an application called “Live Happy” and Professor Lyubomirsky is on their Scientific Advisory Board. She is currently working on the research on long-term happiness with the help of the $1million grant offered by the National Institute on Mental Health.
Another research on Joy
In a study, polls were taken from 1981 to 2007 by World Values Survey. It was aimed at measuring the happiness and life satisfaction in the people. 88 countries with 90% of the world population participated in this 17 year long research. The results are as follows:
- in 45 countries (86%) the happiness level had risen
- in 6 countries it took a nosedive
- in one (Australia) it remained constant
- happiness increased by 6.5% overall
A positive indication that happiness is actually increasing in the world. Doesn’t that make you happy?