Happiness in the L.A. Times

Today’s Los Angeles Times has a feature on happiness, my favorite topic.  The feature helps debunk a lot of myths, mostly that things and circumstances make us happy, sad, angry or whatever.  Here is the paragraph that most people should read:

Lyubomirsky and her colleagues analyzed studies on identical twins and other research and came to the conclusion that happiness is 50% genetic, 40% intentional and 10% circumstantial. “Half of your predisposition toward happiness you can’t change,” she says. “It’s in your genes. Your circumstances — where you live, your health, your work, your marriage — can be tough to change. But most people are surprised that circumstances don’t account for as much of their happiness as they think.”

Just for the record, there really is not an accurate way to measure happiness, because it is such a subjective issue.  However, a 50-50 divide between genetics and environment is generally considered a good rough estimate by most happiness researchers.  Depending on the effort you make or do not make, I am sure that number is very elastic, but let’s play with that number for now.  🙂

The L.A. Times feature continues on other pages, too.  For instance, there is an excellent list of handy tips for “cultivating happiness” .

Happy reading.


  1. Wow I think I belong to that majority of people that believe that circumstance can greatly influence someone’s happiness. Although it may be tough to change personal circumstance, your intentions can be altered by the circumstances you are in. To clarify, for example- if your income cannot support a decent living situation and you are stuck financially you may have intentions of bettering your living situation but depression may set in when you realize that you cannot. Thus circumstances govern intentions, people must adapt their intentions to be feasible with their situations right? Unless they are dreamers that is… This is a pretty circular argument but wouldn’t circumstances comprise a much larger amount of happiness because it controls other aspects of happiness that arent genetic?

  2. @Ross To the extent that you allow yourself to react to circumstances, they will control you. To the extent that you focus on your own actions, circumstances will not affect you. There are the two extremes, of course, but most people live somewhere in between. It is up to each of us to choose where we are on that line.

    Here is an example. I wanted to buy a nautilus type exercise machine, because I knew it would help me do more regular workouts. But I do not have a place for it. Time to finish the basement! But wait, the basement is last in priority behind a whole lot of other renovations that we can’t seem to find the time to address. Long story short, I decided to create a temporary solution while waiting. I bought a bench and some free weights, queued up some motivational tunes, set myself a regular time-slot and my workouts have never been more consistent. I don’t think I even want the fancy machinery anymore.

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