Many factors influence happiness, and some of these factors are outside of our control—research suggests that around 50% of individual variation in happiness is based on genetics, and 10-20% is based on life circumstances like health status and income level. Happiness does come more easily to some people than to others.
But there is hope. Research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues has found that up to 40% of individual variation in happiness is shaped by intentional behaviors—the things we do every day, moment to moment. These behaviors have the potential to diminish or enhance our happiness.
What kinds of intentional behaviors are more likely to enhance happiness? Here are a few of them:
1. Do something active. Research suggests that physical activity is one of the more effective ways to increase happiness—so effective that some studies have found that it works just as well as antidepressant medications in alleviating depression and may have more lasting effects. The problem is, feeling down doesn’t generally lend itself to wanting to run around. To make exercise seem less daunting, keep in mind that you don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon to reap its benefits. Even walking around the block can make a difference, as can dancing around your living room, stretching in your office, or even cleaning.