The Way We Can Impact Our Level of Happiness Essay
From the moment we are born, we are assigned a baseline level of happiness. This predetermined “set point’ accounts for half of our overall happiness throughout our entire life (Lyubomirsky 186). Strong evidence for the set point is found in studying identical and fraternal twins. Identical twins who grew up in the same environment and those who were separated at birth, shared surprisingly similar self-reports of their happiness (Lyubomirsky 187-89), while the happiness of fraternal twins was completely different. Furthermore, depression is associated with a specific gene known as 5-HTTLPR. This gene comes in two different forms, known as the long allele and the short allele. The latter is referred to as the “bad gene”, as it rids the brain of an element necessary to defend you from depressive symptoms. Not surprisingly, the “good” (long) allele appears to protect us from such symptoms. This information reveals that we have a slight predisposition for either a content attitude or a negative outlook. This seems rather discouraging at first, though there is still much we can do to dictate our own happiness level.
To understand how we can change our happiness level we first have to understand the happiness definition. Some people are more happier than others, though live in almost the same conditions. Those people who are not happy often say that they are not satisfied with their lives. So, happiness and satisfaction are interconnected or one can even state that satisfaction is the closest happiness synonym.
The next step is to understand some common misconceptions about happiness. It is often believed that happiness is something that must be found. To the contrary, it is our responsibility to take control of our lives by actively managing our happiness. As Lyubomirsky stated, “If you’re not happy today, then you won’t be happy tomorrow unless you take things into your own hands and take action” (185). You can achieve this by consistently making the choice to dictate your state of mind. It is also widely considered that our circumstances have the most influence on our happiness. In truth, changing our circumstances makes little difference to our well-being. According to Lyubomirsky, they only account for approximately 10% of our overall happiness (184). Another fallacy is the notion that we are either born happy or unhappy and there is not much we can do about it. It is important to remember that we can always teach ourselves to be happy, growing research testifies that we can overcome genetics. “Just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed” (Lyubomirsky 190).
Now that we’ve established our happiness is made up of 10% circumstances, and 50% our set point, this leaves another 40% for us to mold. Our predisposition can be heavily influenced by our intentional activities. For example, take the case of a condition known as phenylketonuria. PKU comes from a mutation in a gene on chromosome 12, without treatment it leads to brain damage that may be fatal. Fortunately, if the infant's diet is free of an amino acid called phenylalanine, these lethal effects can be entirely avoided.
Note how you must provide the appropriate environment in order for the PKU mutation to express itself. Lyubomirsky makes the same case for our happiness set point. Similarly to the PKU case, those who inherited the “depression gene” (5-HTTLPR) can avoid triggering depression by seeking help from a therapist or averting stressful situations entirely. Additionally, if a possessor of the “depression gene” is fortunate enough to have a supportive family environment or consistent positive experiences, they can likely still be happy (Lyubomirsky 192-93).
Overall it may be said that some of us are born happier than others, but genetics aren’t the only determining factor. It is our responsibility to manage our state of mind. This is possible even when the current circumstances are not in our favor. Therefore, the secret to happiness doesn’t lie in changing our circumstances or our set points but rather managing our intentions. As stated by Lyubomirsky “...the fountain of happiness can be found in how you behave, what you think, and what goals you set every day of your life” (196).
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