The subject of happiness can be said to be a subject of great dispute, especially since few individuals feel that they actually understand what happiness is, let alone how it can be achieved. According to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, which has been routinely conducted on Americans since 1972, approximately thirty-three percent of Americans feel that they’re very happy, while approximately fifty percent of Americans feel that they’re pretty happy and approximately ten to fifteen percent of Americans feel that they’re not too happy. Some individuals may feel that they’ve found the “secret” to their own happiness–whether it’s through love of family and friends, success in work, or financial stability–but the fact remains that few individuals seem to know how to bring about full and lasting happiness. Some social scientists believe they’ve uncovered the answer–a sort of formula for achieving happiness.

Reaching for Happiness

After forty years of research into the subject of happiness, social scientists now attribute this highly desirable emotional state to genes, events and values. In order to study the effect that genes have on happiness, researchers at the University of Minnesota followed the progress of identical twins who had been separated at birth and raised by different families. The study revealed that there were noticeable similarities in the happiness of both individuals, despite their entirely different upbringings, which led them to conclude that humans inherit approximately forty-eight percent of their happiness.

Further studies have indicated that humans experience sharp increases in their happiness as a result of one-time events–such as graduating high school, getting their dream job or getting a big raise or promotion–but the impact of these events on our happiness is short-lived. Obviously it follows then that an individual who continues to experience exciting one-time events on a regular basis would continue to experience boosts to their happiness on a regular basis, but this doesn’t normally occur as constantly as would be needed to create a permanent improvement in happiness.

Researchers have also discovered that humans who pursue the four basic values of faith, family, community and work establish the most stable and lasting forms of happiness. This is not necessarily shocking to most individuals, as they have experienced first hand that their faith, family and friendships with others bring great happiness and meaning to their life. Work may seem more perplexing, as many individuals are driven to consider that work is work, drudgery that sometimes seems to bring about very few desirable rewards. However, research has concluded that individuals who remain busy and productive tend to be happier than those who do not.

Researchers believe that individuals who understand these basic points or formula for achieving happiness, and who follow some basic rules to bring about ideal conditions, can improve their own and others’ lives as a result. And while there may definitely be some merit in this argument, one may also need to take the time to dig a little deeper and become a little more specific.

If one takes a moment to actually look back at times they were happy, and what lead to their happiness, they will often discover that true happiness occurred when they had accomplished some goal that they had set out to achieve. It may be a small goal or a big goal, and it may have taken just moments or weeks, months or even years to achieve, but at the moment that the individual has accomplished something worthwhile that they set out to achieve they normally experience great happiness. So whether one studies a specific formula for happiness and applies every step, they would do well to remember that they ultimately hold the key to their own happiness.