The Happiness Formula: Why Meaning is Vital for Your Wellbeing
By Dr. Scott Zarcinas, Founder 818: Unlocking Your Life
Have you ever noticed how a lack of purpose drains your energy and motivation? Or that having a purpose or cause gives you vitality and zest?
Your Life Purpose, or having a cause to live for, has very powerful consequences because studies have shown that ascribing meaning and purpose significantly affects your happiness and wellbeing.
In fact, there’s even a scientific formula for happiness and wellbeing. Positive psychologists have discovered three key elements to happiness and put them into a formula (Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Atria Books, 2004):
H = S + C + V
- H is your enduring level of happiness (as opposed to fleeting moments of happiness).
- S is your set range (genetic variable).
- C is your circumstances or conditions of your life (environmental variable).
- V represents actions under your voluntary control (psychological variable).
This isn’t meant to be a mathematical formula, rather a guide to how you can improve your wellbeing.
Not every element has equal influence over your happiness, however. For instance, 50% of your happiness is determined by your set range, 40% by your voluntary actions and choices, and only 10% by your circumstances or conditions in which you live.
This is why fame and fortune can’t buy you happiness. Your circumstances can only ever make up 10% of your total emotional wellbeing.
Some external things do make a difference and influence your happiness, such as marriage, religion, and living in a tolerant society. But to be consistently happier, you are better off focusing less on external, material things, which can be expensive, temporary and impractical, and more on the things that have greater impact, like the choices you make and adjusting your set range.
The question you need to answer is:
“Has your efforts to improve your living conditions to date affected your happiness and wellbeing in any significant way?”
Your set range is your biological comfort zone, the level to which you naturally gravitate. Think of your set range as an apartment block. Some people live on the ground floor, others halfway up, and others in the penthouse at the top. Those who have a higher set range are happier on average than those with a lower set range. The people in the penthouse are happier than those on the ground floor.
Your set range, however, is controlled to a large degree by your genetics, which you can’t do much about, and is pretty much a fixed variable. Some people are born in the penthouse and are naturally happier than others. That’s just the way it is, but it’s not all doom and gloom if your set range is in the ground floor. Your happiness isn’t set in stone. It can be readjusted.
How To Readjust Your Happiness
This is where your voluntary actions and choices are important. Because you can affect this part of the happiness equation the most, it will have the greatest impact on your overall state of being. The best thing you can do for your happiness and wellbeing, therefore, is to choose meaning.
When you ascribe positive meaning and purpose to the things that have happened, are happening, or will happen, you skew the happiness equation in your favour. Because when you find purpose, you make meaningful choices. When you make meaningful choices, you take meaningful action. When you take meaningful action, you achieve intended results. Results that are intentional make you happy and fulfilled.
Another technique is to take the virtual elevator up to the penthouse. You ‘feel’ your way to the top by regularly focusing on the happiness you want to experience more of. This you do through finding your ‘happy place’, the moments in the past where you felt most happiness.
You then bring that happy moment or moments into your present through visualisation, meditation or contemplation. If you do this regularly (several times a day), you will begin to readjust your set range to a higher level than what you were born with. Your happiness will be upwardly mobile.
This is self-empowering. Your actions and choices alone can affect your happiness more than your genetic set range and your life circumstances.
Your happiness is in your control.
*This article is an excerpt from Dr. Scott Zarcinas’ new book, It’s Up To You: Why Most People Fail to Live the Life They Want and How to Change It.