The Science of Happiness

Writing Your Own Formula for Happiness

by David B. Bohl

The term “science of happiness” implies there is a formula and that you can follow a scientific method of discovery to determine what makes you happy.

The formula for “happy” for each of us is different because there are so many factors that contribute to individual happiness.

There’s the happiness we may feel in having a career that is going well. There’s the happiness we feel in being with people we love and can be ourselves with. There’s the happiness that comes from helping others – from going out of our way to do something, unasked, for someone else that improves their life or circumstances. And there’s a different kind of happiness we feel when we get the tax refund check in the mail or find a great positive error in our favor in the old checkbook.

Underlying the different levels and types of happiness, however, could be a complex set of circumstances that seem to chase rabbits before they settle into a strongly happy feeling. Somewhere, though, there is a formula, particular to each person, that combines the factors and components of life into an existence that is positive and fulfilling.

The fact is we all look for happiness in our lives, and the “formula” for being happy has many component parts. The basic formula has a work/career component, a self-esteem and identity component, and a family/friends component.

As with any formula, each component may be present in different amounts. For example, if you’re very involved in a career in business, whether in a large corporation or a small, family-run business, you’ll probably have a different work/career component than you will if you are an artist who spends most of your time working creatively with paint, clay or whatever, with little or no influence in your life coming from a corporate environment.

The self-esteem or identity component is often intertwined with the work/career component, which can make the formula a bit confusing at this point. The trick is to be able to separate what we do from who we are, and to understand what parts of each bring us happiness. That way we can shore up the parts of the formula that seem to need it.

There is also an all-important family/friends component, which probably represents the lion’s share of the formula because human beings simply need each other to be happy. Hemingway wrote “no man is an island” and that statement has been quoted repeatedly since he wrote it. It is, however, true that few truly happy people can live in a world in isolation … and I rather believe that no one can — it’s just simply against human nature.

So, it’s up to us to be motivated to do the things in our lives that support the family/friends component, to not let it get lost under the weight of the work/career component and to understand that creatively nurturing our relationships is one of the quickest ways to make ourselves happy and make it last.

Action items/bullets:

All of these components need to be present in our lives in the right quantities for each of us, and each one’s formula is different. Scientists can create simple or complex formulas that define happiness, but it remains hypothetical to many people. It’s really up to each person to weigh the components of their lives and apply the emphasis each requires based how they balance each other.

  • How can you contribute to your own formula for happiness?
  • Know yourself and what defines fulfillment in your life,
  • Identify your personal and professional goals,
  • Honor what inspires you, and
  • Recognize what supports your self-esteem and what you need to do to keep your relationships satisfying.

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