Betsy Brandl Rippentrop, Ph.D. (Dr. Yoga Momma) smiling in her yoga studio

The Happiness Formula

I recently learned about the happiness formula based on scientific research from the field of Positive Psychology. This formula teaches that our daily happiness is somewhat predictable.

The majority of our daily experiences of happiness (50%) are determined in the first 3 years of life by our parents, siblings, and caretakers.  This is called our set point. Another 10-12% of our daily happiness comes from conditions of living, or whether we have a home, food, and money.  As you can see, only a small proportion of our daily happiness comes from how much we have in the bank. This helps explain why lottery winner’s happiness increases right after winning, but plummets to below their set point 5 years after their influx of money.  Money is definitely no guarantee of happiness.

The remaining 38-40% is determined by our voluntary choices which include personal pleasures (such as food, sex, recreational activities) and fulfillment which is meaning and purpose in life.  The research shows too that ultimate fulfillment comes from making other people happy.

Since the majority of our daily happiness is based on our set point from those first few years of life, you may feel like you won the happiness lottery or were damned from the very beginning.  Yet what we thought was “set in stone” may actually be more fluid.  The most recent research is now supporting that our set point can be changed through meditation and yoga.  As Deepak Chopra says, “meditation will loosen the fabric of rigidity in your consciousness” which ups your set point.

If you want to consistently feel more happiness on a daily basis the research suggests meditation is the key.  Interestingly, the yogis predicted this thousands of years ago with their teaching “sat chit ananda”, or that to realize lasting happiness (ananda) we must discover our true, spiritual nature through the practice of yoga and meditation.

Happiness certainly can’t be found in a pill, but perhaps on a meditation cushion.  Keep practicing!