The Happiness Pie Chart

A representation of a yellow smiling happy face. With black lines drawn on the face to represent 50% 40% and 10%. Text reading What Determins Happiness? More text reading 50% Genetice? 40% Intentional Activity? 10% Circumstances?

“Happiness can be successfully pursued, but it is not ‘easy’”

―Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon M. Sheldon, “How Much of Your Happiness Is Under Your Control?” Greater Good Magazine

Around 18 years ago, researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon M. Sheldon created the Happiness Pie Chart showing numbers from their thought experiment that our genes determine 50 percent of our happiness, 40 percent by our activities, and 10 percent by our life circumstances.

They’ve recently realized that the Happiness Pie Chart may be a “gross oversimplification” and that our genes, circumstances, and activities can influence and interact. Lyubormirsky and Sheldon think activities may not be as vital a percentage of our happiness.  In the Greater Good magazine article,  “How Much of Your Happiness Is Under Your Control?”, they state “Happiness can be successfully pursued, but it is not ‘easy.’” This means that happiness may be hard-won for some people. In contrast, for others, it comes naturally.

Take Steps To Happiness 

The article suggests that “their broader message still holds: It’s possible to take deliberate steps to get happier and stay happier in life.” It goes on to suggest the following four tips for activities for changing habits and behaviors as you pursue happiness:

Choose activities that fit our personality and interests. Activities fit us better when they feel natural, enjoyable, and aligned with our values rather than driven by guilt or other people’s expectations.

Choose activities that are virtuous and meaningful rather than obsessing about feeling good all the time. Hedonism won’t necessarily make you happy, even if you feel good in the moment. If we pursue pleasure, it shouldn’t be at the expense of living a meaningful life. We also need to pursue a purpose, and practice forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity—those give us a sense of competence, autonomy, and connection, which are core human needs.

Commit to and put effort into the process. Unsurprisingly, people who invest more effort into their new habits see greater improvements in their well-being.

Add variety into our routine. Doing an exercise—like writing gratitude letters—the same way over and over can mean that we become accustomed to it and don’t reap as many benefits. You have to keep your brain alive to possibilities.

Tools For Seeking Happiness

Regularly writing down your thoughts helps your mindset positively. As the step above mentions, even writing can become rote if you don’t mix it up. Journals For Seekers offers you a variety of concepts and tools for journaling – to help you overcome grief, inspire your curiosity (“add variety”), gain courage, and find insights for looking on the sunny side of life.  With minimalist copy and gentle prompts, the journals give you the space to create an activity that guides you through using your heart, hands, and head.

No pie chart is going to help you be happier.  Your percentages may differ too.  But the thought that you can take steps towards happiness is key, because you’re worth it.