by Ray Williams

Researchers have argued that our levels of happiness are at least 50% predetermined by our genes–which become a “set point” for our entire lives. The other most significant influences on our happiness levels are our decisions, attitudes and beliefs about ourselves, which can change behaviors, and therefore, levels of happiness, which accounts for about 40% of our level of happiness. The remaining 10% can be attributed to the external events which we find ourselves in, including levels of wealth.

Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, and Learned Optimism, who is a recognized expert on the subject of happiness, has challenged the set point theory. He conducted a number of controlled experiments, in which he tested 500 people who had problems with depression or negativity, for their level of happiness. He gave these people three activities: Writing down 3 things that went well for the day and why; writing a gratitude testimonial and delivering it personally; and using their signature strength in a new way.

The results were impressive. Seligman reported that 94% of the severely depressed people in the group became less depressed and 92% of the people in the group became happier, with an average symptom relief (of negativity or depression) of 50% over 15 days. These results compared favorably to traditional medical treatment with drugs.

Seligman them combined the same exercises with follow up sessions with a psychotherapist for the group, and the positive results were even more significant.

Seligman concluded that the simple exercises that focus on positive emotions, personal strengths and how to build more meaning in life demonstrated that the genetic set-point theory of happiness may be wrong. This has tremendous implications for not just treating people who suffer from chronic depression or negativity, but also average people, who want to raise their level of happiness in life.

Ray Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University, and President of Ray Williams Associates, companies in Vancouver and Phoenix Arizona, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services.

Posted: June 21, 2009, 2:59 PM by Ray Williams
FP Careers Blog, happiness, Ray B. Williams, job satisfaction, success IQ