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Making Happy Together (part 2)

Easy as Pie?

Ever heard of a happiness set point? It has to do with our genes. Researchers have found that 50 percent of our happiness is determined by our biology. Turns out that some brains are happier than others. We sometimes call it temperament. And we’re more or less stuck with it.

If our happiness set point is on the low end, making us less happy than others, are we doomed to stay that way? Hardly. The remaining portion of our happiness is within our control. Actually it’s closer to 40 percent of the remaining portion of our happiness. Why? Because our circumstances account for about 10 percent of our happiness. In other words, having a job that pays enough money to meet our needs and being relatively healthy are circumstances that contribute to our overall happiness picture. But keep in mind this is only 10 percent.

Thankfully, lasting happiness does not lie mainly in increasing our set point or positively impacting our circumstances. It’s found in the remaining 40 percent of the happiness pie—and that’s completely determined by us. This significant portion of our happiness comes down to the choices we make, and they have nothing to do with our genetic make up or our circumstances. Happy people aren’t just sitting around being happy. They are making happiness happen. And so are happy couples.


Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside; Kennon M. Sheldon of the University of Missouri-Columbia; and David A. Schkade of the University of California, San Diego summarized numerous findings and put them into a simple pie chart showing what determines happiness.

Making Happy Together

Truth be told, true happiness is in short supply for too many couples. And the reason, we suspect, is that they don’t work at it—or more likely, they don’t know how to make it. Happiness, after all, is not something that happens, it’s something you make.

Some even call it quits for this very reason, saying: “We’re just not happy anymore.” Really? Is being married supposed to make you happy? No. That’s not how it works. We’ll say it again: Marriage doesn’t make you happy—you make your marriage happy. As the saying goes, you bring your own weather to the picnic. A happy marriage does not depend on the right circumstances or the perfect person. A happy marriage is the result of two people committed to making a happy life of love together.

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