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What is happiness?

August 3, 2018

Every human is unique, yet one thing we do all have in common: we want to be happy.

And there are many reasons why it’s worth it to be happy: happy people tend to be healthier and live longer, have better relationships, more friends, get and stay married, are more pro-social, more engaged as citizens and more successful at work (Myers & Diener, 2018). In science, when we study happiness, its referred to as wellbeing, since wellbeing is the state of being happy (and healthy). But what does it mean to be happy? In the dictionary, happy is defined as a feeling of pleasure or contentment. That’s still rather vague… If we pick apart the origin it actually comes from the noun “hap + -y”. What is hap? Hap is defined as luck or fortune. But is happiness really down to luck? And does luck here refer to being born happy, or what happens in your life, both?

Lyumbomirksy (2008) explored what affects happiness, dissociating genetics, life circumstances, and actions/thoughts. She found that 50% of your happiness is down to genetics. What about the other 50%? Turns out that only 10% of your happiness is due to your life circumstances (e.g. stuff that just happens, or in other words whether you get lucky or unlucky). The other 40% are down to actions/thoughts! That means 40% of your happiness is in your control. That’s a lot of happiness! Just do happy things and think happy thoughts… but of course that’s easier said than done.

We at hiMoment believe that happiness is a muscle that you can train, and we can help you take control.

Happiness is different from one person to another. While you might be most happy playing the guitar, another person might be most happy practicing yoga, but maybe both are happy spending time with friends. Happiness varies from one person to the next.

The hiMoment app is designed to embrace the individuality and uniqueness of each of our users, so that each user can capture and explore what makes her/him happy.

Research on happiness is necessarily about generalising; the science is trying to establish what on average makes humans happy. Of course, this can be very insightful too, not only regarding the things that actually make people happy, but also about our misconceptions. Happiness appears to be very misunderstood: there are many studies revealing that the things we think will make us happy actually don’t. Similarly research has shown that many things that we don’t expect to make us happy would actually increase our happiness. Lastly, there are many things (e.g. exercise, sleep and meditation) that are consistently shown to promote happiness, yet we all struggle to implement them in our everyday lives.

At hiMoment, we take a different approach and focus on the individual, because ultimately we want to help you take control and increase your happiness. The scientific understanding of some very important cognitive processes provides the foundations of hiMoment.

  • Myers, D. G. & Diener, E. (2018) The Scientific Pursuit of Happiness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13, 2, 218-225. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618765171
  • Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.