Thank You for The “Happiness Equation”

It has been suggested that there are several factors that contribute towards our happiness. This is an ‘equation for happiness’ suggested by Martin Seligman, an American based psychologist:

H = S + C + V


H = Happiness

S = Set range – (genetics: about 50%)

C = Circumstances (8-15%)

V = Voluntary Control – (past, present, future)


This all looks very scientific, and is actually based on research findings, but can be explained quite simply:


Set Range/Genetics – There is some evidence to support that we are all born with a certain “set-point” of happiness, determined by our genes. This is supposed to change only slightly, if at all, as we get older. This contributes towards around 50% of our level of happiness.

So, if something dramatic happens, for example, you win the lottery, or break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, within a year or so (depending on the situation) your happiness level will return to its set point.


Circumstances – There is also some evidence to suggest that the circumstance we live in influence our level of happiness. You don’t always have a lot of control over your circumstances (for example, we can’t all live in mansions and drive new cars). Evidence suggests, however, that this accounts for only around 8-15% of our happiness levels, which really isn’t that much.


Voluntary Control – This third factor is the most important factor in the equation, because you can control it, and in the process control your happiness. It includes all aspects of your life over which you have a relatively high degree of control, including your thoughts and actions. This includes the way you choose to think about and act on the past, present, and future, and seems to have quite a significant impact on how happy you are – if you do the math, it could be up to 42%.



– Past – When thinking about the past, people who are happier pay attention to what is ‘good’ about the past, rather than focusing on the unhappy times. They are grateful, forgiving, and don’t believe that the past will determine what happens in the future.


 – Future – When it comes to thinking about the future, happy people are flexibly optimistic – what this means is that they are optimistic (in a realistic sense) about how their future is going to be, but if it doesn’t turn out that way, they know it’s not going to be the end of the world either.


 – Present – The way you think about and act in the present is also essential in determining how happy you are. This might include things such as taking pleasure in life and your surroundings, building and being in meaningful relationships, and the way we react to things in life, good and bad.



~ by leakelley on December 3, 2007.

5 Responses to “Thank You for The “Happiness Equation””

  1. Thank you for putting that out there, I hadn’t seen the idea before, I am sure that there is something good in it, or is there?
    I am not putting down Seligman, his stuff on ‘helplessness’ was important in my getting over that problem earlier on.

    What I am leading to is to shout praise for what Jane Loevinger did: Each time that I read through her stages of development there resonated an area within me, an area that I ought to think about, focus upon. Each time I did this the area was different, and so I progressed along that path. There is a good article on her in Wikipedia.

    I like to think that I am moving towards the end of her string of development stages, and if so, her work helped me to be more myself, more happy.

  2. Wish i had the talent to write such posts.

  3. There is also a concept called the AIR Equation, the 3 point formula for happiness. AIR stands for Acceptance + Inspiration + Respect. It states that half of one’s happiness is based on acceptance, and the balance split between inspiration and respect.

  4. The AIR Equation website is

  5. Mine’s better:

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