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Your Set Point of Happiness and How you Can Change It

The concept of happiness has been studied more in recent years than ever before in history. One of the most striking findings is that most people have a pretty consistent happy baseline—or a set point—and that no matter what happens to them, whether positive or negative, it only affects that baseline for a short period of time.

To put it in different words: if you’re a 6 on a happiness scale from 1-10, an incredibly happy event (winning the lottery, getting the job of your dreams) might shoot you up to an 8 or 9 briefly, but you’ll eventually come back to the 6. On the flip side, if something awful happens (death of a loved one, disease), you may dip down to a 3 or 4 for a while, but will eventually come back up to the 6.

To some people (yes, probably those of you who consider yourself an 8 or 9), this is great news! No matter what happens, you’ll always be pretty happy, right? But those of you who tend toward the 4 or 5 range might not like this theory at all; it may seem like you will never have the chance to be really happy no matter what happens.

Fortunately (especially for those of you who don’t consider yourself overly happy), there are ways you can push that set point up a notch or two. Here are a few suggestions:

Know what you want…and why

One of the traits of people who consistently rank low on the happiness scale is that they feel they never get what they want; or, if they do get what they want, they find it doesn’t make them as happy as they thought it would. Is this due to the fact that they are just naturally unhappy? Probably not. Most likely it’s because they either have unrealistic expectations, or that they have convinced themselves that achieving things like money and power will make them happy.

Examine what you really want in life and why. Dig down deep until you get to the core. Do you think money equals security and love? Then it’s really security and love that is your true want and money won’t necessarily equal that.

Stop looking at the ‘greener’ grass

It’s easier to always look at what others have and think it’s better. This is a recipe for unhappiness. Someone will always be richer, more attractive, more successful, etc. etc. Focus on what you have and what you’re striving for instead of always looking to others in comparison. I’ll bet you find that you already have much of what you need to be happy!

Help others According to a study that analyzed data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey, a collection of statistics representing the largest and longest-standing series of observations on happiness in the world, the trait most strongly associated with long-term increases in life satisfaction is, in fact, a persistent commitment to pursuing altruistic goals. That is, the more we focus on compassionate action, on helping others, the happier we seem to become in the long run. So get out there and serve some meals at your local homeless shelter, adopt a pet who needs a home, or just reach out to someone who could use some mentoring. You’ll be helping others…but you’ll also be helping you.

Want to learn more about the fascinating research being done on happiness and how you can incorporate it into your life? I suggest the books Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and Before Happiness by Shawn Achor.

Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience working with the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, understand how they are showing up in their behaviors and habits, and to learn a process of leading energy to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit or call (402) 995-1113.

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