The Art of Happiness

  • Although there is no single definition of happiness – or indeed even what you need to be happy – recent studies have suggested that only 10% of your happiness is the result of your personal circumstances (i.e. income and environment). 
  • Your genes and upbringing account for another 50%. 
  • That leaves a remaining 40% down to you.

Different theories of happiness emphasise different key components. 

But one thing upon which most agree is that once your basic needs for survival are met, happiness comes more often to those who are ‘self-actualized’.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow studied individuals that he believed be self-actualised in order to establish a list of common characteristics. The more you can develop for yourself, then at least according to Maslow, the happier you will be:

  • Having an efficient perception of reality – judging events and people correctly and refusing to be hook-winked.
  • Accepting yourself – and others – for what you are, warts and all.
  • Being reliant on your own experiences and judgement – no one else will do it for you.
  • Be spontaneous and natural – not how others want you to be. 
  • Become task centred. Have a mission.
  • Appreciate beauty whenever possible = like with a sunset or a flower.
  • Laugh at yourself. Have a sense of humour.
  • Have fewer friends in favour of developing closer intimates.
  • Find comfort and solitude in your own company.

If some – or all – of the above characteristics look daunting, don’t despair. If it’s another thing upon which most theories of happiness agree, it’s that the art of happiness can and indeed, must be learned and also takes constant practice.


To get you started:

  • Name three good things that have happened to you each day and then say why. You can do this in private or in conjunction with your whole family, perhaps when you’re sitting around the dinner table in the evening.

Go ahead – give it a go – it will get everyone smiling.