Every once in a while, as I go through the many articles and research studies about workplace and occupational health and safety, I come across an item that is kind of fun and interesting – if only tangentially related to workplace safety.

[Image courtesy of Marina del Castell from Flickr via a Creative Commons license]We all want to achieve real happiness in our lives, but what causes it and how can we best achieve it? You might be surprised, but here’s a hint – much of it has nothing to do with us.

Here is one of those items – it has to do with happiness.

For me, I find that people are generally more productive at work and in life when they are happy or at least have a positive mental attitude. And did you know there has been research to find out the source of our happiness – to figure out what happiness is, what it does to our brains and how much we can contribute to our own happiness?

I know, me neither. However, what I found most fascinating are the general results of this research. Martin Seligman, who pioneered the concept of “positive psychology” in the 1990s, put forth a theory that suggested that a person’s happiness is composed of three aspects – pleasure, engagement and meaning.

It turns out, from the research that has been conducted, that about half of our happiness is out of our control – it’s determined by our genetic makeup. Forty percent of our happiness can be controlled by us – we can increase or decrease it according to things we do or think about. The remaining 10 percent of overall happiness can be attributed to pleasurable events or circumstances – such as the “dream job” or pursuing that hobby we enjoy so much.

Are there things we can do to most positively affect our level of happiness? Generally, yes – the research seems to show that there are three things that we do that have the most positive impact on our happiness – one is expressing gratitude, second is performing acts of kindness or showing generosity to others, and the third is having relationships with other people like friends or family members. In fact, it’s been determined that relating to other people (instead of being a “loner”) actually makes us the happiest overall.

To take a look at a rundown of the results of these various happiness studies, you can check out a documentary movie about the topic. Visit this link to learn more.