The Key to Happiness? Just Try.

Young adultsIf you want to be happy, new research indicates that it may simply be a matter of trying to be happier.

Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon published the results of two studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology that present the results of two experiments on this topic. In the first study, participants listened to “happy” music. Those who actively attempted feeling happier reported higher levels of positive mood after the study. In a second study, participants listened to “happy” music over a two-week period. Half of the participants were instructed to try to improve their levels of happiness. The other half were told to simply focus on the music. Those who attempted to improve their happiness levels reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the study.

These studies challenge earlier research that suggested trying to become happier was counterproductive. According to the researchers, what made the happier group so much happier was both a combination of trying to be happier and using the right methods, suggesting that people interested in becoming happier might need to take a more active role in improving their mindset.

This study supports an assertion by Martin Seligman—one of the psychologists at the heart of the positive psychology movement—who theorized that 60 percent of happiness is genetically determined, while 40 percent is up to the individual.

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