The Art and Practice of Happiness

Dr. Keith Witt Lifestyle, Perspectives, Psychology, Video, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 2 Comments

According to happiness researcher Sonia Lyubomirsky, 50% of our happiness comes from our genetic heritage (what researchers call our “happiness set point”), 10% from life circumstances, and 40% from decisions we make and activities and perspectives we choose.

We can’t choose our genetics or completely control life circumstances, but that 40% voluntary activities is huge! We can choose to do what it takes to heal and integrate trauma. We can choose to engage in more activities that make us happy. Voluminous research has demonstrated again and again that there are perspectives and actions we can cultivate that tend to raise our happiness levels.

Embodying happiness-increasing practices like performing kind acts and celebrating loved ones victories and triumphs are healing, and also open us up to deeper compassionate understanding and equanimity. Embracing happiness-producing perspectives like an optimistic explanatory style and growth mindsets help us become more joyful and wise. Engaging in kind acts, celebrating loved ones’ victories, and cultivating optimistic explanatory styles and growth mindsets are particularly potent practices and perspectives, but there are lots more!

Here are some more of my favorites:

  • Exercise.
  • Creating and maintaining growth hierarchies rather than dominator hierarchies in social engagements.
  • Learning the principles of forgiveness and practicing them.
  • Eating a healthy diet for our particular type of metabolism and physiology.
  • Connecting with people we respect and enjoy, and maintaining those connections, especially by giving and receiving favors, cultivating regular contact, sharing activities, and celebrating each other.
  • If we have a spouse, cultivating our friendship, love affair, and capacities to resolve injuries and ruptures back to love generates more happiness.

All these activities and perspectives can make us happier. They can help us be more self accepting, self soothing, resilient, and available for positive contact with others.

Happiness: What’s your definition?

Defining happiness can be confusing because it is both a state–at any given moment we feel more or less happy–but also a type. That 50% constitutional contribution to general happiness means some of us are more easily happy, and some of us have to struggle more to be happy.

Whether as a state or a type, lots of people have suggested definitions of happiness. The simplest I’ve found is, “Expect everything to be exactly how it is.”

My personal definition of a happy moment (a state of happiness) is:

  • Experiencing myself as a good person.
  • Being grateful for right now.
  • Being positive about my past, present, and future.
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Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Jeff Salzman

About Jeff Salzman

Jeff Salzman worked with Ken Wilber for several years in building the Integral Institute. He is a co-founder of Boulder Integral, the first bricks-and-mortar venue dedicated to the development of integral consciousness. These days Jeff provides integrally-inspired commentary on politics and culture on Integral Life and The Daily Evolver.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.

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