David Wilkinson

Banisher of fears, slayer of anxiety & developer of emotional resilience

What makes us happy?

What makes us happy?

Following on from my last blog, Does Happiness Lead to Success, what are the main factors which contribute to our happiness?

One factor many people consider to be an important contributor to our happiness is our personality.

A number of studies have looked at the links between emotional states such as happiness, anxiety and depression for example and the individual's personality. There are considered to be 638 personality traits or dispositions of which 234 or 37% are considered to be positive dispositions. For example adaptable, helpful, open, and stable. 112 or 18% are considered to be neutral traits, such as complex, solitary or unhurried and 292 negative dispositions. these encompass traits like cowardly, deceitful, miserable, uncaring, unstable and tactless.

For most purposes these are grouped into to what are known as the big five traits or dimensions, which are:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

I will explain these in a little more detail in my next blog.

A study just released by students from Clemson University in South Carolina measured the levels of

  • Happiness
  • Positive emotions
  • Feelings of wellbeing / health and
  • Contentment

of 347 people (69.4% female and 84.6% Caucasian). They then asked the participants how much of their happiness they thought came from their:

  1. Personality,
  2. Context or situation they found themselves in at any time, including other people or,
  3. Own actions. What are called voluntary or intentional actions that help to up-regulate their own emotions

So if I were to ask you which of these you think contributes most to your general level of happiness what would it be?

{sl_advpoll id='1' width='250' center='1' title='What contribute most to your happiness?'}

The study found that people ascribe the source of their happiness roughly equally between all three factors.

What people thinks makes them happy


Tomorrow I will reveal what the research says about which one of these factors is actually the most influential on people's happiness...




Costa, P.T.,Jr. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Morgan, M. et al (2014) Redefining Happiness: Is the Happiness Pie Literature Missing Some Slices? http://tigerprints.clemson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=foci Research oster session.

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