What Causes Happiness, and What Happiness Causes (feat. Robert Mack)

Jan 18, 2023

Did you know that, believe it or not, only about 10% of your happiness comes from outside conditions and circumstances?


Which means that 90% of your happiness is within your control, that you generate internally. Backed by 1000s of research studies spanning several decades, these percentages make up the happiness formula.


Joining me on this week’s podcast is Robert Mack, a positive psychology expert, executive coach, and bestselling author of Happiness from the Inside Out. He is also a TV host and producer for OWN and E!. Rob’s work has been endorsed by the likes of Oprah and Vanessa Williams.


In this episode, Rob shares the happiness formula, what causes happiness, what happiness causes, and how to deal with unhappy people in our lives.



What causes happiness?


The positive psychology experts have created the happiness formula:


H = S + C + V


Meaning happiness (H) is made up of 3 components: S, C, and V.


  • S stands for your genetic setpoint, or wiring for happiness. It varies from person to person and accounts for about 50% of your happiness


  • C stands for conditions and circumstances we tend to associate with success. Things like health, wealth, beauty, marriage status, etc. account for about 10% of your happiness


  • V stands for voluntary or volitional activities you choose to partake in to feel happier. These account for about 40% of your happiness


The 40% (V) is within your control, but Mack argues that the 50% genetic component is also malleable; you can increase it by doing more volitional activities. This means that only about 10% of your happiness index is outside your control, but even then, the happier you become, the better your life circumstances tend to become, says Mack.



How do you use the happiness formula?


This is the fun part. It’s a new year. You want to be happy. Let’s put the formula. to work. Mack recommends the following:


1. Identify your happiness islands and happiness deserts. Islands are activities you love doing for their own sake as they bring you immense joy. Deserts are activities you don’t love for their own sake, but you do them because you think you should. Delegate as many deserts as possible and spend most of your time and energy on the islands.


2. Identify and spend most of your time with happy people who love you and want you to be happy.


3. Tell better, truthful stories about everything and everybody in your life, including yourself. The stories we tell ourselves often determine our happiness level. There is always a better story to tell.


4. Practice stillness of mind by clearing thoughts and cherishing those moments of silence and joy, no matter how brief, throughout the day.


It boils down to: happy activities, happy people, happy stories, and happy stillness.



How can someone be happy when surrounded by unhappy people?


“Unhappiest is the person who feels happy when seeing an unhappy person!” – Mehmet Murat İldan


You probably know some family members or coworkers who are not only miserable themselves, but also seem to take joy in making others unhappy. Mack offers a surprising way to reframe your interactions with those kinds of people:


Think of these unhappy folks as personal trainers for your soul!


They’re teaching you what you most want to learn or remember, which is how to be unconditionally happy, unconditionally self-loving, and unconditionally peaceful. In many ways, they’re giving you what you most need but don’t realize yet. That’s the first step. The second step is to make your interactions as short and sweet as humanly possible, says Mack.


Mack also shares…


  • How it took a suicide attempt for him to experience true happiness
  • How to use micro-meditation to clear your mind
  • How happiness relates to religion and spirituality


If you liked this episode, you may also benefit from hearing:



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