Raising Happiness and the Happiness Equation

Raising Happiness and the Happiness Equation


The most common comment that I hear from parents in my child psychology practice is, “I just want my child to be happy.” Every parent wants their child to be happy, resilient, flexible and optimistic.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, provides a formula or happiness equation to illustrate the idea that we can become the driver of our life, despite our genetics, environment or adverse experiences. Lately, I have shared the happiness equation with children to help them understand just how much control they really do have to change their thinking, feeling and behavior. This is especially important for children stuck in the negative track of thinking, or who are experiencing helplessness or hopelessness.

The happiness equation is:

H = S + C + V

Where H refers to our enduring happiness which is a function of S, (our set point and genetics), C (our circumstances such as whether we are healthy or ill, rich or poor) and V (thoughts and actions under our voluntary control).

According to researcher Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues from the University of California, the happiness quotient is as follows: 50% is due to our set point and is genetically determined (based on twin studies), 10% is affected by life circumstances and 40% is under our voluntary control through our thoughts and actions. When you consider a 40% chance of winning the lottery, this figure is particularly significant. We can therefore help children build a lifetime of happiness by learning optimistic and flexible thinking and safeguard them from depression. Dr. Tamar Chansky in her book, Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking, discusses powerful, practical strategies to build a lifetime of resilience, flexibility and happiness in a down to earth, fun and creative way.

Dr. Christine Carter in her book, Raising Happiness, presents ten simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents, based on scientific research. She recommends: taking care of yourself and close relationships; practicing kindness; expecting effort and enjoyment not perfection; choosing gratitude, forgiveness and optimism; raising children’s emotional intelligence; forming happiness habits; teaching self-discipline; enjoy the present moment; rig their environment for happiness and lastly, eat dinner together.

Children who have a sense of spirituality are happier, thus promote happiness through acts of kindness, attend church regularly and have Christ in the center of your child’s life. But also remember:

“At the time of darkness, more than anything else kneeling is helpful.” – St. Isaac the Syrian.

About author

Chrissi Hart

Dr Chrissi Hart is a Child Psychologist and author and hosts "Readings from Under the Grapevine: Inspirational Stories for Children of All Ages" on Ancient Faith Radio. She writes a regular child psychology column for ChildGood: The Journal for Creative Families, a leading parenting magazine, available on the Apple iPad. She has a private practice together with her husband Barry in York, PA, specializing in anxiety and psychosomatic disorders in children. She lives in York, PA with her husband and two children and attends St John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church, where she is a choir member. Chrissi is the author of several children’s books including, The Legend of the Cross and Tea with the Queen. Learn more about Chrissi’s work by visiting her website. Learn more about Chrissi’s work by visiting her website.