Our happiness depends mostly on our health conditions

In early 2010, Cole spoke about his work at a conference in Las Vegas. Among the audience members was Barbara Fredrickson, a noted positive psychologist from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who had attended graduate school with Cole. His talk made her wonder: If stressful states, including loneliness, caused the genome to respond in a damaging way, might sustained positive experiences have the opposite result? “Eudaemonic and hedonic aspects of well-being had previously been linked to longevity, so the possibility of finding beneficial effects seemed plausible,” Fredrickson told me. The day after the conference, she sent Cole an e-mail, and by autumn of that year they had secured funding for a collaborative project. Fredrickson’s team would profile a group of participants, using questionnaires to determine their happiness style, then draw a small sample of their blood. Cole would analyze the samples and see what patterns, if any, emerged.

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The only thing they had in common was the expression of exhausted bliss on their face, which was making me think this is it. This is what the secret of happiness is.

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It upholds man's unalienable, individual The term "rights," note, is a moral (not just a political) term; it tells us that a certain course of behavior is right, sanctioned, proper, a prerogative to be respected by others, not interfered with—and that anyone who violates a man's rights is: wrong, morally wrong, unsanctioned, evil.

Now our only rights, the American viewpoint continues, are the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

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Along the way, I learned that rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the winner have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.

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Indeed, this malleability is perhaps the most encouraging quality of both Little’s core project and Aristotle’s eudaemonia, because it makes finding happiness a real possibility. Even the most temperamentally introverted or miserable among us has the capacity to find a meaningful project that suits who we are. Locating it won’t just bring pleasure; it might also bring a few more years of life in which to get the project done.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 15, 2013, on Page SR1 of the  with the headline: A Formula for Happiness.

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This moral covenant links the founders to each of us today. The right to define our happiness, work to attain it and support ourselves in the process — to earn our success — is our birthright. And it is our duty to pass this opportunity on to our children and grandchildren.

So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

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The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

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We also heard a lecture titled “Health and Happiness: ..

So relieving poverty brings big happiness, but income, per se, does not. Even after accounting for government transfers that support personal finances, . Abstracted from money, joblessness seems to increase the rates of and , and the severity of .