How do you become happier?

18 January 2023
18 January 2023

How do you become happier?

Happy 2023!! Probably one of the least original New Year’s wishes, but also one of the greatest gifts you can wish someone. A happy life, isn’t that what you wish everyone? But what actually is happiness, and to what extent can happiness be made?

Happiness professor Meike Bartels (1973) says about this: “I don’t see happiness as an end point but as a catalyst. Happiness is about shaping your life to the moments when you feel good. Trying to steer your own course. People often talk about what they have to do to become happy. But you can also ask yourself: what should I do to become happy?” (1).

Scientists have determined that 40% of your happiness is determined by your genes. Something that is already fixed at birth, also called your “set point”. You can be resigned to this, and think “I can’t help feeling unhappy, it’s my genes!”. The good news is, the other 60% is in your hands!

Of that 60%, 10% is determined by your circumstances (2). The fact that our circumstances have so little influence on your happiness has to do with habituation. That luxury car, that large television screen, those designer pants, it gives you a feeling of happiness when you buy it, but you get used to it very quickly and the feeling of happiness does not last long.

The other 50% that determine your happiness lie in conscious activities that you can choose every day. But what are those activities, and what can you do with them? And here science (1) and the ancient yoga tradition go hand in hand, here are some tips.

Take care of yourself
Lay the foundation for good health: feed your body with healthy food, get plenty of exercise, preferably in nature, get enough sleep, and ensure a good balance between tension and relaxation. Good health ensures a healthy hormone balance, and stimulates the production of your so-called happiness hormones (3).

Count your blessings
Every night before you go to bed, write down three things you’re grateful for that day and dwell on that feeling: a beautiful sunshine, that beautiful smile from the neighbor, that hug from your daughter. Living from gratitude stimulates “to have a positive attitude to life”, to “see the glass half full instead of half empty”.

Do a good deed
Do something good for your fellow man, without expecting anything in return.
This fits in nicely with the principle of karma yoga, or the “yoga of action”, where you do something selflessly for others. And these can also be small things, bringing a bunch of flowers to your sick neighbor, or pleasing your friends with homemade cookies.

Experiencing every moment of sincere gratitude and connection increases your feeling of happiness, you radiate this, you smile, and yes… you get a smile back! And so the circle is complete: the catalytic effect of a moment of happiness.

I wish you a very happy 2023! May it be a year full of grateful moments and moments of deep connection, a year in which you will experience happiness as an attitude to life instead of an end result to be achieved.

Raphaelle van der Weide
Lifestyle coach and yoga & meditation teacher


(1) Meike Bartels, Wat je kunt doen om gelukkiger te worden?

(2) Jos Leventje, Wat maakt daadwerkelijk gelukkig? De 3 factoren voor Geluk volgens de wetenschap.

(3) Martijn, Gelukshormoon tekort, 4 hormonen voor een gelukkiger leven!