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The science of happiness

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Are grumps and grouches born or made? Jordan Baker discovers some secrets to happiness that will put a smile on your dial.
For a few weeks last February, Tyron Krost was bursting with happiness. After being dragged to a poker championship because he had nothing else to do that night, the 23-year-old Sydneysider shocked everyone, including himself, by beating almost 750 other people to pick up $2 million in prize money, the largest amount ever awarded at a live tournament in the Southern Hemisphere.
The money, which he has invested, will set him up for life, and he is now sponsored to travel the world playing in tournaments. But here’s the thing; a few months after his win, Tyron was no happier than he was before.
“I’d like to think that before the tournament I was a pretty happy guy, and still think I’m about as happy,” he says.
“To be honest, I don’t really think about the money all that much and maybe that’s why. In the very short-term it definitely makes you happier, but in the long-term, I suspect you quickly become your normal self again.”
Tyron is a case in point for those who specialise in the science of happiness. Their research has found that it’s true money cannot buy happiness.
As our income grows we simply adapt, and begin comparing our lifestyle and possessions with wealthier people.
Of course, a bit of money helps cover life’s necessities. Yet, if money does not bring happiness, what does?
It’s a question to which a growing number of academics – psychologists, scientists, even economists – are devoting their attention.
This discipline is different from, and dismissive of, the so-called “Happiness Industry” that reaps billions of dollars a year from self-help books, meditation gurus and life coaches.
These researchers use science and data collected from thousands worldwide to analyse what makes humans happy.
They tend to agree on one thing – that we have only partial control over our happiness.
Studies of identical twins raised apart found they have similar levels of life satisfaction, suggesting that at least a portion is genetic.
Now researchers have turned their attention to a related question: How much of our capacity for happiness is inherited and how much is influenced by our choices?

Your say: How much control do you think we have over our own happiness?

Video: Just how happy are Aussies?

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