Everything you should know about happiness in one infographic

According to science, you can control about 40% of your happiness.


We often talk about happiness, yet rarely take the time to define it. And that’s probably because it is incredibly difficult — each scientific discipline has its own take on it.

From a philosophical perspective the concept of happiness is often related to living a “good life”, flourishing, virtue, and excellence, rather than to experiencing an emotion. To psychologists happiness is an emotional and mental state of well-being related to experiencing positive emotions but also to a sense of meaning and satisfaction from life. 

Economists are also interested in happiness and have developed numerous surveys, indices, and equations to let us know which nations and people are the happiest. Besides the subjectively reported levels of happiness (towards which they are understandably suspicious), economists believe that factors like individual income, social security, employment, relationships, children, freedom, and leisure, have a big impact on our happiness.

In 2012, the UN started publishing an annual World Happiness Report - a survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 155 countries on six key indicators: freedom, generosity, health, social support, income, and trustworthy governance. By these measures, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland took the top spots in 2017. The US came 14th. 

But our national level of happiness does not necessarily translate into a personal one. According to psychologists, circumstances are responsible for only about 10% of our personal levels of happiness. Studies have shown that regardless of what happens to people - winning the lottery or losing a limb - their happiness levels tend to return to what they were before the event in about two months. This phenomenon is called the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation.

Researchers say that another 50% of our happiness is determined by our biology, and more specifically, genetically determined personality traits like "being sociable, active, stable, hardworking and conscientious.”  Twins who had similar scores in key traits — extroversion, calmness and conscientiousness, for example — had similar happiness scores, but these similarities disappeared once the traits were accounted for.

Not all is lost, however. 40% of your happiness is determined by your thoughts, actions, and behaviours. According to Buddha, this is enough to liberate you from suffering, if you channel this potential in the right thoughts, actions and behaviours. Science agrees -- there is a lot you can do to influence your happiness levels. 

Happify, a company dedicated to helping people live happier lives, has created a wonderful infographic summarizing the most relevant research on happiness and what you can do to increase it. See it below. 

If you like it, you may also enjoy their infographic on Happy Relationships.


 

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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