HomeVOLUME 8May 2023 Create the habit of happiness

STANISLAS LAJUGIE explains how we can cultivate the habit of happiness, even though our nervous system is wired for negativity. He gives us 3 simple steps to cultivate a happier disposition.

Let me ask this question: 10 things happened to you today – 9 good, one bad. Which one do you remember and share with your family members once you are back home? The bad one, right?

Negativity sticks to the brain, while positivity flows like water through the brain. Hence, happiness may not always be natural or easy to cultivate. We need to learn to take in the good! You can watch this video by Dr. Rick Hanson to learn more about this.

40% Margin of Happiness

Sonja Lyubomirksy, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Riverside, defined happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”1

She conducted a meta-analysis of over 200 studies on the effects of happiness, and observed that happy people have stronger health, longer life, and better careers; plus they are more creative, have stronger relationships, and even have healthier cultures and communities.

If happiness is so beneficial, she wondered why we are not excelling in it! In her article, “Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change,”2 she found that:

  • 50% of happiness comes from our genetic baseline, i.e. how predisposed we are to happiness. This is related to biological and personality traits which do not change much through life. We cannot do much about them.
  • Only 10% comes from external factors, e.g. our health, bank account, relationships, new phone or tablet, new boss, etc. That surprisingly low percentage is due to the phenomenon of habituation. We tend to revert to our happiness baseline, whether an important good or bad event happens to us. For instance, if you win the lottery, you will tend to come back to the same level of happiness after one year.
  • 40% comes from intentional activity, i.e. our choices. Thus, the quality of our mindset is responsible for 40% of our happiness. This is actually where we can contribute to a happy life.


Whether or not we were lucky enough to have a positive joyful childhood,
we can all learn how to bring about positive deep inner transformation.

While most people spend the majority of their time improving their material life, which is accountable for only 10% of happiness, we have a 40%margin of happiness that is dependent on our choices.

We cannot take happiness for granted! Happiness is intentional, effortful, and trainable. How can we develop this mindset and cultivate the habit of happiness?

Learn to Take in the Good

Dr. Rick Hanson explains that the brain has the natural tendency to retain negative experiences and forget positive ones as a survival mechanism. Therefore simple positive thinking strategies are not the answer.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change its structure and functioning due to its activities. Positive neuroplasticity consists in intentionally engaging in those activities that develop positive changes of the brain. In short, we need to learn to take in the good!

In his book, Hardwiring Happiness,3 Hanson suggests 3 steps to ensure long-lasting transformation and to learn to take in the good:

Pause: take distance from negative information.
Focus: on positive experience and let in positive feelings.
Absorb: savor the experience by feeling the thoughts, emotions and sensations associated with the positive experience.

The longer that experience is held in awareness, and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons wire-in those pathways. By letting the moments spread across the emotional and mind-body system, small shifts are created, and overtime this weaves positive experiences into the fabric of the brain.

This is exactly what we are doing in the Heartfulness practices. We meditate on the heart, and this trains the brain to absorb positive feelings and experiences associated with the heart – love, compassion, care, kindness, appreciation, harmony, patience, courage, and many more qualities that support happiness.

We may only have a 40% margin of happiness, so let’s take up that opportunity. We can cultivate the habit of happiness.


We meditate on the heart, and this trains the brain to absorb positive feelings
and experiences associated with the heart – love, compassion, care, kindness,
appreciation, harmony, patience, courage, and many more qualities
that support happiness.


1 Lyubomirsky, S., 2007. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Putnam, USA.

2 https://cdn-hfn.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/LSS_2005_fcaf27a724.pdf

3 Hanson, R., 2013. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. Harmony, USA.


Stanislas Lajugie

Stanislas Lajugie

Stanislas is a civil servant of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of France. He has worked in many countries and enjoys making meditation fashionable wherever he goes. He has developed a course on the science of meditation for universities and c... Read More