I’ve written a lot about happiness in the past – how to find it, how to keep it, and who has the most of it. But, I’ve rarely written about the happiness “breakdown.” Until now.

When I’m feeling down and wondering “why” my life circumstances are happening as they are, I always find comfort in the “happiness pie chart” I saw a while ago in Psychology Today magazine:

50% of happiness is genetic

40% is life choices

10% is life circumstances

Broken down a bit further, here’s what we know: About half of the happiness people report is actually that genetic happiness set-point I wrote about in another blog. For better or for worse, our genetics actually do play a large part in life satisfaction and our attitudes about life in general.

But, here’s where things get a big surprising – nearly half of our happiness is actually based on things we DO have control over. Do you exercise? Go out and meet friends? Choose a mate who is compatible? Did you choose a job that’s fulfilling? Do you work on your mental health? Do you meditate? What self-talk do you hear? All these factors make up nearly half of your happiness.

Probably most surprising, though, is that last 10% – life circumstances. Turns out, that small sliver of happiness is based on income, where you grew up, whether you’ve lost someone you love, just went through a break-up, etc. You can think of it this way: Whatever happens “to” you has little effect on your happiness.

As a therapist in Honolulu, these statistics are a great way to communicate to my clients who feel they’ll never be the same after a negative event. Statistically, they are very likely to report nearly the same happiness level after a negative event as long as they have decent genetics and make the right choices.

So, now we know – what you are and what you do far outweighs what happens to you.