My point isn’t that I suddenly wish to be rich without working for it. I mean, that’d be nice, but it’s not going to happen. I’m just using finances as a metaphor. I can adapt a set of simple behaviors that will improve my finances… just, not by very much. I can only get an extra a few hundred dollars a month if I act as frugally as possible. Which is nice, but it’s hardly a major change. Happiness is similar.
Happiness, like finances, is complicated. In contrast to Mr. Lincoln’s statement, the current estimate is about 50% of a person’s happiness level is basically set by genetic and possibly environmental factors. The other factors are situational, but that’s not to say that they’re all under our direct control either. For example, parents who suffer the loss of a child tend to show a lasting decrease in happiness level. Lottery winners actually do show a minor increase in happiness. Not much, but a couple points. More stable income levels correlate positively with happiness, indicating that it’s less to do with the amount of money itself, but rather job satisfaction. People with good marriages, and a focus on family tend to be happier as well, though that might also be a result of personality factors that aren’t under direct control. And all of this is under the assumption that you don’t have any major mental health issues, like depression.
The things on this list are, ultimately, minor provinces of happiness. If you want to make serious improvements to your happiness level, you need to make serious improvements to your life. Which I believe most miserable people already understand very well.