The Pie of Happiness

I have been studying Positive Psychology since June of 2014. The recommended book I have been reading is “The How of Happiness” by Sonya Lyubomirsky. In her book, Sonya explains the 3 parts of happiness in the form of a pie – 50% of your happiness pie is set by your genetics, 10% by your life circumstances and 40% is made up of your intentional activities to be happy.  In essence you have the power to change and be happier. This research by Lyubomirsky is so empowering to know.

To make the statistics less scientific and more relatable, I translated her pie chart to pieces of pie in my life:

  • Genetics are like Rhubarb Pie – Tradition
  • Life Circumstances are like Lemon Pie – Tart
  • Intentional Activities are like Blueberry Pie – Mindfulness

Over the past decade plus I have been especially interested in learning more about genetics and how it impacts our make-up and life. In “The How of Happiness”, Sonya Lyubomirsky says that you have a gene set point from your biological mother or father or both. Having genetic testing done myself, I learned I have my mother’s genes. From age 2 to age 5, I had kidney issues that put me in the hospital every 6 months. My mom said I used to go to the hospital and say to the nurses and doctors, “Here I am.” It sounds a little like Johnny Carson’s introduction, but she said I had a pretty sunny disposition despite the health issues. Much later in life, in my late 30’s, my mother and I were diagnosed with the BRCA1 (breast cancer) gene mutation. I understand the research that 50% of your genes are who you are and my early breast cancer detection confirmed that. While preparing for the testing, my mom and I reviewed our family tree to better understand our history. My mother’s mom had breast cancer, my mom had ovarian cancer and lived beyond her prognosis. One doctor said my mom was “beyond science.” I believe my mom’s humor, positivity and sunny outlook are what kept her “beyond science” – and those ‘mother’ genes attribute to my 50% of happiness.

Why does rhubarb pie come to mind for genetics?

Growing up, our neighbors used to always give us rhubarb from their garden and we made pie. The rhubarb pie grew on me as a family tradition and stays with me from my past. It’s pleasant to think of my roots and rhubarb.

Rhubarb may not be what I would choose in life now, but it was what my mother made. What pie do you think of that reminds you of your heritage or past?

Why does lemon pie come to mind for life circumstances?

I had breast cancer, a life circumstance that fortunately I was more prepared for due to my genetic testing. My cancer was detected at Stage 0 – it doesn’t get much better than that! This doesn’t impact my happiness negatively, but it was tart like a lemon pie. This was a big event, but this doesn’t take up much of my happiness pool. I have amazing support and educate woman about the benefits of genetic testing to be proactive and deal with a life situation the best you can.

My life circumstance I describe was health and there are many more examples. What bitter sweet or sweet treat do you think of when you examine a life circumstance, positive or not so positive?

Why does blueberry pie come to mind for intentional activity?

Blueberries are healthy and good for you. They help with your memory and mindfulness. I can take health matters in my own hand. Just imagine if I eat more blueberries I can make a shift to a more positive life style, up to 40 %. That is a huge chunk of your life to work on the ‘Be Whole’ pie –  the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you is be mindful about the choices you make – like eating Blueberry pie.

How are you mindful of your activities to enjoy the best of life and be happy? If you are not sure, try blueberries.

Focus on your favorite piece of the whole pie and don’t settle for less. My life has been rhubarb, lemon and blueberries wrapped into one and how sweet it is to know I can live wholeheartedly 40% of the time and appreciate 60% of what has shaped who I am today.

Are you interested in knowing more about positive psychology and how you can impact your own happiness?  Then come on out to Be Positive on May 27th at Jo Jo’s to explore more of the pie of happiness.  Click here for details


Today’s author: Kelye Rouse-Brown, CHA, CHT is a business owner, joint venture partner, HR expert, certified coach and training professional. Her 3 components: Educate, Motivate, and Cultivate are what help her clients develop, spark action and grow a successful career/business and life. Kelye can be reached at 301-371-9300 or by visiting her website: