Formula to happiness? Study discovers secret to thriving

PORTSMOUTH, England — The secret to success may vary from person to person, but it’s also more formulaic than you think.  A new study that sought to find whether thriving individuals share specific traits resulted in what it claims is the “first definitive catch-all” on the subject.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the UK conducted an inquiry into the factors that allow anyone to thrive, and were able to find a number of previous studies that validated the most critical variables.

Happy woman soaking in the sunset
Want the secret to success? A new study has found two sets of characteristics that define what it means for a person to be “thriving.”

Although “science hasn’t really managed to consistently classify and describe” the term “thriving,” argues researcher Dr. Daniel Brown, the researchers’ provided their own definition: “feeling good about life and yourself and being good at something.”

Given this definition, Dr. Brown and his colleagues found that thriving individuals usually possess many, but not all qualities from two separate lists.

The personal characteristics provided in the first list include internal characteristics that would be unique to an individual. A thriving individual is:

  • — optimistic
  • — spiritual or religious
  • — motivated
  • — proactive
  • — someone who enjoys learning
  • — flexible
  • — adaptable
  • — socially competent
  • — believes in self/has self-esteem


The second list focuses more so on environmental variables. Brown says a thriving individual has:

  • — opportunity
  • — employer/family/other support
  • — challenges and difficulties are at manageable level
  • — an environment that is calm
  • — is given a high degree of autonomy
  • — is trusted as competent


Despite the inability of many researchers to precisely define the concept of “thriving,” previous studies have shown it is distinct from related terms, such as resilience, prospering, or growth.

In the search for thriving populations, numerous demographics have been previously examined, from children to servicemen.

“Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a quest in science to better understand human fulfillment and thriving, there’s been a shift towards wanting to understand how humans can function as highly as possible,” explains Dr. Brown in a university news release.

Yet, rarely has there been a consensus on what a universal idea of thriving would look like, leading Dr. Brown to conduct his inquiry.

Dr. Brown hopes that future research can further examine the factors enabling thriving, while also looking at the lasting or long-term effects of sustaining such a level of performance.

The study’s findings were published online this month in the journal European Psychologist.


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