Have you ever wondered why some people appear to be happier than others? Learn the “Facts and Physiology of Happiness” today!
What is happiness?
Happiness is an emotion that brings pleasure and plays a crucial role in our psychological well-being. Studies have found happy people are more likely to have fulfilling relationships and marriages, higher incomes, superior work and study performance, community involvement, experience robust health, and live longer. Positive emotions and sustained happiness are often associated with characteristics that parallel fulfillment and success, including sociability, optimism, energy, and originality.
Physiology of happiness
Happiness produces physiological changes, evident by scientific testing. Positron Emission Tomography (PET test) and functional MRI show activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which when stimulated, people feel more positive. Optimism, a contributing factor for happiness, is also linked to brain function
Within the brain, the anterior cortex and the amygdale (in the brain) become more active when we think about positive events. Research demonstrates that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays an important role in happiness because it mediates transfer of positive emotions. Happiness is also associated with lower levels of cortisol, and therefore, a stronger immune system, and less stress.
An interesting question. A classic study of twins found that genetics accounts for about 50% of our satisfaction, or happiness, with life – called the “happiness set point”. This is the point we return to if our happiness is disrupted.
What is our Happiness Formula? It is a combination of our genetic happiness set point (approximately 50% of our satisfaction with life), and other circumstances of a person’s life, such as health, and factors under our voluntary control, like satisfying relationships, and engaging in meaningful life activities.
What Makes Us Happy?
Age – we actually become happier with age! Happiness is associated with overall emotional well-being and stability. A Gallop study of people ages 18 – 85 years old, found that happiness appears to decrease gradually until age 50, then trended upward, while worry declined.
Research shows a definite correlation between a faith life and happiness. Studies also demonstrate that people who attend some type of religious/spiritual service weekly were happier than those who attended less often. Experiencing a faith life also reduces stress and provides positive meaning to life.
Does Money Make You Happier?
The link between money and happiness is complicated. Satisfaction with the standard of living is associated with a more positive evaluation of life, but true positive feelings come from psychological factors such as using one’s skills and autonomy. In addition, research shows that more money does improve overall life satisfaction, but does not improve daily happiness.
Studies show that people in relationships such as marriage tend to be happier, but is it because they are married, or is it because happy people tend to be in relationships and get married? Single or divorced people tend to be happier than those in unhappy relationships.
Strategies to get happier
- Connect socially! Get out and smile, and seek activities that bring fulfillment and pleasure
- Keep a positive attitude and practice an attitude of gratitude
- Take care of your body – follow a healthy food plan, such as FirstLine Therapy Program
- Drink plenty of water, eat healthy, become more active, and get plenty of rest
- Exercise! It produces feelings of wellbeing and releases endorphins (“feel good hormones”)
- Get regular chiropractic adjustments and massage – take care of your body
- Stay active! If pain and stiffness are slowing your down, commit to a Physical therapy program
- Practice forgiveness – which frees you from the past and moves you forward in life
- Love yourself – be kind to yourself – take care of yourself!
- Pursue goals that interest and stimulate you and bring satisfaction and pleasure
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Live a meaningful life
It takes time to change a behavior, but feeling good and experiencing true happiness are worth it!
For additional information, contact Diane Delf, RN, Director of Wellness and Weight Management at firstname.lastname@example.org