The Science of Happiness

10 happy thingsI had the opportunity to read an article here recently entitled “The Surprising Science Behind ‘Supremely Happy’ People.”  Ever in the pursuit of a higher state of happiness, I was intrigued by a list within the article compiled by “happiness researcher” (how awesome would that job be?) Kate Bratskeir.  According to Ms. Bratskeir, supremely happy people do the following 10 things:

1.  Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.

2.  Happy people try to be happy. When happy people don’t feel happy, they cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.

3.  Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves. Givers experience what scientists call the “helper’s high.”

4.  Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.

5.  Happy people use laughter as a medicine. A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters. A study showed that children on average laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.

6.  Happy people use the power of music. Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.

7.  Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet. Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression.

8.  Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside. Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.

9.  Happy people get enough sleep. When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgment.

10.  Happy people are spiritual.

My thoughts on each, in short, are as follows:

1.  I fully believe that this one is true.  In my recent Facebook/thought experiment, where I would write about three good things from each of my days, I could feel other people being drawn to my “happiness” and positive energy.  I believe the inverse is true as well; nothing brings me down deeper or quicker than being around negative people.  And sadly, I have found myself being that negative down-dragger on more than one occasion.  I’m trying!

2.  This one too was proven for me by my experiment.  Of course there are exceptions for severe emotional conditions or objective hardships that you cannot “happy” your way out of.  But there is at least some truth in the idea that if you want to be happy, to a certain extent, it’s as simple as choosing to be happy.  Again, sometimes.

3.  I have found this one to be very true for me.  Sure, buying myself a book I have been eying or a particularly flattering pair of jeans may bring me some happiness in the short run; I’m only human.  But in terms of big picture, lasting joy/happiness, I have found that it is truly better to give than to receive.

4.  Perhaps the truest and most profound on the list.  It may seem a bit odd, as anyone who knows me knows I can come across as quiet.  I’m not shy, or even misanthropic, just introspective.  And true, deep, connecting, thoughtful discussion makes me feel more happy, my life more meaningful, my mind less lonely, than just about anything else.

5.  I can see the truth in this, and the disparity between laughter in children and adults certainly seems like something that could be true.  I am sure there are days where 15 would be a stretch.  There may be days where I don’t laugh at all.  I have lately been craving comedy, both in writing and other media, maybe my mind/body recognizing the truth in this one and desperately seeking it out.  I need to laugh more.

6.  I love music, and it definitely has an energy to it that you won’t find elsewhere.  If I find myself in need of motivation, to work out or do chores, music hits the spot.  Sometimes if I’m feeling down, the right song will help bring me up (combined with dancing, of course).  And sometimes if I just feel like I need to think, or feel something, or reconnect with myself, music helps there too.  Not just with happiness, but with feeling alive, feeling anything.  I love music!

7.  I know this one’s true.  Some people give me a hard time about this, but especially the exercise, if I’m not exercising regularly, my energy level and sense of well-being go down the toilet.  Eating super healthy I approach with more moderation, but exercise is a must to my feeling happy and balanced.

8.  I definitely see the value both in unplugging and in going outside.  Being in front of a computer all day, whether working or even just zoning out, leaves me feeling empty.  It is crucial to take time to commune with nature and yourself.

9.  Sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I pretty much view sleep as a necessary evil.  I hate sleeping, because I feel like life is passing me by.  But I know I don’t get enough, and it shows.  Without enough sleep (which is pretty much me always) I lack clarity, energy, and patience.  I need to get more; one to work on.

10.  This one I struggle with.  I find myself questioning whether spiritual people are happy because they are spiritual or spiritual because they are happy.  Does spirituality make you happy, like is it causal, or does being happy make you more open to spiritual pursuits/considerations?  This item in particular, too, calls into question the concept of happiness, as well as joy vs. happiness considerations.  A lot of spirituality seems to center around organized religion, which brings with it a lot of obligations, as well as guilty.  So this one would seem less about short-term happiness and more about long-term joy, or maybe even not joy but purpose.  Meaning.  Don’t know.

Anyone else have any other thoughts?  I thought the article was interesting.  As the article recognized, the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental part of the human condition.  I will focus on some of these 10 factors and see what happens.


2 thoughts on “The Science of Happiness

  1. Coincidently, I am about to finish a Coursera MOOC called almost like the article “The science behind Happiness”; so, I am almost an expert now on the subject. The reason whyt I am still the grumpy me eludes me.

    The course is very good and is based in verifiable scientific information. I totally recommend it.

    It covers many aspects of the concept and coincides with most of the points of the list. I am not going to make an exposition on the topic here but one of the ideas that clarify a lot to me (which might be related with your doubts on point 9) is that we westerns have got the formula backwards:

    It is not that we are happy because we are good, we have success or we deserve it; we do good when we are happy. That is how our brains are designed.

    So, instead of working hard to become worthy, we should find the way to feel happy, even if seemingly artificial, to become good fellows.

    • Thanks for your response and insights. I know I still have a lot to learn. And I have long understood that the connection between knowing what to do and actually doing it can be elusive. I feel like there are a lot of things I don’t know and do wrong, but I will try to put some of these into practice.

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