6 Things that Make People Happy According to Scientists
The experience of happiness is subjective and varies from person to person. While one may derive great joy from a particular circumstance or event, another might not experience the same rush of happiness. According to monks and spiritual leaders, happiness is an inner state that can be attained through simple pleasures in life. Despite this knowledge, we often find ourselves feeling upset by materialistic concerns. If you’re feeling down and searching for happiness, we’ve curated a list of psychologically-proven things that tend to make people happy.
A Harvard professor has explained why winning $20 million in the lottery won’t make you happier in the long run.
Harvard Professor Sanjiv Chopra, in his book The Big Five: Five Simple Things You Can Do to Live a Longer, Healthier Life, explains why winning $20 million in the lottery won’t make you happier in the long run. He argues that while it’s exciting to win the lottery, the thrill of the experience will be quite short-lived. Eventually, people who win the lottery tend to return to their previous levels of happiness, as they become accustomed to their newfound wealth. Chopra suggests that instead of focusing on materialistic concerns, individuals should strive for inner peace and contentment in the simple pleasures of life. This includes developing close relationships with family and friends, pursuing hobbies and interests, and taking care of one’s mental and physical health.
In addition to advocating for a focus on inner peace and contentment, Professor Sanjiv Chopra also cites the theory of hedonic adaptation in his argument that winning the lottery will not bring long-term happiness. “Hedonic adaptation” refers to the human tendency to return to a stable level of happiness, even after experiencing a significant change in life circumstances, such as winning the lottery. In other words, individuals tend to adapt to their new situation and eventually revert to their previous level of happiness. Chopra suggests that true happiness is not found in material possessions but rather in simple, everyday pleasures and experiences.
Several studies conducted by people over the years have concluded five major factors contributing to human happiness:
1 Social Connection is Directly Proportional to Happiness
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which began in the year 19438, followed the lives of 724 men to identify the factors contributing to happiness and health, with a focus on social connections. Data collected from surveys, medical records, and interviews of the participants and their families showed that close relationships with family, friends, and community members predict happiness and health. The quality, not quantity, of those relationships is a better predictor of long-term happiness and health. Social connections can buffer against life stress, provide emotional support, and encourage healthy behaviors, leading to longer lives and lower risk of chronic illnesses.
2 Happy People Become Happy Through Kindness
A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology claimed that those who engaged in acts of kindness found greater well-being and happiness. During the six-week study period, the participants were instructed to carry out five kind deeds every week, and the outcome revealed a noteworthy rise in their happiness and overall contentment with life.
Another study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who regularly perform acts of kindness tend to have higher levels of happiness and positive emotions. In order to increase happiness through kindness, it’s important to find ways to help others, whether it’s volunteering, donating to charity, or simply being kind to friends, family, and strangers. Performing these kinds of actions can bring about not only positive effects on the recipients but also have a beneficial impact on one’s personal happiness and well-being.
3 Mindful Meditation, a Contributing Factor to Well-being and Happiness
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that mindfulness meditation can improve well-being and happiness. The study involved 139 participants who were randomly assigned to a mindfulness meditation group, a relaxation group, or a control group. After eight weeks, the mindfulness meditation group showed significantly greater improvements in well-being and happiness than the other two groups. These improvements were maintained six months later, suggesting that regular mindfulness meditation practice can have long-lasting effects. Mindful meditation involves focusing on the present moment and paying attention to one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. To incorporate mindfulness into daily life, the study recommends setting aside time for meditation practice each day and practicing mindfulness in everyday activities.
4 Expressing Gratitude Makes People Happy
Expressing gratitude has been shown to make people happy, according to scientific research. When individuals take time to reflect on the things they are grateful for, they experience positive emotions like joy, contentment, and happiness.
In addition to the positive emotions associated with expressing gratitude, scientific research has also explored the neurological effects of gratitude on the brain. A study conducted at the University of California Los Angeles found that participants who practiced gratitude had increased neural modulation in the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with learning and decision-making. Another study found that participants who wrote gratitude letters showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, a region associated with social cognition and moral reasoning. This suggests that expressing gratitude can not only improve emotional well-being but also lead to cognitive and social benefits. Furthermore, research has shown that the effects of gratitude can be long-lasting, with continued practice leading to sustained improvements in happiness and well-being.
5 Practicing Self-compassion
Practicing self-compassion has been shown to make people happy, according to research. The concept of self-compassion entails extending the same level of kindness, empathy, and encouragement towards oneself that one would typically extend to a close companion. It involves being understanding and accepting of one’s own flaws and shortcomings and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes.
Several scientific studies have found evidence for the positive impact of self-compassion on well-being. For example, a study conducted by Neff and colleagues in 2005 found that self-compassion was positively associated with life satisfaction and happiness and negatively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. In addition, research by Breines and Chen in 2012 showed that self-compassion could buffer individuals against the negative effects of self-criticism on mood and motivation. Furthermore, a study by Allen and colleagues in 2019 found that a self-compassion intervention led to significant reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increased positive emotions and life satisfaction. These findings suggest that cultivating self-compassion can have a beneficial impact on mental health and well-being.
6 Genetics Play a Role in Determining Happiness, Too
According to scientific research, genetics may play a significant role in an individual’s likelihood of developing depression and their overall happiness level. Depression is estimated to have a heritability of approximately 40-50%, indicating that genetic factors can play a role in an individual’s susceptibility to the condition. This refers to the degree of variance in a trait that can be attributed to genetics.
However, this does not mean that genetics determine one’s mental health entirely. Environmental factors, such as life events and social support, also play a role in an individual’s mental health. Furthermore, even if someone is genetically predisposed to depression, they may not necessarily develop the condition if they do not experience other contributing factors.
In addition to depression, genetics may also influence a person’s overall level of happiness. Heritability for happiness is estimated to be around 40-50% as well, indicating that genetics can influence a person’s happiness level to a certain degree. However, environmental factors such as relationships, personal growth, and fulfillment also play a significant role in overall happiness.
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