10 scientific ways to be incredibly happy and more healthy!
Happiness is so interesting because we all have different ideas of what happiness is and what make us happy. But we will all agree on one thing: everyone wants to be happy/happier. Scientists also like to think about the theme of happiness. Below is a list of ten blissful scientific tips.
1. Training has a big effect on our happiness
The New York Times recently published an article about the scientific 7-minute workout. So if you were under the assumption that you do not have time for sports. Seven minutes of your time should succeed?
Dopamine, a chemical that plays a role in happiness, is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Many studies suggest that as we age, we’re constantly losing our stores of dopamine, which is why we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine.
The best way to increase your brain’s dopamine production? Exercise. So run, lift, jump, play — and get happy.
It has been proven that training is an effective way to overcome depression. Shawn Achor refers in his book The Happiness Advantage to a study of three groups of patients with depression. One group is given medication, the second group started training, and the third group did a combination of the two. The results of the study were amazing. Although all three groups initially experienced corresponding improvements, this was completely different in a follow-up test.
The groups were called up six months later for a follow-up. 38 percent of those who had taken medication had become depressed again. The group that had experienced a combination of medication and exercises had a fall of 31 percent. But now comes the surprise: the group that had only done physical exercises, only experienced a drop of 9 percent.
2. Sleep more – you will be less sensitive to negative emotions
We know that sleeping helps us to recover our body. We can better focus on ourselves through a good night’s sleep and we are more productive. And it also appears to be important for our happiness.
A 2015 study of some 2,000 Swedish adults, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, examined the relationship between a person’s ability to regulate their emotions and the development of insomnia over time. At the beginning of the study, participants’ ability to regulate their emotions seemed to have no effect on their sleeping patterns. But six months and 18 months after the initial survey, the study found that people who were less able to manage their emotions were also more likely to experience persistent insomnia. This happened even for people who began the study without sleeping problems.
In a Walker experiment, students with sleep deprivation tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation such as cancer. But of words with a positive or neutral connotation such as sunshine or basket, they had only memorized 31%.
The BPS Research Digest also focused on another study that proved that sleep affects the sensitivity to negative emotions. The researchers used a tool that recognized faces during the course day, to investigate how sensitive the participants were to positive and negative emotions in relation to their sleep. Those who went all day without taking an afternoon nap became more sensitive to negative emotions such as fear and anger at the end of the day. Holding a siesta not only blocked these negative emotional reactions, but also turned them into positive reactions, which were reflected in facial expressions.
Of course, the amount of sleep and its quality is also important for the feelings of well-being throughout the day. If one sleeps insufficiently or badly, the brain activity appears to be diminishing.
3. Come to live closer to your work – a short distance is worth more than a big house
Our shuttle to our work has a surprisingly strong impact on our happiness. The fact that we have to cover a long distance from home to our work twice a day, five days a week, appears to have a big effect. With time, we become increasingly unhappy.
According to The Art of Manliness, we have no idea that a long distance to work makes us so unhappy. “While most voluntary conditions do not affect our happiness in the long run because we get used to it, but apparently people never get used to driving back and forth to and from work every day, because traffic is sometimes fixed and sometimes not’. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert puts it: “Driving in traffic is a different hell every day”.
We tend to compensate for this by means of a larger house or a better job, but these compensations do not seem to work. Two Swiss economists who investigated the effect of commuting in relation to happiness discovered that such factors could not possibly negate the misery of long distance.
4. Spend time with your family and friends – do not regret your deathbed
No contact with family and friends is in the top 5 where people regret their deathbed. Sufficient research has been done to prove that you are happier if you spend more time with your family and friends.
Social contacts are important even for introverts. Several studies prove that spending time with family and friends has a major impact on how happy we feel. George Vaillant led a 72-year old investigation into the lives of 268 people. In an interview for a newspaper, Vaillant was asked what he had learned from the people of the Grand Study. His answer was: “That the only thing that counts in life is your relationship with other people”.
5. Go outside – luck is at its maximum at a minimum temperature of 13.9 ° C
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn recommends Achor to spend more time in the open air to increase happiness. Making time to go outside on a beautiful day brings even more benefits: a study discovered that twenty minutes in the open air in good weather not only gives our mood a boost, but also makes it more open-minded and increases our working memory.
This is actually good news for those who struggle to plan new habits in their already full agenda. Twenty minutes is not that long and is fairly easy to fit into a busy schedule, even if it is during the lunch break.
The American Meteorological Association published a study in 2011 that showed that the current temperature has a greater effect on our happiness than, for example, the wind or humidity, or even the average temperature in a day. It has been shown that happiness rises from a temperature of 13.9 ° C, so pay attention to the weather forecast before you go outside.
A British study by the University of Sussex showed that being outdoors, close to the sea, is the perfect place to be happy on a warm, sunny afternoon at weekends. Participants were also happier in a natural environment than in an urban environment.
6. Help others – 100 hours a year is a magic number
It has turned out that offering help to others enriches your life. The perfect time would be 100 hours of help per year, or two hours a week. When we return to Shawn Achor’s book, he says the following about helping others: “When researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their purchases, the money they spent on activities such as concerts or dinners turned out to be much more fun for them. Then delivered the money they had spent on material things, such as shoes, televisions or expensive watches. Spending money on other people causes a boost of happiness, in other words”.
The Journal of Happiness Studies devoted a study to this topic. Participants recalled a purchase for themselves or for someone else and indicated their sense of happiness. Afterward, the participants chose to spend a financial windfall on themselves or on someone else. Participants who spent their money on someone else immediately felt better after they had done this. Happier were also those who chose to spend their windfall on others in the near future.
Spending money on other people makes us happier than buying things for ourselves. But what about spending time on others? A study among German volunteers showed how the volunteers were hit when they cannot mean anything to another person. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, it became clear that the shock of unification had collapsed a large part of the volunteer infrastructure in East Germany. The people who were affected by this turned out to be more unhappy than the group of people who had not experienced any changes in the volunteer work they did. Thus volunteering seems to contribute to the happiness of life.
Buddhism is often associated with meditation, pacifism, and deep Zen quotes. But one aspect of Buddhism that is often overlooked, especially in the West, is the concept of generosity. In fact, despite the popular stereotypes of Buddhism being all about peace and mindfulness, generosity is actually a very crucial part of Buddhism.
7. Smile regularly and think positively – it relieves pain
According to PsyBlog, a Dutch blog about psychology smiles helps us to keep the attention and perform better on a cognitive level. Smiling helps us to feel good so that we can keep our attention better and we are better able to keep an overview. When this idea was tested by Johnson (2010), the results showed that the smiled participants performed better on attention tasks that asked to see the ‘whole forest’ instead of just ‘the trees’.
A smile is also a good way to alleviate the pain that we experience in difficult circumstances. Smiling helps reduce stress caused by a painful situation. Psychologists call this a face-feedback hypothesis. Even enforcing a smile while we are not feeling well is already making our mood slightly better.
I always say that a smile can be a practice, a kind of yoga practice. Yoga of the mouth: you just smile even if you don’t feel joy and you’ll see after you smile that you’ll feel differently. Sometimes the mind takes the initiative and sometimes you have to allow the body to take the initiative. Sometimes the spirit leads, and sometimes the body can lead. This is why when you have joy, you naturally smile. But sometimes you can allow the smile to go first.
8. Plan a trip – and you can just stay home
It has turned out that only planning a trip is enough to give us a sense of satisfaction, even if we do not even really go. A study in the Applied Research magazine in Quality of Life showed that employees felt happiest when planning a trip. During the study, it turned out that the happiness effect of pretending to travel took up to eight weeks. Once you had been on vacation, the feeling of happiness quickly dropped to a normal level with most employees.
Researcher Shawn Achor also discovered something interesting about the thoughts: according to a study, people who only thought about their favorite movie immediately increased their endorphin level by 27 percent.
Imagine that you do not have time for a trip at the moment or for an evening of socializing with friends – then at least plan something on the calendar, even if it is a month or a year ahead. When you need a boost of happiness, all you have to do is look at the calendar.
9. Meditation – reprogram your brain to become happier
Meditation is known for increasing our focus, clarity and attention, and for giving us peace. But we are also happier. A study by the research team at the General Hospital of Massachusetts looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after an eight-week mindfulness course. The results were published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: it was concluded that the participants who had completed the course showed much more compassion and were more self-aware and that the parts of the brain associated with stress had become significantly smaller.
Meditation literally empties your mind and makes you calm. This has proved to be an effective way to lead a happier life. According to Shawn Achor, meditation makes you happier in the long run.
Studies show that in the minutes after the meditation, we feel calm and satisfied and that we are also extremely aware of ourselves and are filled with empathy. Studies also show that regular meditation can permanently reprogram our brain to levels of happiness. The fact that we are able to structure our brains through meditation is amazing, but also reassuring, because if we do not feel well today, we know that this is not permanent and that we are able to influence this.
Perhaps more than any other religion, Buddhism is associated with happiness. According to Buddhist thinking, happiness and sorrow are our own responsibility – and completely within our control.
“Buddhists say everything comes from the mind”, says Venerable David Lungtok, a Buddhist monk currently living in Sydney. “If we train our mind properly, happiness will be the result”.
It seems like quite a claim – that mental training can make you happy, no matter what happens to you.
But it’s a claim that’s backed up, not only by two and a half thousand years of religious tradition, but a growing body of research.
10. Be grateful and become incredibly happy
Showing gratitude is, in fact, a simple strategy with major consequences. During an experiment, it turned out that the participants who wrote down daily what they were grateful for, immediately improved their mood. The participants in the gratitude groups felt (almost all) better, compared with the groups that did not. The effect of gratitude was striking. The conscious focus on blessings created emotional and interpersonal benefits.
The Journal of Happiness Studies published the data from a study, in which participants were asked to write letters of gratitude to test how gratitude can influence our feelings of happiness. There were 219 men and women who wrote three times a letter of gratitude for a period of three weeks. The result was that writing a letter of gratitude provided a greater sense of happiness and more satisfaction with one’s own life and that feelings of depression diminished.
Psychologists have corroborated the gratitude-patience link. People with a strong sense of gratitude are more likely to be able to delay gratification, passing on a small reward now in favor of a greater reward later. Developing a sense of gratitude can help shopaholics stop impulse buying, for example.
This shows us that gratitude is also an antidote to greed. Greed often comes from a sense of not having enough, or at least not having as much as everyone else has. Gratitude assures us that what we have is enough; greed and gratitude cannot peacefully coexist, it seems. The same goes for jealousy, regret, resentment, and many other negative emotions.
Another nice fact: getting older also makes you happier
Finally, it is interesting to know that as we grow older, especially when we reach middle age, we often become happier in a natural way. There is still disagreement about how this is done, but scientists have some ideas about it. Researchers discovered that older people who were shown photographs often remembered the happy faces better than the unfortunate ones.
Other studies uncovered that as people get older, they seek out situations that make them happy – for example, by avoiding friends or acquaintances who could negatively affect their mood. Other studies show that older people are better able to deal with grief and loss and are better able to transform their goals in such a way that they lead to more joy in life.
So if you thought that getting older makes you miserable, you now know that the opposite is usually true.
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