Become a more positive person by understanding the science behind Happiness.
To some people, happiness seems to be an elusive thing. It can be a subjective experience that some people feel they never fully understand. There is a lot that goes into our emotions and many factors can contribute to how positive someone is. However, the reality is that the ways we achieve happiness don’t differ all that much from person to person.
After more than 40 years of research, scientists are understanding happiness better and better each day. Psychologists have studied happiness for decades and their findings give us insight into how we can improve our level of happiness. Something as small as wearing the color yellow can contribute to the level of someone’s happiness. Their studies are also finding what it truly means to be happy in today’s world.
The following five scientific-based facts about happiness will help you understand it better.
Happiness is contagious.
When you here the phrase “smile, it’s contagious” they aren’t lying. Nancy Etcoff, an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard, says “we catch emotions from one another.” This spreads incredibly quickly throughout your friend group, your community, and the world. According to a study out of the British Medical Journal, we can feel happy just by being around other people who are happy. What becomes fascinating is that our happiness impacts our friend’s happiness, which impacts our friend’s friend’s happiness, which further can impact their friend’s friend’s happiness. Happiness and emotions radiate outward. Smiling brightens up other people’s day and is a great way to boost someone else’s mood. Next time you see someone down in the dumps, throw them a smile to help spread a little joy.
Happier people are also healthier.
It has long been known that the effects of stress and negativity can hurt a person’s health, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that happiness has positive effects. Striving to be a happier person not only improves your mental health, but your physical health as well. When it comes to disease, it has been found that positive emotions help people live longer, live better and they’re healthier. They have an overall greater resistance to common infections, decreased loss of function and mobility in older adults, and closer social ties. In addition, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that woman who have more positive emotions were less likely to experience pain. That’s right, happiness is a built-in pain reliever.
Money is not the key to happiness.
For the most part, money is not an indicator of happiness. Money can only help a person’s positivity level up to a certain point. When it relieves poverty and financial pressures, money does impact happiness. Having enough money to eat, affording a place to live, and the like allow a person to live comfortably. However once people pass the average middle-class income, even big financial gains don’t increase happiness much. Rather, people who give away more money sustain greater levels of happiness over time than those who don’t. So go out and give back to your favorite charity. Giving is proven to make you feel better.
Happiness can be programmed in our brains.
One of the main tenants of positive psychology is that happiness can be reprogrammed in our brains. Reprogramming our brain doesn’t take a big effort, either. Shawn Anchor, a positive psychologist, cited a study where pessimists were asked to write down three things they are grateful for every morning they came into work, for 21 days in a row. This helps those who are used to scan the world for the negative to change their patterns, and instead scan the world to look for things they are grateful for. As it turns out, after the 21 days the pattern gets retained in the brain. In fact, a 21-day gratitude exercise in adults with neuromuscular disease resulted in more optimistic ratings of one’s life, better sleep duration and quality, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. So get out there and find things that you are grateful for. This will help your brain learn to look for the blessings you have in life over the negatives.
Small things can make you happier.
Scientifically there are some things that can just make a person smile. For example, according to a study by Rutgers University, those who are exposed to floral scents are about three times as likely to be happy. What an awesome and simple way to boost your mood. Even more so, going outside makes people happier. So take that walk and stop to smell the roses. In addition, it has been found that people who wear dark, dull colors a lot are more depressed than those who choose brighter options. This is especially true of the color yellow, as happier people favor that color the most.
There are a lot of things to be happy about in life, and science has proven that some of the smallest things can increase people’s moods. These science-based facts on happiness are helpful in understanding how we can become more positive people overall. Wear the color yellow, smile with your friends, and you’ll be on your way to being a happier, healthier you.
By Megan Bailey/Beliefnet.com