“Happiness is the pursuit of all people.”
What does that mean? It means we are always looking for happiness, in ways big and small. There iss no denying one simple fact – the pursuit of happiness is universal. That pursuit can take many different forms, from starting a new business to seeking out love to volunteering in your community.
However, is the direct pursuit of happiness healthy? Is it the key to actually becoming happy? Or, can the intentional pursuit of happiness have adverse effects on those who are chasing “the pursuit of happiness?”
- 1 What is happiness?
- 2 The science behind happiness
- 3 Dopamine
- 4 Serotonin
- 5 Endorphins
- 6 How to use endorphins to your advantage
- 7 Oxytocin
- 8 Happiness beyond the physical state
- 9 Positive psychology
- 10 Positive and negative emotions
- 11 What is the main factor contributing to happiness?
- 12 Can money buy happiness?
- 13 Some ways we can increase our happiness levels
- 14 Conclusion
What is happiness?
Before we dive into this topic, let’s start by identifying what it means to be happy.
One definition of happiness is ‘a deep sense of satisfaction’.
Another is emotional well-being, an absence of negative feelings like anger and anxiety. And happiness can also mean “an event that causes one to be joyful,” such as getting engaged or winning the lottery!
So which type of happiness do we want – happiness with no downsides, or happiness even when things aren’t perfect?
We may not know what happiness means for others, but we will explore how to become happy from our perspective.
The science behind happiness
Human beings are wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Our brain chemistry is designed to support these efforts by releasing chemicals that make us feel good.
There are numerous neurotransmitters or substances released by nerve fibers that affect our happiness. Although there are quite a few that make us feel joyful, we will focus on four: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that significantly contributes to the feeling of happiness. This neurotransmitter positively affects the brain and is also involved in addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.
Dopamine causes us to be excited about things that give us pleasure, such as eating our favorite foods or getting an ‘A’ on a test for which we studied hard.
Dopamine is known as the “reward” chemical, and it is one of the driving forces in people who achieve financial and economic success. It helps create feelings of motivation that can lead to increased happiness if directed into healthy pursuits like exercising or taking care of others every day.
How to use dopamine in the pursuit of happiness
One way dopamine can be used to build happiness in someone’s life is to focus on achieving small wins daily.
Setting micro-goals and micro-tasks that give you a sense of accomplishment can create a more sustainable approach in the pursuit of happiness.
When someone only focuses on longterm goals, tasks, or mission, it is widespread to lose motivation and feel unfulfilled because the goals become stretched out over months or years. This is one of the significant flaws in the pursuit of happiness.
Chasing a big goal without having small victories along the way tells your body to only release dopamine when the final goal is reached. Setting small goals can create a much more frequent release of dopamine which keeps you motivated and makes happiness more sustainable.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s produced in the brain and intestines. Once synthesized, it circulates throughout the body via the blood supply.
Serotonin is released when people get a sense of belonging and novelty.
If you find happiness in new experiences, your serotonin will release when those moments happen. The more novel and interesting the experience, the bigger boost of serotonin, and therefore happiness.
The same goes for feeling a sense of belonging- this can be achieved through social interaction with other people or even something like watching an episode from your favorite T.V. show together on Netflix.
It’s not just happiness chemicals that are released during these events but endorphins, making us feel good and lessens our perception of pain.
How to use serotonin to make you happier
The ways that you can can boost serotonin levels to increase happiness is up to you.
Serotonin can also be increased naturally through activities like exercise or social interactions with friends and family members.
People who are experiencing depression tend to have lower levels of serotonin.
You can take serotonergic antidepressants, which will increase happiness by increasing serotonin in your brain and making it easier for you to produce more happy cells. These medications are used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (O.C.D.), PTSD, and several additional mood disorders.
Endorphins are a class of neurotransmitters that are produced naturally in the brain, producing feelings of well-being and happiness. Endorphins are also natural pain killers. They produce happiness when released by the pituitary gland to help fight off pain and discomfort.
How to use endorphins to your advantage
Endorphins are released during exercise, which is why it’s essential to get up and move around, because such activity will release endorphins that make you feel happy.
Exercising at least 30 minutes a day or doing something active for 45 minutes per day has increased happiness levels by 15%.
Effective exercise need not include intense workouts — just walking outside counts! Other activities like swimming, playing sports, reading books, and having sex also release endorphins.
There are many ways of releasing endorphins besides these too; It could come from cooking a delicious meal or taking care of pets who love their owner back unconditionally.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that is long-lasting and creates life satisfaction. Oxytocin is crucial in the parental-child bond and helps with breastfeeding and childbirth.
Due to the importance of this neurotransmitter from a young age, it makes sense that the influence of oxytocin is long-lasting.
Oxytocin is released when there is physical contact in the setting of a positive relationship, and contributes to lifelong friendships and enduring bonds between individuals.
Happiness beyond the physical state
While these hormones and neurotransmitters are very important in living a happy life, there are many other ways in which we can build our happiness.
That leads to the question, is happiness primarily physical, or is it psychological – arising from within the human mind?
The answer is both!
Studies and tests in clinical psychology have demonstrated how the power of thought can control when these neurotransmitters are released and when you feel happy.
Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that views happiness as a goal to achieve.
Positive psychology is one way to build our happiness by changing how we think about the world.
It’s not just about choosing what you want; it’s also about focusing on your goals and taking steps every day to reach them. Positive psychologists advocate for “positive thinking,” aka optimism, because they believe this fuels happiness.
Using various techniques, psychologists are focusing on ways that people can control positive and negative emotions.
Research shows that if the right areas of mental health are focused on, humans may control the secretion of the hormones mentioned above and neurotransmitters.
But first, we must understand our own emotions to control the level of happiness.
Positive and negative emotions
In the world of psychology, positive emotions are one of the two happiness factors. Positive emotions are those that make us feel good and usually last just for a short amount of time.
On the other hand, negative emotions lead to bad feelings, which can be overwhelming at times. Negative emotions also tend to linger longer than positive ones do.
Some ways in which people experience happiness include: being grateful; feeling fulfilled; savoring pleasurable moments by slowing down and paying attention to them; looking out into nature without distractions from technology like phones or computers (or any distraction); watching funny videos online with others who don’t mind laughing along with you (e.g., reactions).
What is the main factor contributing to happiness?
Over the last 75 years, studies at the Harvard business school have measured happiness while determining the key contributing factors – identifying some surprisingly simple answers!
The research shows that having meaningful and powerful relationships directly correlates to human well-being in many areas of life.
Physical health is shown to improve, work-life balance is kept in check, mental disease decreases, and the overall happiness levels increase.
Can money buy happiness?
Happiness research has shown that a salary of about $75,000 a year is the happiness threshold.
Yet, wealth might not be a crucial key to happiness: research has shown happiness levels are steady for those with incomes between $75,000 and about $200,000.
For people who earn less than this, happiness levels will increase if earnings increase, making it over $75,000 annually. However, if someone earns more than this, enjoyment does not seem to change drastically. This is because happiness arising from satisfying relationships outweighs whatever additional happiness may be gained from more financial success.
Some ways we can increase our happiness levels
Exercise is one of the best ways that you can increase your happiness. Exercise releases happiness-producing hormones, such as endorphins and serotonin.
Exercise also decreases the number of stress chemicals in your body, which can help you feel happier. Lowering stress chemicals can lower your blood pressure, chronic pain, increase your immune system, and much more.
Exercising for at least a half-hour each day is one of the best ways to increase happiness levels.
It also has been shown over time that exercise increases happiness levels more than other activities like watching T.V. or reading magazines.
Gratitude has been proven to help increase happiness levels. Studies have shown that people who are grateful for what they have in their lives, rather than focusing on what they want to change or lack, were happier and less depressed.
Why is happiness dependent on your diet? A healthy and well-balanced diet will promote happiness and mental health in many ways.
A diet high in protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables with essential vitamins will provide more mood-boosting nutrients than sugar or a fat-filled diet. The brain also needs healthy fats to function at its best to release the “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
Many natural supplements can help increase happiness levels.
The University of Oregon conducted a study on the effects of omega-three fatty acids and found that higher levels were less prone to depression. Others say it is best to take supplements like Vitamin B12, which helps regulate our moods and fight fatigue.
To get your high-quality source of omega-three fatty acids, click here!
5. Positive Relationships
Having healthy and positive relationships is one of the best ways to happiness, and happiness is not just limited to romantic relationships.
We can also be happy with friendships, parent-child relationships, and the relationship we have with ourselves.
The University of Sydney found that those with a high-quality network of social connections were less prone to depression or anxiety.
The science of happiness must look at both the chemical and psychological impacts at the same time.
The key is figuring out how to control thoughts and emotions to release the chemicals and neurotransmitters necessary to happiness.
It is possible to take charge of happiness and make a conscious decision that the pursuit will be worth it for you to become happy.
Working on your happiness levels isn’t something that should only happen during the holidays, but all year round with everyday activities and big ones like vacations.
The best way to become happier is by being open-minded about what happiness means when there are so many different ideas floating around today.
To conclude the science behind happiness, subjective well-being is one of the most important parts of life. It does not matter what other people think about your level of happiness, only you can truly determine what makes you happy.
What is positive affect?
“Positive affect” refers to one’s propensity to experience positive emotions and interact with others and with life’s challenges in a positive way. People with high positive affectivity are typically enthusiastic, energetic, confident, active, and alert. Positive affect is typically associated with better health and success, but there’s evidence that it also brings more happiness into an individual’s life.
How can you measure happiness?
It is very difficult to measure happiness, but the most common way is through surveys and asking questions about how people feel.
Can you control your own happiness?
While you may not be able to control your happiness all the time, overall, individuals who take action to be healthier and put energy towards being happy, have higher tendencies to become happy.
The factor most closely tied to happiness is social relationships.
Research consistently shows that people with strong social ties report higher levels of well-being, but it seems this relationship works both ways because happier people report a stronger need for closeness and affiliation than unhappy people do.