How To Be Happier, According To Science [Infographic]
Posted October 12, 2016, by Vivien Luu
We could all do with a bit more happiness in our lives.
According to science, happiness comes down to four feel-good neurochemicals:
- Dopamine: Floods the brain when you feel love, lust and addiction
- Endorphins: The body's natural opiate and painkiller
- Serotonin: Creates feelings of hopefulness and serendipity
- Oxytocin: The cuddle hormone produced by hugs and kisses
But I probably don't have to tell you that being happy isn't always easy.
Because life's like a rollercoaster – there are lots of ups and downs. Research studies consistently find a U-bend pattern in life where happiness plummets in middle age; then steadily rises again through our senior years.
The good news is, you can choose to be happier.
Here's the research on how to get a happiness boost:
1. Get more social, not more social media
How important are relationships to happiness?
According to a seminal US study, 'warm relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction.'
The study documented the lives of a group of men for 72 years, and lead researcher, Dr George Valliant, says it proved two things:
- Happiness is love
- The only things that really matter in life are your relationships to other people
The problem is, mobile phones and computers are killing our social lives. A study from the University of Michigan and the University of Leuven has concluded that social media makes us less happy, not more.
They tracked people who used Facebook over a period of two weeks and found the more people used Facebook:
- The more their life satisfaction levels dropped
- The unhappier they felt
The same thing can be said for smartphones, with a UK study finding that high use of mobile phones:
- Increased levels of anxiety
- Decreased life satisfaction
So get off your phones, sign out of Facebook and spend some quality time with the people you love!
2. Get sweaty to get smiling
Getting your sweat on will give you a hit of feel-good neurochemicals, giving your brain and body a natural high!
Studies consistently find that exercise boosts mood, and those who exercise on a regular basis are happier and more satisfied with their lives than their sedentary counterparts.
Regular exercise also:
- Acts as a drug-free way to fight depression
- Makes you feel better about your body (even if there aren't any physical changes)
For the best workouts, science suggests:
- Just 7 minutes is enough: Try high-intensity interval training to get the same health kicks as an endurance session.
- Exercise on work days: Exercise before work or during lunch to improve mood throughout the week and boost productivity.
- Exercise outdoors: Outdoor workouts make you happier and produce better outcomes than indoor gym sessions.
3. Enjoy the great outdoors
A study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science concluded people were substantially happier outdoors, surrounded by nature than they were in urban environments.
– Dr George MacKerron, lead researcher
Other scientific studies have also found interacting with nature:
- Boosts optimism
- Combats depression
- Improves immunity
4. Say thank you, and be grateful!
It might sound trivial, but the simple act of saying thank you can go a long way.
'We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single more reliable momentary increase in wellbeing of any exercise we have tested,' says Professor Martin Seligman, author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing.
Reserch studies consistently find a strong link between gratitude and happiness. And to maximise happiness, science recommends we say thank you with a:
- Letter: Wellbeing increases significantly when you write a letter of gratitude each day for three weeks
- Gift: Spending money on others, rather than ourselves (known as prosocial spending) promotes happiness
- Hug: Ten second hugs can reduce stress, ease depression and even fight fatigue. Best of all, these benefits can be felt by the huger as well as the hugee!
Viv is a writer who enjoys researching and writing about creativity, how the human mind works, and neuro processes. She values creativity above all else and admires people who pursue their career dreams, no matter the sacrifice. In her spare time, she binges on HBO shows and epic fantasy novels.