The Science of Happiness

I am on the local radio program here every Thursday hopefully providing information and inspiration regarding healthy individual, familial and community assets. This week, I discussed how to cultivate happiness, which is #1 goal most parents have for their children.

Most people believe that if we work harder, we’ll be successful, and that will make us happier. The problem is that happiness is a moving target. We think that if we move into the new house, then it will be enough. Once we graduate, then we’ll be happy. Once we get off of work or finish that project or get out of debt or or or….

But research shows that this does away. Research showed that  for kids who got into Harvard (and I am not mentioning any names here) there was this burst of happiness upon hearing the news, which then died down to anxiety, and then went back up during the first two weeks of school. However, after that, these kids were swamped with stress, depression, the constant competition.

The Goal is NOT happiness in our achievements, the goal is happiness in our daily behaviors.

Here is the secret: Happiness breeds success NOT the other way around.

And there’s a genetic correllation to our happiness. Up to 50% of how HAPPY we feel (e.g. our response to things) depends on temprament, which is identifiable shortly after birth. Now, beyond genetics, most research does indicate that you can ENCOURAGE happiness (e.g. like a supplement) and the first and foremost is EXERCISE. Research shows that the number one way to boost feel good chemical in the brain, is to exercise and get out in the sun. Multiple studies show that people smile more after exercising—a 15 minute WALK—outside…even if it is raining makes a HUGE difference. Why?  Exercise retrains the brain that YOUR BEHAVIOR MATTERS. It is been suggested that exercise can have similar effects as anti-depressants.

Another way to encourage happiness is to PAUSE. Being TOO busy (not necessarily stressed, but always occupied) and feeling —“there is not enough time to do what I need or want to do” stumps happiness.  Research shows that the more we hurry around—the less likely we are to notice what matters: the positive, others in need, our own success.

Busyness can make us BLIND to the best things around us.

Which is why I am totally now loving the whole Sunday everything is closed in Europe culture. It slows me down and gives me space to be happy. And I am (especially in warmer, lighter seasons!)

And I think mostly, my genetics inspire me towards happiness, and motivation to seek my blissLately, I’ve been noticing that certain habits don’t make me happy (e.g. taking pics of all my fun eats, feeling obligated to write, running on a treadmill) and really that I am most happy being productive, exploring new activities, having a flexible work schedule, getting 8 hours of sleep, baking, a new writing project, and connecting or sharing with friends….and tasting WINE,  reading in bed, and quark and CHOCOLATE MILK….

Happiness is NOT the goal. It is the MEANS to be healthy and effective and successful.

Do you have a happiness advantage?

5 thoughts on “The Science of Happiness

  1. I am a runner, and there is an undeniable connection to my mood and running. When I return from a run of about 3 or 4 miles, I feel so good. I am grateful of my family and want to hug them. My family notices the change in behavior. The mood enhancement lasts for about 5 hours after the run.

    You are right about being too busy. That pattern is a happiness killer. I think some may like the stimulation of being busy, and feel an escallated sense of importance for having a high degree of control over specific outcomes. The rescue here is mindfulness. There is nothing more important than the current moment.

  2. So true, happiness breeds success and not the other way around–so many people get it twisted. I was just starting to get a little grumpy today and was reminded I need to get my workout in 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. I definitely agree that happiness breeds success. I can honestly say I am a happy person and I think this helps me to be successful and seek out opportunities that will make me more successful in reaching the goals I want specifically for me. I like to think I am easily adaptable when it comes to the big things (a little more stubborn with the small stuff) and I can always find the upside to a situation, and this helps me stay happy. Then when I have a positive mood, I have a positive outlook and good things come my way. It also gives me more energy to want to get up and go do things. Hope all is well with you. I am happy to be almost all caught up with everything since returning home.

  4. I believe that happiness has to come from within. There are outer sources of happiness, such as success, but that’s a temporary thing. Happiness is an attitude towards life, that’s characterized by gratefulness, focusing on the process instead of the goal, and being flexible towards what happens around you.

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