The Science of Happy: You Don't Have to Be Born That Way

young girl singing with grandfather

We see pictures of happy people on social media. We watch videos of crazy cat antics that make us laugh. We read and share inspirational quotes. But are some people just born happier than others? 

Researchers looking for a "happiness" gene think that traits you are born with are one piece of the puzzle. That means looking at the role of our settings and social bonds to see why some people are happier than others. And if people can become happier. 

What Does It Mean to Be Happy? 
Author Tal Ben-Shahar, who has lectured in psychology at Harvard University, defines happiness as "the overall experience of pleasure and meaning ... a happy person enjoys positive emotions while perceiving his or her life as purposeful." 

What if you don’t fit the bill? Is happiness within reach? There is some proof that the brain can change for the better. 

Research suggests people with a higher sense of purpose may live longer and experience less sickness. One study   found that people who had a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness and emotional balance also had a reduced chance of heart disease. 

What Steps Can You Take? 
Studies point to these 5 things that make people happier: 

  1. Be social. Spending time with family and friends may help you keep a good outlook and slow down your biological aging.  
  2. Meditate. Try taking 20 minutes a day to build up mindfulness. Learn to quiet your mind and focus your mind on the now. Ban disruptions that spoil your focus. 
  3. Stay Fit. Working out helps you keep extra pounds off, boosts your mood and gives you drive. It also helps people stay independent as they age. A Harvard study     of over 1,600 older men and women found that adding light exercises to your routine, even if you didn't work out before, can make you over 25 % less likely to become disabled. 
  4. Sleep. Sleep helps our bodies rebound from the day. That helps us to focus and be more useful. And a lack of sleep can affect our ability to be positive.
  5. Laugh. Whether you're watching a funny video on Facebook or cracking jokes with friends, laughter can be the best jumpstart to a positive mood.  

What’s your favorite way to get happy? Let us know in the comments!  

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