The Science Behind Happiness: 4 Key Facts

We all want to be happier, but it’s difficult to pinpoint just what that key to happiness is. Is it wealth? Fame? Positive relationships? Or good health? For centuries, philosophers, poets, psychologists and scientists have been trying to answer these questions. It turns out the key to happiness may be much simpler than we previously thought. Here are a few key facts that you should know today about the science behind happiness.

1. The Root of Happiness

Happiness stems from a variety of factors. Some of these we can control; others we cannot. First of all, approximately 50% of your happiness is determined by your genes. This means that you have a predetermined “set point” of happiness, according to psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. Next, approximately 10% of your happiness is determined by your circumstances. This could be where you live geographically, your health or your financial situation. That still leaves 40%, which is determined by your thoughts, actions, behaviors and decisions. This means that you control at least 40% of your happiness just by the way you think and behave! There’s definitely something to be said for the power of positive thinking and mindfulness.

2. Quantity, Not Quality

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Usually, quality is preferred over quantity. But one psychologist has found that it’s the quantity of positive moments and memories in a person’s life that makes them happier, not the size or magnitude of those moments. For example, finding beautiful, enjoyable and uplifting moments throughout your day will give you longer lasting happiness than winning the lottery once.

3. Rewards and Addiction

Our brain plays a significant role in our feelings of happiness. It has a reward system which releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, giving feelings of pleasure. When we receive some type of reward, dopamine is released and we feel good. However, there are also artificial ways to stimulate the release of dopamine, such as with drug use. This is one of the bases for addiction and is a cycle that can damage the body’s natural ability to produce these positive feelings of pleasure.

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that is artificially stimulated by drug use. Naturally, it’s found primarily in the brain, bowels and blood. It’s believed to be responsible for creating mood balances, and a deficiency of serotonin can lead to depression.

4. The Importance of Others

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Finally, our relationships and interactions with others play an important role in our level of happiness. One study showed that regardless of whether or not we are an introvert or an extrovert, we need six to seven hours a day of social interaction to feel happy. Furthermore, people who are happy tend to have healthier relationships and give back to their community more than those who are unhappy. As a result, this creates a wonderful cycle of continued social interaction.

Although the key to happiness may seem entirely subjective, it would seem that the science to happiness is not. With 40% of your happiness dictated by your own thoughts and behavior, getting on the right track to being happy may be as simple as learning mindfulness and appreciating the moments and people in our life.

Feature Image: estell