by Katherine Sperduto ’19
With daily headlines about natural disasters, wars and violence, and political discord and dysfunction, a reminder of the idea of pure “happiness” is one repeatedly forgotten in today’s day and age.
Although we can’t alter our DNA, we can train ourselves to be happier. According to HappifyDaily, one’s happiness is a combination of how satisfied one is with their life, and how good one feels on a day to day basis. Happiness is viewed a skill in the world of science; something you have to learn, master, and practice.
Research has found that 40 percent of our happiness is a result of our thoughts, actions and behaviors. Ten percent is influenced by our circumstances. The other 50 percent is determined by biology. The question is, how does one alter the controllable 50 percent to become happier?
Being happy doesn’t mean feeling “fine” all the time, having money, or achieving one main goal in life, and it doesn’t mean refusing to face the negative stuff happening in the world. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley define happiness as having satisfaction and meaning in one’s life, the natural inclination to feel positive emotions, being resilient when negative emotions emerge, and obtaining a sense of purpose.
Psychology Today states that labeling someone as a “happy person” is misleading in that no one is immune to negative emotions. However, those who tend to be happier experience more positive than negative emotions.
Each person has a genetic set point for happiness, just like weight, but reports from HappifyDaily claim that stating every person can control 40 percent of their happiness is an oversimplification; however, people can control the way they spend their time and the thoughts they allow to linger can really impact mood and long-term happiness.
Happier people tend to have better immunity, live longer, produce less stress hormones, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and heal faster after injuries. Research published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found people who have more positive emotions are less likely to develop the common cold.
According to the Huffington Post, giving back is one of the fastest ways to achieve happiness, whether that is donating to charity, volunteering at a local shelter, or giving time at a soup kitchen over the holidays. Referenced in an article from “Bustle” about the science behind happiness, a study out of the British Medical Journal proved that we can feel happy just by being around other people who are happy, hence happiness is contagious.
There are immediate things that can increase one’s happiness. Researchers at the University of Florida found that a flower’s smell can boost one’s positive emotions. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology showed that listening to upbeat music will induce positive emotions. Having deep conversations boosts one’s mood, according to studies conducted at the University of Arizona. It is reported that by nurturing new relationships, having new experiences, helping others, and having gratitude are ways to increase one’s happiness in the long run. But the main key to happiness is feeling connected to a deeper purpose or mission in life. Many have found meaning in their lives through obtaining a job that they are passionate about, spirituality/religion, pursuing goals that align with their core values, and by raising children.
Scientists warn about three main killers of happiness: comparing oneself to others, lacking a close friendship, and holding onto resentments. In order to feel happy, it is important to eat healthy, cultivate friendships with happy people, nourish a passion, have gratitude, give back, and stop and smell the roses.