The Science of Happiness: Understanding What Makes Us Happy

May 19th, 2023

By Amelia Harris

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

Happiness is a fundamental aspect of human life, yet it is often elusive and hard to define. What makes us happy? What factors contribute to our overall sense of well-being? These are questions that scientists have been studying for decades, and the answers are not always straightforward. However we can uncover some clues about what makes us happy and how we can contribute to our own overall sense of well-being.

Positive Emotions and Happiness

Positive emotions are a key factor in happiness. When we experience positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, and contentment, we tend to feel happier overall. Studies have shown that people who experience more positive emotions are more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being. But why is this the case?

One theory is that positive emotions help to broaden our thinking and behavior, allowing us to see more possibilities and opportunities in our lives. When we are in a positive mood, we are more likely to engage with our surroundings, try new things, and connect with others. This, in turn, can lead to more positive experiences and a greater sense of happiness.

Social Connections and Happiness

Another key factor in happiness is social connections. Humans are social creatures, and our relationships with others play a crucial role in our overall well-being. Studies have shown that people with strong social connections tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer than those who are socially isolated.

One reason for this is that social connections provide us with a sense of belonging and support. When we feel connected to others, we are more likely to experience positive emotions and less likely to feel lonely or stressed. Social connections also provide us with opportunities for growth and learning, as we can learn from others and expand our perspectives.

Purpose and Meaning in Life

Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is another important factor in happiness. When we feel that our lives have meaning and that we are working towards a larger goal or purpose, we are more likely to feel fulfilled and satisfied with our lives.

Research has shown that people who have a sense of purpose and meaning in life tend to be happier, more resilient, and better able to cope with challenges. This is because having a sense of purpose provides us with direction and motivation, and helps us to focus on the things that truly matter to us.

Personal Values and Happiness

Our personal values also play a role in our overall sense of happiness. When we are living in alignment with our values and beliefs, we tend to feel more fulfilled and satisfied with our lives. This is because our values provide us with a sense of purpose and direction, and guide our decision-making and behavior.

Research has shown that people who are living in alignment with their values tend to be happier and more content with their lives. This is because they are living authentically and in accordance with what is truly important to them.

Hedonic Adaptation and Happiness

One challenge with happiness is that it is often fleeting. We may experience moments of joy and contentment, but these feelings are often temporary and fade over time. This is because of a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation.

Hedonic adaptation refers to our tendency to quickly adapt to changes in our circumstances and return to our baseline level of happiness. For example, if we get a raise at work or buy a new car, we may experience a temporary boost in happiness, but over time, we will adapt to these changes and return to our previous level of happiness.

Ancestral Psychic

Tips for Increasing Happiness

While happiness may be elusive at times, there are things we can do to increase our overall sense of well-being. Here are some tips for increasing happiness:

Practice Gratitude

One of the most effective ways to increase happiness is to practice gratitude. This involves focusing on the good things in our lives and expressing appreciation for them. Research has shown that people who practice gratitude tend to be happier and more content with their lives.

One way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down three things that you are grateful for. This can be something as simple as a beautiful sunset or a good cup of coffee. By focusing on the good things in our lives, we can shift our attention away from negative thoughts and emotions and cultivate a more positive outlook.

Cultivate Positive Relationships

As we mentioned earlier, social connections are an important factor in happiness. But not all social connections are created equal. To truly increase happiness, it’s important to cultivate positive relationships with others.

Positive relationships are those that are supportive, respectful, and fulfilling. These relationships provide us with a sense of belonging and help us to feel connected to others. To cultivate positive relationships, focus on building relationships with people who share your values and interests. Invest time and effort into these relationships, and prioritize spending time with these people.

Set Achievable Goals

Having goals to work towards is another important factor in happiness. When we have something to strive for, we feel a sense of purpose and direction in our lives. But it’s important to set achievable goals that are realistic and attainable.

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment, which can undermine our sense of happiness. Instead, set small, achievable goals that will help you to move towards your larger goals over time.

Engage in Activities That Bring Joy and Meaning

Finally, one of the most effective ways to increase happiness is to engage in activities that bring joy and meaning to your life. This can be anything from pursuing a hobby or passion to volunteering in your community.

When we engage in activities that bring us joy and meaning, we are more likely to experience positive emotions and feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. So take some time to think about what activities bring you the most joy and meaning, and make a plan to incorporate these activities into your life on a regular basis.

In conclusion, the science of happiness is complex, but there are certain factors that contribute to our overall sense of well-being. Positive emotions, social connections, purpose and meaning, personal values, and achievable goals all play a role in happiness. By understanding these factors and taking steps to cultivate them in our lives, we can increase our overall sense of happiness and well-being.

Reference List:

  1. Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Oishi, S. (2018). Advances and open questions in the science of subjective well-being. Collabra: Psychology, 4(1), 15. https://online.ucpress.edu/collabra/article/4/1/15/112974/Advances-and-Open-Questions-in-the-Science-of 
  2. Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Penguin.
  3. Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0003-066X.55.1.5 
  4. Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. D. (2019). World happiness report 2019. Sustainable Development Solutions Network. https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/
  5. Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster.
  6. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111 
  7. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0003-066X.56.3.218
  8. Seligman, M. E. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Simon and Schuster.

About the author:

Amelia Harris is a writer and eco-activist, interested in health and all things esoteric, with a passion for sharing good news and inspiring stories. She is a staff writer for Wake Up World.


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