Train your Brain for Happiness
Whether on a global or individual level the pursuit of happiness is one which is gaining traction and scientific recognition.
At birth, our genetics provide us with a happiness set point that accounts for about 40% of our happiness. Having enough food, shelter, and safety makes up 10%. Then we have 50% that in entirely up to us. Our brains come already designed for happiness. We have caregiving systems in place for eye contact, touch and vocalizations to let others know we are trustworthy and secure.
Our brains also regulate chemicals like oxytocin. People who have more oxytocin trust more readily, have increased tendencies to monogamy, and more caregiving behavior. These behaviors reduce stress which lowers production of hormones like cortisol and inhibits the cardiovascular response to stress (Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. 2005).
By training our brain through awareness and exercises to think in a happier, more optimistic, and more resilient way; we can effectively train our brains for happiness.
New discoveries in the field of positive psychology show that physical health, psychological well-being and physiological functioning are all improved by how we learn to “feel good”. (Fredrickson B. L. 2000)
In scientific literature, happiness is referred to as hedonia (Ryan & Deci, 2001), the presence of positive emotions and the absence of negative emotions. Pleasure, comfort, gratitude, hope, and inspiration are examples of positive emotions which increase our happiness and move us to flourish. Research on happiness over the years has found that there are some contributing correlational factors which affect our happiness. These include (Ryan, 2001):
- Personality Type
- Positive Emotions versus Negative Emotions
- Attitude towards Physical Health
- Social Class and Wealth
- Attachment and Relatedness
- Goals and Self-efficacy
- Time and Place
There is also recent research by Assistant Professor of Swansee University Katherine Nelson-Coffey, which has proven that performing acts of kindness can have powerful effects on our subjective well-being and overall happiness.
A Take Home Message
Happiness is the overall subjective experience of our positive emotions. There are many factors which influence our happiness and ongoing research continues to uncover what makes us our happiest. We are living in a time when the conditions for happiness are known. The human brain is wired for happiness and positive connections with others. It is actually possible to experience and learn happiness despite what has been genetically hardwired.
In a world where the focus on happiness is growing and the mirror is turning back towards ourselves. The happiness of the world relies on the happiness within each one of us and how we act, share and voice the importance of happiness for everyone. What are the steps you are taking to make yourself and others happier?