Scientists have been studying what makes humans happy for decades. The science of happiness – now known as positive psychology – is the study of the things that make life more fulfilling.
And many of those things are neither elusive or expensive. Nor are they genetic. In fact, research on twins suggests our genes only account for about 50 per cent of the variance in happiness between two people. Life circumstances – such as whether you are married, wealthy or have children – account for about 10 per cent. Which means our daily life experiences – our social lives, our hobbies and our attitudes – can impact our happiness by about 40 per cent. In other words, there is quite a lot you can do to feel happier. And some of the happiest habits are so easy they can be adopted almost immediately. So what are you waiting for?
While you may not always feel like smiling, turning your frown upside down can trick your brain into feeling happier. Smiling actually triggers the release of the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Even fake smiles have positive effects on our brain chemistry.
Along with boosting your mood, smiling has also been shown to boost immunity, lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress and may even lead to longevity.
Humans need other humans to be happy. We are hardwired to help others. And the reward centre of your brain receives a hit of the pleasure hormone dopamine whenever you interact positively or cooperatively with others. Socialising also stimulates production of a neurotransmitter called oxytocin (known as the love hormone). This in turn triggers the release of the happy hormone serotonin which lowers stress and activates the reward circuitry in the brain.
It’s cool to be kind. But it’s also healthy too. Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) found giving money to charity activates two pleasure centres located deep within the brain, the caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumbens. Surprisingly, reward-centre activity was also observed in the brains of volunteers after paying taxes, providing they believed the money was going to a good cause.
Be Screen Savvy
A 2018 study of more than one million US teenagers found those who spend more time on their phones are less happy and less satisfied about life than teenagers who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines and face-to-face social interaction. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. Another study found a link between increased screen time and higher anxiety, lower self-esteem and worse sleep. While screens have certainly become an unavoidable part of our busy, modern lives – it’s important to make time for self-care and relaxation rituals that combat mindless scrolling.
Research shows that our gut microbiome plays a big role in how we feel. Our gut microbes break down food, make vitamins, eliminate toxins, support our immunity, regulate our appetite and help manufacture the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. We now know that up to 90 percent of our serotonin is produced in our gut so help to boost your moods by feeding your gut microbiota a diverse supply of fibre-rich prebiotic foods and probiotics every day. A simple way to boost your microbiome is to add GLOW Inner Beauty Powder to your daily routine. Packed with 24 Certified Organic skin-loving superfoods, prebiotics and probiotics, it’s a great way to nourish your beneficial gut microbes.
Just 20 minutes of exercise can have a positive effect on your brain chemistry. Exercise triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins, lowers stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and boosts immune function. Exercising outdoors also helps lower stress levels. An enjoyable workout can help you enter the pleasurable state of “flow”, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe deep immersion in an activity.
Ask The Question: R U OK?
If you have a gut feeling that one of your friends, family or colleagues is a bit out of sorts, it’s time to ask: “are you OK?” By simply asking the question, you can let that person know that they are supported and help facilitate a conversation that could help change a life.
September 8 is R U OK Day – a national day of action run by suicide prevention charity R U OK?. While every day is a great day to spark a meaningful conversation, on September 8, Australians are reminded how powerful it can be to reach out, listen and offer your time.
Learn more about how to ask “are you OK?” and what to do if someone isn’t OK here.
If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the 24- hour Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. In an emergency please call 000.
Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the Beyond Blue Support Service – 1300 22 46 36 or via beyondblue.org.au/get-support for an online chat (3pm-12am AEST) or email response.