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The Science of Happiness: What We Know About What Makes Us Happy

We all want to be happy, but what exactly is happiness and how do we achieve it? Fortunately, scientists have been studying this question for years, and they've come up with some pretty interesting insights. So, if you're looking to boost your happiness levels, read on for some scientifically-backed tips.

First things first, let's define happiness. According to researchers, happiness is a combination of positive emotions, life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning and purpose (Seligman, 2011). In other words, it's not just about feeling good in the moment, but also about feeling fulfilled and satisfied with your life overall.

So, what makes us happy? There are a few key factors that have been identified by researchers. First, our genetics play a role in our happiness levels. Some people are naturally more prone to happiness than others (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). However, this doesn't mean that we're doomed to a lifetime of misery if we're not naturally bubbly – our environment and behaviors also play a significant role in our happiness.

One important factor is our relationships with others. Strong social connections have been linked to increased happiness and overall well-being (Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996). In fact, research has shown that people with strong social support have a 50% greater likelihood of survival (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). So, if you want to boost your happiness, make an effort to connect with others and cultivate meaningful relationships. This can be as simple as reaching out to a friend or loved one, or joining a group or club that shares your interests.

Gratitude is another important factor in happiness. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude are happier and more satisfied with their lives (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Gratitude helps us focus on the positive things in our lives, rather than dwelling on the negative. So, take some time each day to reflect on the things you're grateful for. It could be as simple as writing down a few things you're thankful for in a journal, or sharing them with a friend or loved one.

Exercise is another important factor in happiness. Not only does it have physical benefits, but it has been shown to improve mood and reduce the risk of depression (Smith et al., 2018). Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Plus, it can help reduce stress and improve sleep, both of which are important for our overall well-being. So, make sure to incorporate physical activity into your routine – not only will it boost your happiness, but it will also benefit your overall health.

Finally, having a sense of purpose and meaning in life has been linked to increased happiness (Sheldon & King, 2001). This could be through a career, a hobby, or a cause that you're passionate about. Having a sense of purpose gives us direction and motivation, and helps us feel like we're making a positive impact in the world. So, think about what gives your life purpose and make an effort to pursue it.

In summary, happiness is a combination of positive emotions, life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning and purpose. While genetics play a role, our relationships, gratitude, physical activity, and sense of purpose also have an impact on our happiness levels. By incorporating these factors into our lives, we can boost our happiness and overall well-being. So, start taking steps today to cultivate happiness in your own life – you deserve it!


Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803-855.

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press.

Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56(3), 216-217.

Smith, M. W., Marsland, A. L., & Giacomoni, K. U. (2018). Exercise and mental health: An evolutionarily conserved mechanism to improve mood? Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 82, 57-65.

Uchino, B. N., Cacioppo, J. T., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (1996). The relationship between social support and physiological processes: A review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health. Psychological Bulletin, 119(3), 488-531.


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