For most, happiness is difficult to describe. The simplest explanation for happiness is a feeling of well-being and contentment. There are countless things that can create this feeling.
This can range from watching your favorite television show to spending time with family and friends. Furthermore, happiness does not mean the same thing for everyone. What makes you happy may not necessarily induce happiness in someone else you know.
If you are struggling to find ways to stay happy, it can have a negative impact on all aspects of your life. Being in a constant state of sadness is often a symptom of depression, which can impact your work and school performance as well as damage your relationships with loved ones. Occasional boredom and sadness is normal. However, if you feel like you lost your zest for life, it is important to explore ways to improve your moods and maintain your happiness. Below is a list of five scientifically proven hacks to be more happy.
Many find that listening to music makes them feel better, but do not understand why. One of the reasons why it creates feelings of happiness is because it can evoke positive memories from your past. For example, a song you heard on your first date may have a special meaning for you and your spouse years later. Music can even reminds you of an entire period of time. For example, a song can transport you back to your childhood or teenage years.
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A scientific reason music makes you feel good is it causes the release of a chemical called dopamine in your brain, which is associated with the pleasure and reward center of the brain. Those reactions are similar to the ones that occur when performing key life functions, such as sleeping, eating and socializing with close friends. A 2011 study conducted at McGill University in Canada found that dopamine is released in the brain just before subjects anticipated hearing a particularly pleasurable piece of music. It was released again when actually hearing the music.
Another study, conducted at the University of Manchester, found that singing along to your favorite music is more beneficial than just listening to it. Researchers noted that your sacculus, an organ located in your inner ear, registers what you sing immediately. Your sacculus is connected to the pleasure center of your brain, which is why singing causes you to feel happier immediately.
Chemical reactions in your brain trigger happy feelings, and certain foods are more likely to trigger these reactions than others. This is why it is important to integrate good foods in your diet. A feel-good chemical called serotonin is synthesized from a substance called tryptophan, commonly found in many foods. Most chefs are familiar with tryptophan because it is a substance in turkey, which is said to trigger drowsiness by boosting serotonin levels in your brain.
Foods, including turkey, do not contain enough tryptophan to immediately make you happy. However, by altering your diet to include multiple foods containing tryptophan, you can feel the effects in the long term. Foods containing tryptophan include the following:
Modern technology offers plenty of convenience to life. It allows you to stay connected with loved ones all over the world. However, it is no substitute for in-person interactions. Multiple studies show human contact is essential – not only for a happy life, but also a long and healthy one. A 1965 study conducted in California for nine years indicated that if you have poor habits, such as smoking, but have strong social ties, you are likely to live longer than someone with a healthy lifestyle but few social ties.
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A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that socializing face-to-face is essential, due to the need for human touch. When you touch a loved one, your brain releases serotonin and evokes feelings of happiness. Being in the physical presence of a loved one also improves your mood by lowering your stress levels and your blood pressure. There are many ways to maintain personal contact with loved ones or make new friends. Popular options for in-person social interactions include:
Another way to naturally boost the serotonin levels in your brain is by exposing yourself to more sunlight. In the winter, it is important to get out in the sun to avoid seasonal depression caused by shorter periods of daylight. Your body also requires sunlight to naturally synthesize vitamin D. If you stay locked away in your house too much, you risk developing a vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to many negative symptoms, including:
One of the best happiness hacks is to get a pet. Numerous studies that analyze the bond between humans and animals indicate having a pet can drastically improve your mood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some positive benefits of pet ownership include:
Owning any type of pet improves your mood because of the unconditional love between you and your pet. However, owning a pet that goes outside and can travel with you – like a dog – is ideal. Taking your pet for walks offers opportunities to take advantage of the happiness hacks listed above. For example, you automatically get out in the sun more when you have to walk your dog daily. Your pet may also attract attention from passersby, which is a chance to make new friends.
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