Psychology of Happiness
Happiness is something the entire world is after. A case in point is that in 2008 alone more than 4,000 books dealing with art and science of being happy were published. In the late 1990s, psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania called upon fellow researchers to focus on mental wellness with as much intensity as devoted to the study of mental illnesses. The parallel development in neurosciences also provided new clues to what really makes us happy.
There have been many studies done on the psychology of happiness or to put it in other words, what is happiness, as per science! The studies point out the factors, which strongly impact on our well-being and happiness. Well not all of us were born with a sunny disposition but the good news is that experts agree that we can all learn how to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives.
According to a study, people were found to be happier in the presence of their friends, family members, and least happy when they were alone. As per this study, people need just one major, strong and close relationship to be happy along with other several relationships.
In 2002, two pioneers of Positive Psychology, Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, conducted a study at the University of Illinois. The students with the highest scores were recorded very happy with “their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them.” (“The New Science of Happiness,” Claudia Wallis, Time Magazine, Jan. 09, 2005).
Having a Goal
Active leisure or having a goal accounts for the happiness too. As per a study, working towards long-term and meaningful goals makes people happy. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Nazi concentration camp has remarked, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”
But at the same time, the activity should be voluntary, enjoyable and motivating. Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his research noted that the course of action seemed more important than the finished work itself .The participants were asked what they are doing and how they are feeling (Larson and Csikszentmihalyi, 1983) while they were engaged in their favorite activity. It was found that people were happier after they practiced a hobby than when at work or watching television.
People get spiritual for many reasons like faith, community service, cultural tradition but spiritual practice makes people happier is an interesting finding. There can be many reasons as to why people derive happiness from spiritual engagement. Religious community provides strong social support and opportunities for socializing, community service and making friends. Meditation has a strong link with well-being because it soothes the body and decreases stress and also allows optimistic thinking.
A 1991 study by researcher Ellison was one of the first studies to report on the relationship between religious beliefs and happiness. In a 2012 study of more than 326 peer-reviewed studies the conclusion drawn was that there was a significant positive associations between spirituality and well-being with close to 79% of these studies showcasing this finding.
An important factor that makes you happy is self-growth or a high self-esteem. This equals a high level of happiness, which leads to a satisfactory life.
During the 1980s, no topic in psychology was more researched than the self. As per University of Michigan studies of well-being the best judge of life satisfaction was not satisfaction with family life, friendships, or income, but satisfaction with self. People who like and accept themselves feel good about life in general.
Optimists are healthier. Several studies reveal that a pessimistic style makes us more vulnerable to illness. Harvard graduates who were most pessimistic when interviewed in 1946 were least healthy when restudied in 1980 similarly in a study at Virginia Tech it was found that students who reacted to bad events pessimistically suffered more colds, sore throats, and flu. In general, optimistic people are less bothered by various illnesses and recover better from cancer and surgery. Optimists also enjoy greater success.
Study proves that extroverts or outgoing people report greater happiness and satisfaction with life. As per National Institute of Aging researchers Paul Costa and Robert McCrae, extroverts are generally more cheerful in disposition.
University of Illinois researchers Ed Diener and Keith Magnus studied students at the undergraduate level and then later after four years and found that when compared to introverts, extroverts were more likely to be married or in committed relationships, having a job and are more likely to have made new, close friends. As a general rule it has been found that extroverted people are more socially involved with a larger circle of friends and experience more affection and greater social support resulting in a higher feeling of well-being.
What is interesting to note is that acting like an extrovert — even if you are an introvert is bound to increase the happiness quotient. A recent research where scores of people in the US, Venezuela, the Philippines, China and Japan were surveyed established that acting or feeling extroverted made people feel more positive. Even for the introverts acting in an extroverted way was linked to higher happiness levels.
Exercise and nutrition
Keep moving-this seems to be the Mantra for happiness as per studies. Numerous studies have demonstrated a close connection of the mind and body. It has been showcased that healthy lifestyle factors, especially exercise is associated with improved mental well-being. A research done in University of Bristol, 2008 showcased that people’s moods significantly improve after exercising. Exercise also made people more productive and equipped to manage stress.