Happiness As A Personality Trait
Happiness can be defined and perceived in various ways. It is a very broadly defined term. It is basically an emotional state characterized by feelings of well-being, joy, or contentment. Psychologists term happiness as subjective well-being. It is a measure of relative life satisfaction.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.”
Everyone has a different version of true happiness. Some people may be happy with their friends, while others find true happiness when they pursue their dreams. Regardless of what each person’s version of true happiness is, it makes you feel better, live a good life, and gives you a deep sense of contentment. Also, happiness doesn’t refer to a constant state of joy or contentment. People who are happy in general feel other emotions too. Happy people tend to be more optimistic than others and face negative situations better. They generally experience more positive emotions than negative ones.
Some key signs of happiness include
- Feeling more positive than negative
- Being satisfied with life
- Accomplishing what you want in life
- Feeling like your life is good
- Being open to learning new things
- Practicing compassion
- Smiling or laughing readily
- Enjoying healthy relationships
- Being happy for other people
Happy Mind - Happy Body
- Happiness doesn’t just make you feel better. Happy people engage in healthy behavior. Being happy has various health benefits also.
- Helps combat stress: Studies show that the levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone are low when you are happy.
- Some studies report links between happiness and a longer lifespan.
- Being happier may benefit your immune system. A study reported that the least happy people were found to be at a higher risk of contracting cold and infections compared to people who were very happy.
- Being happy may also help reduce pain in people with arthritis, stroke. Happy people have positive emotions and may have better coping strategies to deal with pain.
The Happy Hormones
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by different glands in the body. One of the main functions of hormones is to regulate mood. There are certain hormones called happy hormones which promote positive feelings. These happy hormones include:
- Dopamine: Also called the “feel-good hormone” hormone, dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system and is associated with learning, memory, motor system function, and pleasurable sensations.
- Serotonin: Serotonin is involved in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory.
- Oxytocin: Also called the “love hormone,” it is mainly important for childbirth, breastfeeding, and parent-child bonding. It is also involved in promoting trust, empathy, and bonding.
- Endorphins: These hormones are termed the body’s natural pain reliever. They are produced in response to stressful situations. They increase during reward-producing activities, like eating or working out.
Genetics and Happiness
A study reported that genetic variation is responsible for 33% of the variance in life satisfaction. There are several genes that affect the production and transportation of happy hormones that are responsible for mood. Changes in these genes can affect your baseline happiness.
The SLC6A4 Gene
The SLC6A4 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Solute Carrier Family 6 Member 4. This protein is a serotonin transporter. This gene is also called SERT or 5-HTT. Changes in this gene can affect serotonin transportation in the body and hence affect happiness.
rs25531 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the SLC6A4 gene. People with the AA genotype of this SNP in the 5-HTTLPR (serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region) are found to have lower levels of serotonin. People with the GG genotype are found to have higher levels of serotonin and be more happy.
rs2020933 is an SNP in the SLC6A4 gene. People with the A allele of this SNP are found to be happier because the A allele is associated with higher efficiency of the serotonin transporters.
Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Happiness
There are several factors apart from genetics that affects happiness. These include income, socioeconomic status, sleep, marriage, education, religious factors, job satisfaction, health, education level, and physical activity are factors that affect how happy a person is.
Living A Happier Life
There are various things you can do to make your life happier. Happiness is not consistent. Certain habits may make some people happy, but not others. With a little time and practice, you’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.
- Physical activity: Regular exercise is good for both your body and mind. Aerobic exercise is found to be the most effective at mood-boosting.
- Sleep: A good night’s sleep is necessary for a happy and healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in negative emotions.
- Meditation: Regular meditation can improve your sleep, help reduce stress, and also boost happiness.
- Work-life balance: A good work-life balance is important for reducing stress levels and leading a happy lifestyle.
- Express gratitude: Being grateful for what you have is one of the ways to increase happiness. A study found that people who wrote down three things they are grateful for every day were happier than others.
- Massage: A good massage can increase the levels of happy hormones.
- Diet: A healthy diet has various benefits, including increasing happiness.
- Try new things: Add variety to your life. Apart from work, go outside once in a while for a walk or a game, travel, or anything else that boosts your mood.
- Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of well-being, joy, or contentment. Psychologists term happiness as subjective well-being. It is a measure of relative life satisfaction.
- Happy people tend to be more optimistic than others and face negative situations better. They generally experience more positive emotions than negative ones.
- Happiness has various health benefits too. It can help combat stress, increase lifespan, improve your immune system, reduce pain, and lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are happy hormones.
- The SLC6A4 gene carries instructions for the production of a serotonin receptor. People with certain changes in this gene have higher levels of serotonin, and are more likely to be happier.
- Several other factors like education level, income, sleep, physical activity, health can affect how happy you are.
- A good amount of physical activity, sleep, work-life balance are some of the things that contribute to being happy.