Happiness science is the scientific study of happiness with the goal of finding strategies to increase our happiness levels.
But, don’t we all know someone who can hide their sorrow behind a huge smile?
So, while happiness isn’t only defined by smiles, laughter, and bright faces, it is also felt differently by different people. Then how can happiness science discover universal methods to increase happiness?
Let’s find out.
What’s The Science of Happiness?
The Science of Happiness or Positive Psychology is a newer branch of psychology that studies well-being, life satisfaction, character strengths, resilience, positivity, and optimism. Since it studies optimal human functioning, it is also known as the “science of flourishing.” It was founded by Martin E. P. Seligman.
Happiness science is empirically grounded and draws on subjects like psychology, sociology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine. It does not dismiss the presence of human suffering or psychological illness.
Positive psychology is the science of happiness. More specifically, positive psychology is about focusing on … love, happiness, strength, and virtues. — Tal Ben-Shahar
Happiness scientists study the habits, attitudes, and behaviors that increase happiness and fulfillment in life.
Its experts also encourage us to embrace lifestyle practices that boost our optimism, hope, resilience, and other factors that contribute to happiness.
For decades, psychology was primarily concerned with the negative aspects of human existence, with the goal of determining what was “wrong” with us and trying to heal our suffering. It has worked out well since we can now successfully treat diseases like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.
But traditional psychology missed looking into what made us happier, not “less sad”.
The paradigm shift came in 1998 when Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman became the President of the American Psychological Association (APA). He invited psychologists to turn their attention to what makes people prosper and thrive.
They began focusing on the behaviors that make us more likable at work, happier in our relationships, and feel more fulfilled when we go to bed.
How Can Happiness Science Help Us Get Happier?
The science of happiness helps us become happier by validating some of our traditional wisdom about happiness and exposing certain popularly held beliefs about happiness as happiness myths.
Traditionally, we have held that we are either happy or unhappy, and that we must wait for good things to happen to us to be happy. However, happiness science shows that happiness is a skill and that we can create our own happiness.
We have always believed that “counting out blessings“ is a happy habit. This is supported by happiness science. It tells us that gratitude is important in life and that we are happier when we express gratitude for what we have.
We can learn and hone our skills to increase our happiness levels, just like any other skill. Happiness researchers have discovered that a range of activities can increase our happiness levels.
They also tell us that we can control a big percentage of our well-being.
10 Scientifically Proven Happiness-Boosting Activities
Here are ten science-based happiness-boosting activities:
- counting our blessings
- spending time in “flow” activities
- being more accepting of our flaws
- visualizing our “best possible” selves
- balancing work time and leisure time
- exercise and mindfulness meditation
- exposing ourselves to novel experiences
- spending less time overthinking the past
- helping others without expecting anything back
- being in the company of good and caring friends
Studies suggest that strong social connections (friends, family, children, parents, relatives, and colleagues) play the biggest role in making and keeping us happy. Indeed, our friends bring us the most joy out of all our social connections.
Acts of altruism and compassion both boost our happiness. Studies by Myers (2000) and Diener & Seligman (2002) back this up.
“This suggests that very happy people do have a functioning emotion system that can react appropriately to life events.”– Ed Diener & Martin Seligman
[Altruism is the desire and determination to improve the well-being of others. Compassion is selfless love expressed in response to suffering.]
A study by the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, showed that kind gestures toward others helped relieve our stress (Seligman 2002).
“The take-home message is that when we are stressed and we help others, we can also end up helping ourselves,” study author Emily Ansell, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, told CBS News.
Happiness can be measured. Learn how to measure your happiness for free.
How Much Happiness Is Under Your Control?
According to the science of happiness, our happiness levels change from day to day, and even hour to hour, yet a large part of it is under our control.
Studies by positive psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky and Kennon Sheldon suggest that we control roughly about 40% of our happiness. They developed The Happiness Formula which outlines the percentage of causes that determine our happiness.
Short Summary of Positive Psychology
What is positive psychology? Where has it come from? Where is it going? To know more, read and download this 6,000-word article: What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology is the study of positive human characteristics such as strength, resilience, well-being, and optimal functioning. The goal of positive psychology is to make people happier by understanding and building positive emotions, life satisfaction, and meaning.
Established in 1998, the field of positive psychology is dedicated to understanding what makes people happy and how we can increase our own levels of happiness by changing our thoughts and behaviors.
A positive psychologist strives to move people from the neutral to the plus side of the happiness scale. They believe that happiness is both achievable and sustainable.
It can train us, via positive psychological interventions, to be more resilient, courageous, and optimistic, so that we can meet adversity with courage and contemplation.
However, this branch of psychology does not advocate ignoring people’s problems. It does not compel people to wear fake smiles while asking them to be happy.
Positive psychology does not deny the universal presence of challenges and struggles. Rather, it teaches us that we can handle our adversities better if we have more resilience, courage, grit, hope, and optimism.
1. Is psychology a positive science?
Psychology in the traditional sense has not been a positive science. Traditionally, psychology has been concerned with the study of mental illnesses and dysfunctions. To balance the field of psychology, Martin Seligman and colleagues started the positive psychology movement in 1998.
Positive psychology focuses on what helps people thrive. It examines the good life, positive experiences, positive traits, and positive institutions that help people to flourish. Positive psychology is not “toxic positivity” and it does not aim to replace traditional psychology.
2. How helpful is positive psychology?
Positive psychology is helpful and effective. Some of its key findings are:
1. Positive things happen because happy people are happy. Happiness is a precursor to success.
2. Good relationships and character strengths protect against the negative effects of failures and setbacks.
3. A life of meaning (eudaimonia) outperforms a life of pleasure (hedonism) in terms of life satisfaction.
4. Good days are characterized by a sense of autonomy, competence, and connection with others.
5. We can learn and teach others the principles and strategies for living a happy life.
3. What is Hedonia?
Hedonia is a short-term pleasure with in-the-moment peaks of positive emotion and gratification. This form of happiness comes with a built-in limitation: hedonic adaptation, where we get used to the source of our happiness and consequently need to up the dose or add variety to get the same hit. Hedonism focuses on ‘me’.
4. What is Eudaimonia?
Eudemonia or eudaimonia is “The Good Life.” It’s the more sustainable form of happiness. This is the deeper, enduring happiness that comes from living a meaningful life while realizing one’s potential. These are ways to sustain our inner happiness. Eudaimonism focuses on ‘we’. Find out if you are happy enough here.
Definitions of Happiness
- Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence. — Aristotle
- In the human brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine is reported to activate the brain’s pleasure centers. — Neurobiologists
- A prolonged or lasting emotional or affective state that feels good or pleasing. — Wikipedia
- The left prefrontal cortex area of the brain is more activated when we are happy and is also associated with a greater ability to recover from negative emotions as well as an enhanced ability to suppress negative emotions. We can train ourselves to increase activation in this area of our brains. — Richard Davidson
- Happiness is a noun, so we think it’s something we can own. But happiness is a place to visit, not a place to live. It’s like the child’s idea that if you drive far and fast enough you can get to the horizon—no, the horizon’s not a place you get to. — Daniel Gilbert
- Happiness is both Eudaimonia (how satisfied we are with our lives) and Hedonia (how good we feel on a day-to-day basis). — Psychologists.
It can be seen that happiness science is a new branch of social sciences that investigates the sources of human happiness as well as how to increase it.
Happiness science has influenced many disciplines, such as education, business, and money-making.
In closing, let us remind you that happiness is a skill, and any skill can be learned.
So, prioritize your happiness and the happiness of those around you, today. Remember, you can always bring more meaning to your life by learning to be happier.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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