Happiness: :) The Evidence Behind the Emotion :)

happiness/flickr/mamta16After reading this article in Nursing Spectrum,  I wanted to share parts of it with you. This is a two-part series because it is too long for one blog post. I have divided the information in two parts and I will post it in consecutive order. From an article by Cynthia Saver, RN, MS

What is Happiness

Transitory happiness and enduring happiness

Transitory happiness brings momentary pleasure like enjoying an ice cream cone while enduring happiness manifests as deep satisfaction with how you live your life. In thinking about these two qualities it helps to think of  happiness as having two dimensions: one of pleasure, which refers to the present benefit and two, of meaning, which has a future benefit.

Happiness plays a crucial role in our psychological well-being. A comprehensive study found happy people are more likely to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and a long life. The authors of the study found that positive emotions and sustained happiness are often associated with characteristics that parallel success, including sociability, optimism, energy, and originality.

How is happiness measured?

The easiest is with questionnaires. University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website has several.

What they found that it is generally defined as a person’s self-report of global life satisfaction or happiness. That subjectively it is well-being looking at life satisfaction, the presence of positive emotional experiences and the absence of negative emotional experiences.

Physiology of happiness:

MRI’s as one form of measurement show activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain when people are happy. People are more positive when that area of the brain is stimulated.

Chemicals associated with optimism are dopamine and lower levels of cortisol. As expected happy people have a higher immune system and when given doses of rhinovirus or influenza virus they are less likely to become ill.

Born Happy?

Yes, there is some evidence of genetic influence. In a study with over 2,500 people, those with a more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction. A classic study of twins found that genetics account for 50% of our happiness. This is called our “happiness set point” and is the point we return to after something disrupts our happiness.

So the other 50% is under our own control.This I found especially significant. We can do something about our own happiness.

What makes us Happy?

Researchers have studied several factors.

Age. As people get older they get happier

Religiousness and spirituality. Some research showed a correlation but it was hard to decide the reason for it. Was it because of a support group in going to church or does religion promote happiness by reducing stress and providing meaning to life?

Money. The link between money and happiness is complicated. One study showed income improved life satisfaction up to an annual income of $75.000. And that low-income was associated with low life satisfaction.

Marriage. Married people tend to be happier, but it was unclear if they were happier because they are married or if happy people tend to get married.

———————————-Here ends post one. The next one will give strategies to get happy and our own ability to improve our state of mind.I will post it on Tuesday when my next scheduled post is due.

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About ClaraBowmanJahn

Journal writer. Author of "Annie's Special Day" And coauthor of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story." Proud mother and grandmother of wonderful kids. Wife of brilliant husband. Servant of two cats. Member of Pennwriters and SCBWI.
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6 Responses to Happiness: :) The Evidence Behind the Emotion :)

  1. nrhatch says:

    We definitely influence our own enduring happiness by the thoughts we think ~ not from “getting more” . . . but from wanting less and being grateful for what we already have. 😀

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    • clarbojahn says:

      Good point. Our thoughts are in our control and we can count out blessings. Being grateful is a big happiness maker. (is that a word?) Thanks for your comment. Be happy. 🙂

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  2. Let us not forget choice in this discussion. Will today be a good day or a bad day? Barring a major tragedy the choice is yours. For example: I had to wait in line for 15 minutes to make a bank deposit yesterday. Some of the others in line were complaining about the wait. I was happy to see the tellers busy and to have a bank close to home. I left the bank happy. Did they?
    (Note: People with clinical depression do not have this choice. I am not referring to them but to those of us who tend to see a challange as a defeat in it’self rather than an opportunity.)

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    • clarbojahn says:

      I’m glad you brought that up. We always have choice. We can choose our thoughts and they can be positive or negative. I’m glad you chose the more positive. I think you are an optimist, right? Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I always appreciate it.

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  3. pattyabr says:

    check out http://www.blogher.com today. there is a post and video on happiness it made me smile 🙂 which I really needed today 🙂 :):o:)

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    • Clar says:

      Thank you so much for that link, Patty, it made me smile, too. 🙂
      I went ahead and forwarded it to my sons and sister. It’s smiling that I didn’t teach them.
      Most of their life I was stressed out and know I didn’t smile enough.
      That’s changing now though. I’m living the life of my dreams. 🙂

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