This is how to be happy, according to science

This is how to be happy, according to science

via CNet by Alison DeNisco Rayome

In 2014, two psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, launched an online course with a lofty goal: teaching students how to be happy, through both science and practice, in just eight weeks. No big deal, right? 

The amazing thing: It seemed to work. Thousands of students took the Science of Happiness course (which is still free to audit on edX, a provider of open online courses) and learned about the science of connection, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Perhaps more importantly, they also completed a series of simple activities that research suggests increase happiness.

Those who fully participated saw their positive feelings increase each week. They reported feeling less sadness, stress, loneliness, anger and fear, while at the same time experiencing more amusement, enthusiasm and affection, as well as a greater sense of community. During the course, students’ happiness and life satisfaction increased by about 5%. And that boost remained even four months after the course ended (though it’s difficult to fully untangle that result; it could’ve been from doing the activities, the students’ new understanding of the psychology of happiness, or something totally different).


How does this work? Can you really change how happy you are that easily? 

According to the research, yes. Even during challenging times, like the coronavirus pandemic.

The malleability of happiness

“There’s a misconception that happiness is built-in and that we can’t change it,” says Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University who teaches a free Coursera class called The Science of Well-Being

One popular theory that suggests we can affect our feelings is the happiness pie chart, proposed in a 2005 paper (PDF) published in the Review of General Psychology. At the time, researchers suggested that while 50% of your happiness is determined by your genes and 10% by your life circumstances, 40% is determined by your daily activities. Though this breakdown has faced criticism (that it’s too simple, and doesn’t take into account how your genes and environment interact), it taps into an idea that’s fairly widely accepted: At least some of your happiness is within your control. 

“The science shows that our circumstances — how rich we are, what job we have, what material possessions we own — these things matter less for happiness than we think,” Santos says. (Research does show that wealthier people are happier than poorer people — but not by a ton.) There’s a misconception that happiness is built in and that we can’t change it.Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University

Another big misconception? That happiness is the same as a consistently positive emotional state, says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who co-teaches Berkley’s The Science of Happiness course and is also the science director of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Being happy doesn’t mean you feel pure joy and cheerfulness every hour of every day. Humans aren’t designed that way (and think of how annoying you’d be if you were). You experience setbacks, problems, the loss of loved ones. And those negative feelings are an essential part of your emotional life, too. 

Happiness, experts say, means accepting negative experiences, and having the skills to manage and cope with them, and to use them to make better decisions later. 

“We think happiness is like a Facebook reel of vacations and achievements and checkboxes for life goals,” Simon-Thomas says. “But people who pursue happiness in that sort of belief system end up being less happy than people who define happiness in a more overarching, quality-of-life way.” 

Nuttapong Charoenarparussamse/Getty Images

How to make yourself happier, according to science

The appealing thing about being able to control at least part of your own happiness is you can do it from home, or anywhere, for free. Here are five exercises that clinical studies have shown improve your feelings of happiness and well-being.

(An important caveat: For people with clinical anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, these exercises aren’t a replacement for therapy, medication or other professional interventions. However, some research suggests they can be beneficial as a supplement to those services.)

… keep reading the full & original article HERE

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