In recent years, many countries around the world, namely Canada, France, and Britain have implemented a citizen happiness index as a key indicator of the nation’s prosperity in their official national statistics.
But what are the decisive factors that contribute to this emotion and how can we identify, gauge, and employ them to improve the quality of our lives? How can we contribute to our happiness but also to that of the people around us? Most importantly, is there a secret to leading a happier life?
Cortisol: The Enemy of Happiness
There are many biological conditions that can decrease the levels of serotonin and dopamine.
However, these chemicals are typically balanced in individuals who eat balanced diets, get regular physical activity, and are able to manage their stress levels.
On the other hand, people who lead unhealthy lifestyles often allow stress to take over, in the form of a dangerous chemical called cortisol. This hormone, produced by the body’s adrenal glands, can inhibit the neurotransmitters responsible for our levels of chronic happiness.
In normal amounts, cortisol can reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as promote healthy sleep cycles. On the other hand, cortisol levels spike when you’re living in a constant state of stress and anxiety.
This not only reduces your dopamine and serotonin production but also negatively impacts your focus, productivity, and memory. As a result, this can have nefarious repercussions on major organs as well as the immune system.
In simpler terms, dopamine and serotonin make you happy, but you can’t experience the positive only at all times. Your body needs both and ultimately, what generates happiness all comes down to one thing, that is balance.
A strategy for balance and happiness
You may believe that because your brain is wired a certain way, then there is very little you can do to bring more balance and happiness into your life.
After all, part of this is all about genetics, right? While it’s true that your biology does dictate your brain chemistry, the science of happiness and positive psychology shows that you have the power to transform your mindset and change your thoughts. Here is the fundamental practice for a happier life.
Your mindset matters, so shift your thinking
Scientific research suggests that each one of us has a happiness set point.
One particular study on the relativity of happiness explored the example of winning the lottery versus suffering a spinal cord injury. The findings conclude that positive and negative events (even the most extreme) will knock us off our baseline.
For instance, if you think you’re not as good as other people, then you will internalize that idea as a fact, and this ‘fact’ will constrict your perception of what you can and cannot do. With that said, when you gain a deeper understanding of these inaccurate beliefs and unfounded feelings, you can work on increasing your happiness baseline or set point.
The more you’re able to detect the exaggerations for what they are, the less they will affect you. You can only do this by paying close attention to your emotional reflexes and responses to give yourself a chance to challenge the negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs that underlie them.
The promising field of positive psychology has proven time and time again that the secret to happiness does not reside in turning your frown upside down, nor does it entail ignoring life’s challenges and difficulties.
It’s not about forcing yourself to feel happy when you don’t either.
Rather it’s about taking proactive steps to shift the way you think and challenge your core attitudes and behaviors in a gradual manner. Is there an ultimate secret to finding more happiness? Not necessarily. It’s a collective of efforts deployed on your part to confront your self-limiting beliefs and shift your mindset to continuous growth, development, and self-improvement.