Latest Findings on the Sources of Happiness


It was back in 2012 that the United Nations first declared March 20 International Day of Happiness, to recognize happiness as not only a universal goal of all human beings, but also to encourage both organizations and individuals to help increase this feeling through education and public awareness-raising activities.

The subject has also continued to fascinate scientists, who are still searching for the answer to the question, “what makes us happy?” with their recent findings throwing up some surprising results.

Blame biology if you’re feeling blue

Some scientists have found that rather being a state of mind, being happy could actually be in our genes. After studying various countries around the world a team of researchers from the Varna University of Management, Bulgaria, published findings earlier this year that suggests that countries that have a certain gene variant — A allele — also have higher levels of happiness. In fact the gene was linked to happy feeling even more than wealth or the stability and safety of the country. Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, Ghana and Nigeria all showed a high prevalence of the gene as well as high reports of happiness, despite their countries’ high crime rates. Iraq, Jordan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand and Taiwan, who all showed a low prevalence of the A allele, were also the least likely to rate themselves as “very happy” in the study.

Japanese researchers from Kyoto University found last year that those who are happier with their lives, and feel happiness in a more intense way, have a larger volume of grey matter in the precuneus region of the brain. However it’s not all bad news for those with smaller volumes of grey matter, with the team commenting that several studies have shown that grey matter can be increased with meditation.

Spend time not money

And debunking the common idea of the mid-life crisis, a study published earlier this year in the journal Developmental Psychology found that the idea that we hit a happiness low point in middle age is actually just a myth. The 25-year study by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, actually found in their study that happiness levels increased as participants aged, and with no major drops in happiness around the mid-life crisis years, and so no excuse to splash out on that sports car.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia found back in January that those who valued time over money reported being happier, with using spare time on more meaningful activities such as volunteering for a charity also increasing happiness.

Can social media make you sad?

And for Facebook addicts, a 2015 study by the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark found that Facebook could be making you unhappy. After just a week away from the social networking site participants reported they were more satisfied with their lives, with the researchers finding that overall Facebook users are 39 percent more likely to feel unhappy than non-users.

You can download your free Happiness Guidebook, full of ideas to create happiness for yourself and those around you.

Source: AFP/Relaxnews


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