Science: How to make yourself happier

In 2014, two psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, launched an online course. This online course is to teach students how to be happy. The online course is done through both science and practice in just eight weeks.

Thousands of students took the Science of Happiness course. They learned about knowledge, including the science of connection, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Students also completed a series of simple activities that research suggests to increase happiness during the course.

According to the students, they found themselves feeling more positive day by day. At the end of the experiment, students’ happiness and life satisfaction increased by about 5%, and that boost remained even four months after the course ended.

How do this work?

The malleability of happiness

There are two misconceptions about happiness. Firstly, is the misconceptions that happiness is built-in and we cannot change it.

According to the researchers, they suggested that 50% of your happiness is determined by your genes, 10% by your life circumstances, and 40% is determined by your daily activities.

Secondly, happiness is the same as a consistently positive emotional state. Being happy does not mean you feel pure joy and cheerfulness all the time. Your negative feelings are also an essential part of your emotional life.

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


How to make yourself happier?

Enhance your social connections

Several studies found out social connection is the biggest factor affecting happiness. One of the most convincing studies is the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

People with strong relationships tend to be happier and physically and mentally healthier, than those who are less well-connected.

Therefore, you need to keep up with people and give them your time and attention, especially during this pandemic.


Engage in random acts of kindness

Performing small, random acts of kindness can make you feel happier and less depressed, according to a series of studies (PDF) from Sonja Lyubomirsky at UC Riverside.

For instance, you can start from complimenting a stranger at the grocery store or making your spouse a coffee before work.

This works because these acts tap into the basic human impulse to help others. When you start helping others, it activates the brain’s reward system that eventually makes you feel good as you made others feel good.


Express gratitude

You can express gratitude by noting down three things you are grateful for and why at the end of the day. It leads to long-term increases in happiness and decreases your depressive symptoms. This result was shown by a study from Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The purpose of this activity is to train your mind into thinking about the good parts of your life, instead of stressful things.

To conclude, this pandemic might make you hard to feel grateful. However, do learn to count your blessings.



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How to be happy, according to science

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