Factors contributing to happiness can differ from person to person, and include:
Research into what makes a happy life, presented by Robert Waldinger from Harvard University, took over 75 years to complete and looked at the lives of 724 volunteers, as well as their partners and other family members, bringing the total number of people studied to over 2,000. After analyzing the data, a clear correlation was found between strong relationships, good health and happiness.
Maintaining positive relationships was also found to help people slow the aging process and enable them to live longer lives.
Exercise not only keeps us fit and healthy, but also protects us from disease and degeneration. It stimulates the production of various hormones, including:
Additionally, exercise can assist the brain in producing hormones associated with happiness, such as:
Visiting new places, getting a relaxing massage, or partaking in activities that leave a smile on your face, whether they involve family members, friends or loved ones, can all provide a welcome relief from the stress and problems that may accumulate in our daily lives. Furthermore, keeping a smile on your face when encountering difficult circumstances can aid the body’s production of serotonin and endorphins, both of which are directly associated with happiness.
In addition to getting vitamin D from various fish, fish livers and egg yolks, exposing the body to sunlight during the early morning or evening time (being careful to avoid the hours between 10:00 – 15:00) also aids the skin’s production of vitamin D. This vitamin not only helps to keep our bones and immune system at full strength, but also indirectly stimulates the production of serotonin, a hormone capable of reducing the symptoms associated with depression.
Studies have found that consuming around 50–100 grams of dark chocolate (equivalent to 300–600 calories) 1–2 times a week could reduce a person’s chances of an early loss of life resulting from heart disease when compared to those who do not eat any chocolate at all. Chocolate contains essential chemicals which aid circulation and help to strengthen coronary arteries. Dark chocolate, made from 70–85% real cocoa, is most effective in this regard.
Although dark chocolate contains minimal amounts of sugar and milk, it still should not be considered completely healthy and should therefore only be consumed in moderation.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which the body is unable to produce by itself. Tryptophan can be sourced from milk, butter, egg yolks, meat, fish, turkey, peanuts, almonds, dried dates, bananas, cottage cheese and other high protein foods. The body is able to use this substance to aid in production of serotonin and in the neurological processes that help us feel happy. Moreover, tryptophan works alongside folic acid and iron to assist the body in producing red blood cells.
You may have found that your stress levels are reduced when playing with pets. This is because our relationship with cats, dogs or other pets that show us affection can increase the body’s production of hormones associated with happiness, including serotonin and oxytocin (a hormone linked to love and relationships).
Hugs and kisses between humans can be used to display love, kindness, protection and lust. We generally perform these actions with people we love which, in turn, leads to the body producing a number of different hormones:
Meditation is a form of spiritual relief that can be beneficial after a day full of emotional situations that can leave us feeling down. Meditating, by breathing in slowly and deeply before releasing that air just as gently, can help you gradually rid your mind of any negativity you may have accumulated that day. Just being alone with your thoughts for a few moments can help you to gain an awareness and acceptance of certain trying situations, leaving you with a more positive perspective. Meditating for at least 30 minutes has also been shown to decrease production of cortisol, a hormone produced during stressful times, and replacing it with endorphins which are responsible for feelings of relief. Endorphins also produce a happy and refreshed feeling, slowing the aging process and strengthening the body’s immune system while simultaneously adjusting brain waves to ensure a calm mind for a better night’s sleep.
Although happiness means different things to different people, our life experiences and other extrinsic factors such as social status, education, career popularity, health, responsibilities and achievements all have a role to play in making our life complete. Some of these may combine to help you achieve your goals, while others may require no small amount of dedication to enable you to succeed. Nevertheless, every person is capable of making a success of their life in one way or another, which will give them the best chance of feeling happy and content thereafter.
Master of Science in Clinical and Public Health Nutrition (Distinction). UCL Division of Medicine, London. , 2016