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Can Science Make You Happier?

Happiness is a concept that has fascinated philosophers, theologians, neuroscientists, and cultural commentators for ages.

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Wanting to be happy is deeply anchored in human nature and this has been a human pursuit for thousands of years. With that said, people know very little about the neuroscience behind this emotion.

Despite the expansive body of research and literature, scientists are only just beginning to truly grasp how the brain processes emotion and the chemical mechanism of how this impacts our thoughts and behavior.

In the past couple of decades, positive psychology has taken this notion into the realm of scientific and academic research to gain deeper insight into meaningful living and well-being.

So how do scientists explain happiness, and can science and technological advancements make you happier?

The Science of Happiness

As scientists are working to better understand the brain, human DNA, and the science of how personality develops and is constrained, they’re looking to get a more precise idea of not only what happiness looks like now but how it can be tweaked as well.

This will allow them to better understand how they can help people by looking both at their brains and how they manage their self-talk. For many individuals, this will entail small tweaks in behavior and action that will greatly impact their levels of happiness.

People always think that in order for them to be happy, they have to encounter or acquire something big and phenomenal. They think “If only I got that job promotion”, “If only I got that house”, “If only I got that bonus” … then I will be happy. But happiness mainly accrues from our attitudes and our thoughts and very slow but important daily changes.

What Causes Happiness?

Your happiness depends on numerous variables.

Your emotional state fluctuates according to how you react to changes in your personal life, finances, career, and relationships. Happiness can also be the end result of engaging in acts of kindness and giving back to your community. Not only that but happiness is also due in part to you adopting a growth and abundant mindset that allows you to make progress in life, especially during challenging times.

With that said, there is another aspect of happiness, which is the neuroscience behind it. Neurological chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine vary from one person to the next, which causes them to feel more or less happy and satisfied with themselves and the lives they lead.

Because we’re wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, we often look not only to survive but to seek experiences that make us happy and fulfilled. So, our brain chemistry is designed to sustain these efforts by releasing happy-feel chemicals into our bodies and brains.
 
Serotonin, for instance, is produced in the brain and intestines. This neurotransmitter is circulated in the bloodstream and across the central nervous system. While it’s connected to blood clotting, digestion, and bone density, serotonin is most importantly known for its mood-regulating function.

Scientists refer to this neurotransmitter as the ‘happiness chemical’ since higher serotonin levels work to increase confidence and feelings of well-being and belonging. So, people with significant serotonin levels often report being happier, while people struggling with depression show lower levels of this chemical.

Scientists refer to this neurotransmitter as the ‘happiness chemical’ since higher serotonin levels work to increase confidence and feelings of well-being and belonging.

So, people with significant serotonin levels often report being happier, while people struggling with depression show lower levels of this chemical.

Although there are many pills and medications that target regulating serotonin levels, a 2018 study shows that pursuing happiness through social means is more effective than other methods. This includes spending more time with family and friends, considering how serotonin is more free-flowing when a person feels seen, heard, and valued by their close social circle.

The Takeaway

While no one feels happy all the time, science shows that what causes happiness is in part due to our thoughts, behavior, and action.

Although there are biological factors that can decrease happiness chemicals, there are things we can do to boost this emotion. So, to answer the initial question ‘can science make you happier’, yes it can, but you also have the power to ‘rewire’ your brain and redirect your thoughts from negative to positive (or at the very least a neutral state of being).

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