WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 17, 2015
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What is Happiness? Discover the Science Behind it

Are you happy in both your personal and professional life? If you’re unhappy, do you feel as if you are constantly chasing after some form of elusive happiness? You may not realize it, but according to Dr. Acacia Parks, psychology professor at Hiram College, “science has begun to weigh in on the debate.” This article will address happiness, how you define it in your own life and discovering the science behind it.

See Also: How to Be a Happy and Healthy Person

How Do You Define Happiness?

Happiness is considered a “mental or emotional state or well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” There are a variety of entities—science, psychology, philosophy and religion—that have made efforts to define what happiness is. However, the most important factor in this discussion is the manner in which you personally define happiness.

For example, are you most happy when you’re maintaining a healthy and balanced personal and professional life? Are you happiest when you’re learning new things and achieving new goals? Maybe you’re most happy when you are surrounded by friends and family. Deciphering your own measure of happiness will help you find yourself in a truly contented situation. Of course, living a happy life is a balance of accepting the good and the bad. The things you can change and the things you can’t.

Accepting a Balanced Life

If you want to understand happiness, you first need to understand what it is not. You can do that by accepting to live a balanced life. For example, the individual who understands that life is not going to be happy all the time will find a contented life. This person will learn that there are some things that can be changed, in order to make life easier and happier. Some aspects cannot be changed and those circumstances need to be accepted. However, learning how to be content in all circumstances, will lead to living a balanced, happy life.

The Science Behind Happiness

Neurologists define happiness as “the flood of hormones released in the brain.” Basically, this behavior of accepting and developing happiness can then prolong your health and mental and physical well-being. According to researchers, most people “return to their genetically-determined happiness set points” after they experience a positive life-changing event like getting married or winning the lottery.

Caroline Johnson was a participant of the ABC show Extreme Makeover, and she received new teeth, nose and breast implants. After receiving this extreme physical makeover, she seemed satisfied and happy for about one year. Ms. Johnson said that once the compliments started to wear off, her happiness quotient diminished.  

Ms. Johnson experienced hedonic adaptation which basically means that even when we feel extreme happiness, the majority of the times, we end up drifting back to our emotional point before experiencing that feeling of being happy. Ms. Johnson has an identical twin sister who has experienced a generally less happy existence, so it could be argued that environment makes a big impact on our happiness level, even more than our genetic makeup. Ms. Johnson’s sister, Cat, is a single mother who is struggling in the dating scene and dealing with a less than desired financial situation. Ms. Johnson, on the other hand, is a married mother of three and has found happiness in her life even though her business hit a rough patch.

See Also: 10 Secrets to Living a Vibrantly Happy Life  

The main take-away from this discussion is that happiness is a decision. Happiness is a result of a combination of your genetic make-up and personality (that affects your perspective) and the environment that you’re living in. How do you define happiness?

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