People often think that happiness is based on external circumstances and that you can not control it. But actually, you can make your every day happy and live your whole life like that. Perhaps, that’s the main goal for each of us. And it is absolutely feasible, if you understand how it all works.
What is happiness?
Everyone has their own definition. Some people think it’s a new car or a huge income, others believe they will be happy once they start a family. It is wrong to think that happiness depends on external factors. You bought a car, there, you are happy! But in actuality it is simply a potent surge of positive emotion.
No emotional experience makes you happier or unhappier for more than three months. After that the body gets used to it and the intensity of the emotion decreases. This is why the first three months of a romantic relationship are called the infatuation stage. It’s the time when you have the most fun. But then emotions start to fade and everyday routine kicks in. Buying a house, marrying, losing something important — any external factors stop having any effect after 3 months and everything gets back to normal.
Everyone has their own default state. That is the basic level of happiness — it’s the mood in which we wake up and live our daily life.
If you are always in a good mood, have fun and find joy every day then you find everything else much easier in life. You experience less stress, get more invested in what you do and have better results. Such people are called lucky. But what does it depend on?
What affects happiness?
50% is genes and you just have to reconcile with that. Everyone is different and some of us are really happier than others from the start.
The good news is: external factors affect only 10% of our happiness. Any factors: got married or divorced, earned a lot or very little, bought a new car or crashed it — all this has very little impact on your happiness.
The great news is: 40% of our basic happiness level depends on our lifestyle. That’s something you can have control over. You can get much happier by simply changing your habits.
Even if you think that you haven’t succeded in life and everything sucks you still want to feel better. And it is totally possible! Just changing your lifestyle will make you three times happier.
Here is the happiness formula:
Daily happiness level = 40% lifestyle + 50% genes + 10% external factors
The science of happiness
- Do good things to others. You help people and your basic happiness level goes up.
- Do their job well. That’s productivity during the day, self-fulfillment and goal achieving. It is when you do things that are important for you to the best of your ability every day.
- Do good things to themselves. In order to succeed, work well and help others you need to be healthy and take care of yourself.
You can change all of these factors – everything is in your hands. But you have to start with the most important thing — self-care. You need to stay healthy to change your lifestyle, be energized and overcome obstacles. It’s hard to change something if everything is already bad and it is almost unbearable. You can promise yourself to be more goal-oriented and move mountains and start a new business. The only problem is if you don’t have any energy to do that it’s unlikely that you will walk the walk.
That’s why you should help your body using simple and available methods.
The physiology of happiness
We have the mesolimbic pathway. It connects the spinal chord and the brain and affects memory, emotion, learning skills, addiction and pleasure. The mesolimbic pathway is activeted through nerve impulses. When we experience pleasure it carries a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is when you feel great.
Dopamine induces people to achieve their goals and satisfy their needs and desires. This neurotransmitter is produced in the brain. It encourages us to achieve results and causes the feeling of pleasure. We strive to achieve our goals thanks to dopamine. We get motivated by the joy we experience when we achieve them.
Release of big amounts of dopamine in the blood stimulates any state or action which brings or promises us joy and happiness. We like it and we want to do it again after a while. That’s how we find hobbies, chose our favourite food and develop habits. Addiction to instant and dubious pleasure like drugs or alcohol is also driven by the desire to get dopamine.
Someone who drinks beer or wine every day impairs their production of dopamine. They no longer feel satisfaction and they try to get it again. That’s how people fall in that trap. Because of stimulators like alcohol or drugs: they want to feel happy again but what they get is a short-term effect and they lose the ability to be happy naturally.
Additionally, dopamine facilitates thinking and memorising, it is also involved in the sleep-wake cycle. If you have low levels of dopamine, it may lead to depression, obesity or chronic fatigue.
The following things decrease the level of dopamine:
- unhealthy diet: fast food, lots of convenience food, sweets and preservatives, insufficient amount of vitamins
- lack of physical exercise and everyday activity
- chronic stress
- smoking, alcohol, stimulators
- sleep deprivation
It’s a vicious cycle. No dopamine – no motivation. No motivation means we can’t change our habits and achieve our goals. Simple physiology directly affects our life and self-fulfillment.
Roughly speaking you can’t invent a perpetual motion machine or launch a rocket into space while you eat burgers and have beer in the evening. Simply because you will not want to, you won’t have the energy.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter which is very important for happiness and transmits nerve impulses between neurons. It controls the body’s response to stress and gives us the feeling of happiness. We find ourselves in a good mood because of it.
Serotonin helps you feel you are not useless and improves your self-esteem. Lack of it makes a person prone to depression, alcoholism, aggression or suicide. Many antidepressants work by helping the body produce serotonin.
Serotonin and mood are interdependent. If the level of the neurotransmitter goes up your mood improves, and when your mood improves it stimulates serotonin production.
How to become happier
Knowing what increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin is enough. You can get happier in 2-3 weeks if you take these simple steps.
1. Eat well
There is a direct link between happiness and food. If you simply start eating healthy you will soon get energized and be in a good mood. 95% of serotonin is in the intestines, which is why you can quickly increase your happiness level by changing your diet. Carbs contain glucose and increase the level of tryptophan which is responsible for serotonin production.
The following things increase serotonin production
- Certain complex carbohydrates
- Omega-3 fatty acid
- Vitamin B complex and folic acid
- Fruit and vegetables
The following things decrease serotonin:
- Too many simple carbohydrates (pastry, flour products, instant porridge)
- Omega-6 fatty acid
You can quickly increase your dopamine level if you eat two-three bananas. Also, bananas contain 50 times as much dopamine as potatoes. Try eating two bananas a week and your mood will improve naturally.
2. Physical exercise makes you happier
Physical activity increases the amounts of dopamine and serotonin. Any sports or even simply enough steps, at least 10000 a day. We observed a correlation between daily activity, energy and mood in 93% of cases among our users. If you had a longer walk in the afternoon or went to the gym you are going to be in a better mood the next morning.
50 minutes 5 times a week is enough to become twice as happy and get energized.
Just 4 months of doing aerobics will rid you of depression. If you are feeling low right now just do some sports!
3. Healthy sleep
If you have sleeping problems, it affects all parts of your life and shows in your mood. Enough sleep is a must. The less serotonin you have the less effective your sleep is. The less you sleep the poorer serotonin’s effect on the brain and the worse you feel.
And it works the other way round. If you are going through intense stress, you are apathetic and have no energy just try to take care of yourself and sleep more.
The amount of serotonin depends on the amount of sunlight. Because of the sun our bodies produce vitamin D, we don’t get it with food. A decrease in vitamin D level makes depression 11 times more likely. If there isn’t enough sun, take vitamin D pills in autumn and winter, at least 2000 IU for a month.
Additionally, have more lighting in your flat, get fluorescent lamps. Any smart light bulbs will do.
Why are you unhappy and how to get out of that trap?
People often fail to rest and recover. No one explains to them how our bodies function. The body needs food and sleep when it’s hungry or tired but when you are stressed there is no clear signal that would mean ‘”go and rest”. We feel that we need to do something, but we choose what we know and are used to. Bar, alcohol, tonnes of coffee, TV series and overeating. Many people think that will help them rest and bring pleasure.
The only problem is, this kind of rest doesn’t make your body recover. You won’t feel refreshed in the morning after a bottle of beer the previous night. Dopamine level goes down, stress level goes up, you are in a low mood, you have no motivation and the brain is not working at full capacity. You can find plenty of examples like that.
You create your happiness every day.
If you are unwell, apathetic and have no energy, do something relatively easy first. Don’t try to quit smoking or go cold turkey on alcohol. Have two bananas for breakfast. Sleep 7-8 hours. Buy vitamin D and screw in a new light bulb. You will notice improvements in 1-2 weeks.
Your personal way to happiness
When our users ask us to help them increase their productivity and lose weight, the problem turns out to be much deeper. Either they have exhausted themselves with chronic stress and are trying to achieve better results or are eating their feelings away. The first thing our health analyst does is they help you recover by taking small and simple steps. Here at Welltory we can’t make you achieve your goals right away like earning a million dollars or finding the best partner in the world. But what we can do is help you get in shape and that’s the most basic thing that everyone puts away for later.
The thing is, everyone has their own way to be healthy and happy.
There are general recommendations that we mentioned earlier. But there are also individual things. Some people get more serotonin when they go to the gym. For example, Maria gets a mood boost from massage and turning off her computer at 9pm. Sergey, on the other hand, is happier when he walks in the park and has a 4-meal-a-day diet plan.
How do you find out what makes you feel better? Measure your stress and energy levels using our app, the indicators will show you what state your body is in. Download our Welltory app and take daily wellbeing measurements in the morning. Sleep well, eat healthy, experiment and you will notice what reduces your level of stress and what makes you energized.
If you want to make the most of our app, subscribe to our Proactive Care plan. You will have your personal health analyst and medical experts who will track your wellbeing and find what is good or bad for you.
You will get positive results in a 3 month’s time: you will increase your productivity by 20-30% and improve your mood and wellbeing.
With care, Welltory.
Check out how you can mantain your happy lifestyle being mom with kids: Everything About Baby Carriers