The Surprising Impact Happiness Has On Health, Relationships and Even the Economy
“Happiness” is a term that is familiar worldwide, yet there is not a single definition for it. Is it a state of being? Can it be chased down and attained?
Regardless of how you “get” happy, it has a trickle-down effect that starts within your own body and radiates to encompass the world around you.
The Chemical Connection
You probably already know about the brain’s feel good cocktail of hormones and chemicals. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin release suggest that your body is already predisposed to feel good. After all, your own brain releases chemicals to make you happy.
In addition, some scientists believe that there are a few gene variants that make people predisposed to a sunny disposition. Does that doom everyone else who wasn’t born with the happy gene? Not necessarily.
Since the gene affects subjective well-being, you can still control your general outlook of the world if you weren’t born happy. But you may have to do it differently than those who might have been born with a greater sense of well-being about themselves and the world around them.
Happy Healthy People
So, let’s say that happiness isn’t your superpower. But you’re happy nevertheless. How does it still count towards your overall health?
Happy people have a longer and healthier life than their Negative Nelly counterparts. Researchers found that happiness has a variety of positive effects on the body, including a boosted immune system, better wound healing, and emotional resilience.
Furthermore, experts say that as happiness improves from middle age onward. This may be due to a variety of factors such as changed life perceptions and prioritizing things that make them happy. Contrary to the stereotypical sad elderly person, studies show that many older adults have a greater sense of subjective well-being which in turn helps them live longer, too
Relationships and the Happiness Factor
This sense of well-being also radiates to your inner circle. Relationships flourish when a person feels content about themselves and their lives.
So does being happy lead to better relationships? Or do better relationships lead to happiness? The relationship between the two ideas is cyclical. One feeds into the other.
Happiness can help you be more supportive and personable, which in turn gives you a stronger sense of friendship and support that makes you happy.
Furthermore, being grateful and mindful in your relationships lowers the heart rate. And it is also associated with the same brain network that triggers social bonding and stress relief, giving you positive health benefits in the long run.
Happiness and the Economy
You’ve probably heard about happiness economics and how money can affect happiness. But can happiness affect the economy, too? One study points to “yes.”
According to researchers, people’s levels of optimism and sense of well-being have just as much effect on the economy as the economy does on individual happiness. It seems to be a two-way street.
Based on the study’s key findings, some examples of the ways that happiness and well-being can affect the economy are:
- Recessions are weaker, shorter in length, and may be easier to overcome
- Better moods may lead to higher retail sales
- Nice weather conditions may lead to 26% stronger economic activity with 33% weaker recessions
In addition, psychological factors that may affect local economy were shown to have greater impact in states with the following conditions:
- Older population
- Less education
- More socially isolated
The study was conducted to see how overall state mood may affect local economies, using these non-economic factors to measure overall optimism, pessimism, and mood:
- Weather – with the assumption that sunny weather triggers serotonin while bad weather releases melatonin
- Political climate and affiliation
- Sports-related happiness for local teams
So, even cheering for your winning local team on a sunny day could have an unintended economic boost.
And in more general terms, your perceived well-being could affect your consumption patterns. It may also affect your labor productivity, or your lack of motivation in that area if you aren’t happy. Happiness and mood may also affect risk-taking behavior.
Jump onto the Happiness Bandwagon
Take a look at these 3 pathways to happiness. No, it’s not a defined roadmap. But they are different ways that scientists have found contributes to individual well-being.
- Seek pleasurable emotions and sensations
- Get in the flow and engage fully in what you do
- Do good things
Do you want to gain satisfaction by living in the moment? One of the first steps is getting in the flow. Here are a few signs to look for to tell if you are fully engaged:
1. Losing Time Awareness
Funny how time flies when you’re having fun, right? You may feel the same way if you are in the happiness flow. You don’t check the clock when you are doing something you enjoy.
2. Your “Self” Takes a Backseat
Are you hyper-aware of yourself? Or may you care too much about how others see you? What about your own comforts? If you are, you may need to start doing things differently. As if going against today’s self-obsessed society, this means that you are living in the moment and selfishness and narcissism take a back seat. The only awareness you have of yourself is body placement as you do the things you enjoy.
3. Shutting Off the Ticker Tape in Your Mind
When you are truly happy, you are living in the moment. You aren’t thinking of your shopping list for the entire week. Or what you will wear tomorrow.
4. You’re Active in Life
Get up and do things. Being in the flow of happiness isn’t passive. It requires your full participation to live and appreciate the present moments.
5. Happiness Activities Are Effortless
Not to be confused with “requiring no work,” doing the things that make you happy may require effort. In some cases, it may require more than you usually exert while doing daily activities. But the difference is that it feels effortless, and you’re happy to do it.
Being happy may be a state of mind, but there are many factors that influence your happiness levels. And many of those factors are in your control. So, pursue happiness. Your body will thank you, and so will the world around you.