The Science of Happy: You Don't Have to Be Born That Way

The Science of Happy: You Don't Have to Be Born That Way

Lee esto en EspañolWe look at pictures of happy people on social media. We watch adorable cat and dog videos that make us laugh. We read and share inspirational quotes. It makes us wonder: Are some people just born happier than others? 


Are we searching for happiness? Trying to invite it into our lives? Nurture it? Are some people just born happier than others?

Researchers looking for a "happiness" gene think some of the traits we are born with may offer clues. Could genetics explain why some people are happier than others? Who knows, maybe one day there might be a gene therapy to help individuals become happier.

What Does It Mean to Be Happy? 

Best-selling author, renowned Harvard psychology lecturer and global speaker Tal Ben-Shahar mesmerizes audiences with his views on happiness. He defines happiness as "the overall experience of pleasure and meaning. A happy person enjoys positive emotions while perceiving his or her life as purposeful." 

What if you don’t fit the bill? Is happiness within reach? Research shows people with a higher sense of purpose may live longer. They also experience less sickness. The American Heart Association leaving site icon reports happiness helps fend off a long list of serious health issues. Stress, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and cardiovascular disease are some of them.

How Can You Be Happier? 

Studies point to five things that make people happier: 

Social connections. Spend time with family and friends. It can help boostpositive outlook. Plus, it slows down natural aging.  

Meditation. Set aside 20 minutes a day to practice mindfulness. Learn to quiet your mind and focus on the here and now. Avoid disruptions that spoil your focus. 

Fitness.Stay active. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, boost your mood and stay independent as you age. The National Institute on Aging reports 150 minutes of walking each week with light strength and balance training can reduce the risk for disability.

Sleep.Catch some Zzzs to fend off depression. Seven to nine hours of slumber each night boosts your mood, strengthens your immune system and keeps your mind sharp.

Laughter. Whether you're watching a funny video on Facebook or cracking jokes with friends, laughter is one of the best ways to jumpstart a positive mood.

What’s your favorite way to get happy? Let us know in the comments!  

Sources: Tal Ben-Shahar, leaving site icon Tal Ben-Shahar, 2023; How Happiness Affects Health, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2020; Maintaining Mobility and Preventing Disability Are Key to Living Independently as We Ageleaving site icon National Institute on Aging, 2020; How Important is Sleepleaving site icon American Sleep Association, 2022
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Originally published 7/10/2019; Revised 2021, 2023