What Science Says Brings Happiness
You can’t go 5 minutes on the internet or grocery story news stand aisle without some ‘expert’ telling you how to be happy. Getting enough sleep! Doing what you want! Have great sex, eat the right foods, etc. I found Arthur C. Brooks – who happens to be a happiness professor at Harvard. Here’s some scientific findings on happiness. As it turns out, most of this is not new wisdom…
- Neurophysiology tells us that dopamine highs we get from acquiring new things (big achievements, a fancy car, taking a big trip, possessions, big promotions, winning the lottery, etc) only last a short time. Then it quickly goes away and we must go looking for more. Studies show the real formula for happiness looks like the below. The better way to be happy, the easier way, is if you focus on reducing the denominator and being happy by wanting less. This part of the equation is almost completely in your control – but requires wisdom to know what things we really need vs just want. (PS: Jesus taught this and millennium of monks, Christians and other faiths know this to be true).
- Gratitude is an important part of being happy. A lot of folks just live in their limbic systems (your emotions/feelings) and largely go wherever their emotions lead them (ex: desire, fear, laziness, etc) Instead, start engaging your frontal cortex and choose to be grateful by making the decision to focus on things you are grateful for. Taking ownership of your emotions with your frontal cortex (thinking) in gratitude is guaranteed to make you happier.
- Social media is the junk food of happiness. Our bodies crave Oxytocin which is generated only via in-person interactions with people when we make eye contact or touch. Social media delivers none of that. Science bears out that there are many more even worse psychological and social effects. His advice: only use social media to complement real in-person relationships and use all social media for less than 30 minutes a day across all platforms. (PS: one of the longest health studies has shown relationships are THE biggest indicator of long life and happiness. Christians have long understood the teachings of Jesus lead us to healthy relationships. Most importantly your relationship with God, which leads us to the next item)
- Purpose and happiness comes from answering these 2 questions. If you don’t have an answer for those questions, you WILL suffer existential crisis and dread. (PS: What is the meaning of life?)
- Why am I alive?
- What would I be willing to die for?
- You hit your happiness bottom at age 45 (across all cultures) then it increases from that point on – unless you have untreated mental health or addictions issues. A little after 50 years old most people finally realize that we can and often do lose those things we thought were important to have for happiness. We also learn that those loses ultimately don’t matter because even then the pain doesn’t last forever either. Finally, it is a very good reason to seek help for mental health and addiction issues as early as possible because they will hold you back your whole life.
- Sitting around making memories by constantly instagraming your life is the backwards mental time travel that robs you of your life. When doing that, you are mentally living in the future looking back., From that imagined future, you are pretending you are living now as if it was the past (I’m taking pictures now so I can remember this time later). The problem? You just missed your life. NOW is the only part of your life you have. If you’re like many people that spend 30-50% of your time thinking about the future, you are largely missing your life now. (PS The mindfulness practice of living in the now is exactly mirrored in Jesus teaching)
- Your ability to innovate, think quickly, and solve problems in knowledge jobs peaks in your 30’s. The wisdom curve, however starts in your 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and comes from leading, teaching, sharing, and recognizing what things really mean.
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