The study of happiness and what induces it in the human body has become a hot topic in modern science. In the most recent issue of Arizona Alumni Magazine, Eric Van Meter wrote a great article, "The Pursuit of Happiness: Well-being and the science of smiles," which explores some of the University of Arizona's own scientists' findings. In a nutshell, here is what they found helps an individual increase their level of happiness.
1. Natural places
Studies show that placing yourself in a natural environment will calm your body and reduce stress. Walking your dog in the wash without your cell phone or sitting in a forest and simply listening to its sounds helps with meditation, calm reflection and breathing. Can't get out of the office? Studies also show that surrounding yourself with photos of nature, opening a window, keeping your office well lit, quiet, smelling good and open can also help mimic the body's calm response to being in a natural environment. Taking a quick break and using the site calm.com to meditate is also a great idea.
2. Deep breathing
Constantly dwelling on dark thoughts actually releases chemicals from the brain that, if released continuously, physically breaks down the body. This can lead to health complications and even disease. Breathing deeply into the stomach can actually activate a nerve that reduces the pulse in your heart, shuts down the "stress juice" and instead induces good thoughts from the brain. Yoga, meditation, exercise and healthy eating habits also physically activate positive parts of the body that stimulate happiness.
3. Overcome four million years of natural selection
Our ancestors lived in a very dangerous world where one simple mistake could lead to death. For this reason, the modern human inherited her ancestors' hostile, paranoid, guarded and anxious emotions. Though easier said than done, scientists suggest attempting to see the world as one of opportunity instead of threat. Don't sort people into friends, enemies and nobodies, but as one universal body of people sharing one common goal. Don't sweat the small, everyday stressors; if someone cuts you off in traffic, realize he is just trying to get home like you are and that everything will be ok.
By "taking it easy," you are not constantly activating your stress system because the body is not perceiving itself as being in constant danger.
By trying to overcome your built in emotions of fear, not worrying about the small things and putting those you like, those you don't like and those you don't even know in the same body of people sharing a common goal of happiness and opportunity, you open the way to being more compassionate and helping everybody instead of a select few. As the scientists in the article found, "People with greater compassion are happier. They're not as depressed, they don't get as sick and they live a lot longer.
By Matt Schmidt