Agriculture
Got Milk? How?
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Seeds of the Future
Amphibians
Salamanders and Newts
Frogs and Toads
Toads
Animals
Red Apes in Danger
Fishy Sounds
Assembling the Tree of Life
Behavior
A brain-boosting video game
A Recipe for Happiness
Flower family knows its roots
Birds
Pigeons
Storks
Crows
Chemistry and Materials
These gems make their own way
Graphene's superstrength
Atom Hauler
Computers
The Shape of the Internet
Electronic Paper Turns a Page
Play for Science
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Digging for Ancient DNA
Dino Flesh from Fossil Bone
Some Dinos Dined on Grass
E Learning Jamaica
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Earth
Greener Diet
Easy Ways to Conserve Water
A Dire Shortage of Water
Environment
The Birds are Falling
Spotty Survival
Giant snakes invading North America
Finding the Past
A Long Haul
Salt and Early Civilization
A Human Migration Fueled by Dung?
Fish
Carp
Hagfish
Swordfish
Food and Nutrition
Sponges' secret weapon
Packing Fat
The Color of Health
GSAT English Rules
Pronouns
Who vs. Whom
Adjectives and Adverbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
Access denied - Disabled boy aces GSAT
GSAT Mathematics
Math of the World
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
How a Venus Flytrap Snaps Shut
Human Body
Kids now getting 'adult' disease
Spitting Up Blobs to Get Around
Remembering Facts and Feelings
Invertebrates
Praying Mantis
Spiders
Octopuses
Mammals
Kodiak Bear
Dogs
African Hippopotamus
Parents
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Children and Media
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
Einstein's Skateboard
Thinner Air, Less Splatter
IceCube Science
Plants
Flower family knows its roots
Underwater Jungles
Farms sprout in cities
Reptiles
Chameleons
Asp
Gila Monsters
Space and Astronomy
Burst Busters
Dark Galaxy
A Dead Star's Dusty Ring
Technology and Engineering
A Micro-Dose of Your Own Medicine
Smart Windows
Weaving with Light
The Parts of Speech
Pronouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Problems with Prepositions
Transportation
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Tinkering With the Basic Bike
Middle school science adventures
Weather
Watering the Air
Arctic Melt
Science loses out when ice caps melt
Add your Article

A Recipe for Happiness

It feels good to be happy. Laughing is fun. And most people like to have a good time.

“If you ask people what they want for their children, most say, ‘I want them to be happy,’” says psychologist and happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside.

Above all else, most people say that they want their kids to be happy.

Above all else, most people say that they want their kids to be happy.

C. Szeto/Wikipedia

Not that long ago, however, joy wasn’t considered serious enough for psychologists to study. These scientists traditionally helped people with depression or other mental illnesses.

“When I started doing research on this 18 years ago,” Lyubomirsky says, happiness “was not considered a scientific topic.”

But today, happiness is a hot subject of research. As part of a growing field called positive psychology, more and more researchers are looking for ways to help people become happier, even if they don’t feel depressed to begin with. And there are plenty of reasons why happiness is a worthy goal.

It took a while for scientists to start taking happiness seriously.

It took a while for scientists to start taking happiness seriously.

Pumbaa/Wikipedia

Recent studies suggest that, among other benefits, happy people are healthier (see “Smiles Turn Away Colds”), have more friends, and make more money than their sadder peers, Lyubomirsky says. And here’s the really good news: Research now suggests that there are easy things people can do to make themselves happier.

How happy are you?

The field of positive psychology has had to overcome significant obstacles. For one thing, it’s difficult to scientifically measure happiness. It’s also hard to compare one person’s sense of well-being with another’s.

For example, if your best friend says she feels great, but she’s crying a lot and acting more depressed than usual, would you rate her as happy or sad for the purposes of a scientific study? Likewise, on a scale of 1 to 10, how can we be sure that my “8″ is happier than your “6?”

“No one can tell you how happy you are,” Lyubomirsky says. “Who’s to say who’s right?”

In recent years, however, researchers have developed what they consider to be accurate measurements of happiness. One technique involves looking at how often people genuinely smile in their daily lives.

It’s easy to tell real smiles from the fake smiles people plaster on for photographs. Genuine smiles engage the corners of the eyes and involve muscles around the mouth that fake smilers can’t control.

You can tell if a person's smile is real or fake by looking at his or her eyes.

You can tell if a person’s smile is real or fake by looking at his or her eyes.

Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez/Wikipedia

In their studies, scientists also tell people to describe how happy they feel. They ask subjects how satisfied they are with their lives. And they get people to describe everything they did over a course of a day and how they felt about each activity.

Scientists also sometimes look at images of the brain for clues: An area called the left frontal cortex tends to work harder in people who are happier. This area “lights up,” showing more activity in brain scans.

Get happy

Scientists now know that people are born with a general tendency toward a certain level of happiness, and they tend to maintain that mood in their day-to-day lives. For example, you probably know kids who are bubbly and cheerful most of the time as well as kids who are generally more quiet and serious.

About half of a person’s “happiness quotient” comes from the personality he or she is born with. Extreme events, such as winning a lottery or being injured in an accident, can cause temporary bursts of happiness or sadness. But eventually, people return to about the same emotional state they’re normally at.

So, what about the other half of the happiness quotient? About 10 percent of that quotient depends on external circumstances, such as how much money people make or how healthy they are. The remaining 40 percent, says Lyubomirsky, is entirely up to you. What’s more, her work suggests a few strategies for making yourself happier, no matter how happy or sad you are to begin with.

Researchers have learned that how much money you have determines only a small percentage of your happiness quotient.

Researchers have learned that how much money you have determines only a small percentage of your happiness quotient.

iStockphoto.com

In one recent study, she and colleagues assigned more than 300 college students to complete one of three activities. For 15 minutes a week over 8 weeks, one group of these students wrote about what their lives would be like in the future if all their hopes and dreams came true.

A second group spent the same amount of time writing letters to people who had done things in the past that the letter writers were grateful for. A third group of students simply listed everything they had done over the past 7 days.

The objective of this experiment was to find out whether expressing optimism about the future or gratitude about the past could make a person happier. (The third group allowed the researchers to compare whether writing alone made a difference.)

Results backed previous research, which had shown that expressing optimism and gratitude lead to an improved sense of well-being. But the improvement came about, Lyubomirsky adds, only for the students that were most motivated to do the activity.

In other words, only people who really wanted to be happier were able to make that happen. The simple process of writing had no effect on wellbeing.

Writing thank-you notes can make you feel happier.

Writing thank-you notes can make you feel happier.

iStockphoto.com

Lyubomirsky found that motivated students maintained their improved sense of happiness for at least 9 months after the study ended. (After 9 months, she stopped checking.)

“That is actually amazing,” she says. “It is possible they might have changed their attitudes toward life” just by writing thank-you notes and having optimistic thoughts.

A happier you

It’s not always easy to be a kid. Between 15 and 20 percent of middle schoolers in the United States experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression, says Bruce Cuthbert, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. And research shows that, without help, stress and anxiety tend to get worse over time.

It's normal to feel sad occasionally, but if you're depressed most of the time, it may help to talk to a psychologist.

It’s normal to feel sad occasionally, but if you’re depressed most of the time, it may help to talk to a psychologist.

iStockphoto.com

If you don’t feel happy today, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, Cuthbert says. But if you want to feel better, there are lots of things you can do to improve your mood.

Studies have shown that the happiest people are those who frequently do kind things for both friends and strangers. Other research-backed happiness boosters include keeping a diary of your future dreams, setting and pursuing goals, making friends and family members a big part of your life, and exercising regularly.

“Those are things anyone can do,” Lyubomirsky says, “no matter how young you are.”

A Recipe for Happiness
A Recipe for Happiness








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™