What is happiness?
According to science, happiness is “promoting general well-being”, collective well-being. It is not easy to define well-being or happiness: they are complex constructs to evaluate scientifically. What science can do, based on data and theory, is to replace concepts difficult to approach with the necessary rigor.
The World Health Organization (WHO) updated the concept of health, which no longer only contemplates the absence of disease, but also focuses on complete physical, mental and social well-being.
The renowned professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Sonja Lyubomirsky, understands happiness as the experience of well-being that is associated with a deep satisfaction and sense of vital purpose. The psychologist Martin Seligman links the recognition of one’s own happiness with the degree of satisfaction we have with life and not only with a succession of positive states of mind. Seligman identifies three components of happiness:
a) The first corresponds to positive emotions such as enjoyment, joyful life or comfort. It is about multiplying the pleasant experiences that we can have -traveling, enjoying going out with friends, a good meal, etc.-.
b) The second component is linked to experiencing pleasure through the tasks and activities that generate a state of flow, which causes us to lose track of time and even ourselves and let ourselves be carried away while doing them. This situation, which arises when we do things that we are passionate about such as painting, writing, dancing, playing sports, playing an instrument or playing video games.
c) The third component of happiness is the sense that goes beyond oneself and consists of using personal strengths to serve a greater good.
Later, Seligman expands on these concepts by developing the theory of well-being as a more encompassing notion than that of happiness. It is an idea that incorporates two elements associated with well-being to those already mentioned: one has to do with the achievements, that is, personal fulfillment; the second proposes positive relationships as a central component for the development of well-being.
Long-lasting, positive bonds affect psychological, physiological, and behavioral functions, help protect our brains, and contribute to our well-being.
It was shown that when loved ones are close, there is less activity in neural areas associated with the processing of danger and we are less likely to activate bodily responses to stress.
Therefore, the sense of belonging is a shield against loneliness, depression and anxiety. Social support, like optimism, has a great impact on the immune system and plays a protective role in humans with positive consequences for diseases.
Qué nos hace felices
What makes us happy
Currently, wellness research comparing the results of dozens of genetic studies revealed that genetics accounted for only 36 percent of well-being and 32 percent of life satisfaction. Much is what we can do to build our own well-being, for example, work the way we think and express our feelings, set and achieve goals, consolidate human bonds, enjoy the present, reduce negative thoughts, savor ordinary positive events, do what we like, work on self-acceptance, have healthy habits and find a purpose beyond oneself.
Uno de los aspectos que parecería estar fuertemente asociado a una mayor felicidad tiene que ver con el sentimiento de espiritualidad. Ayuda a centrar la atención en el presente y no en el futuro. Esto último se da principalmente cuando estamos buscando siempre completar el próximo objetivo o nuestra mente está permanentemente pensando en la próxima tarea (o revisando el pasado), con la falsa creencia de que estar muy ocupado nos llevará a lograr éxito en lo que hacemos, en lugar de concentrarnos y disfrutar del presente.
One of the aspects that seems to be strongly associated with greater happiness has to do with the feeling of spirituality. It helps to focus attention on the present and not on the future. The latter occurs mainly when we are always looking to complete the next goal or our mind is constantly thinking about the next task (or reviewing the past), with the false belief that being too busy will lead us to achieve success in what we do, instead of concentrating and enjoying the present.
The people around us influence our happiness, according to a study by the University of Illinois and Harvard University professor George Vaillant mention that intimate and affectionate relationships are the most important factor for a good life.
The welfare of all
Today we know that helping others not only implies an improvement for the community, but also benefits those who provide the help. Altruistic behaviors have been reported to result in good mental and physical health. A 2008 study by Michael Norton of Harvard Business School found that donating money to someone else increases the donor’s happiness more than if he/she had spent it on himself/herself. That is, to a large extent, happiness is found when we help others.
By: Facundo Manes
Publicado en Clarin