What makes us happy in the end of the day?

What makes us happy in the end of the day?

Material goods are not enough, we need something more for happiness and health...

The link between mental and physical health is something that is almost self-evident nowadays for the scientific community. In recent years, with the advent of positive psychology, research has gone even further, finding that our mood and much more our psychological state are associated with the risk of many illnesses.

Several studies have shown that cardiovascular health is significantly better in people who report being happier.

One obvious explanation is that happy people follow healthier habits such as exercise and proper nutrition. However, the findings of these investigations provide greater depth.

For example, happy people appear to have lower levels of cortisol (considered the "stress hormone"), reduced biological indicators of inflammation, and even changes in brain "wiring".

Obviously all these differences make happy people more resistant to the effects of stress, but also to the detrimental effects of the environment we live in.


What is happiness?

But here comes the fundamental question 'how do we measure happiness?' Is it just the pursuit of activities and material things that make us feel like a fancy car or is it something more? The discussion is not literary, it is about our health.

For Professor Julia Boehm, who studies the relationship between happiness and health at Harvard, there is "hedonic" happiness and "well-being" happiness.

"Eternal" happiness, as its root implies, is about the pleasure and immediate pleasure we feel when our desires are fulfilled. On the contrary, "happy" happiness is about life satisfaction, in a broader sense, that is, "fulfilling one's abilities and achieving a goal in life," as Julia Boehm explains.

Some scientists have studied the two forms of happiness in the lab and have found some important differences.

For example, people with bliss have reduced biomarkers of inflammation, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), according to a study by the University of Wisconsin. These indicators are linked to a number of health problems such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Carol Ryff, who participated in the university's research team, argues that having a strong social support network (in the sense of social relationships) - an integral part of long-term life satisfaction - is linked to lower levels of the same biomarkers.

The two types of happiness appear to have different effects on the brain and its respective regions.

Hedonic happiness is more closely linked to dopamine, a substance used by nerve cells to communicate with one another and to convey feelings of pleasure and goodwill from one brain area to another.

People who experience pleasure in the sense of bliss have more activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, which governs executive planning and thinking. They also have reduced activity in areas of the brain such as the tonsil. By this name we call a group of almond-shaped neurons that are considered part of the more "primitive" part of the brain, which trigger emotions such as fear in order to react quickly to them. This process was useful for the primitive man who had to deal with environmental threats immediately. People with "good fortune" are slower to rate negative events as such, which could mean they are less likely to "freak out".



It is not a matter of definitions but of substance

For researchers of positive psychology, happiness is more than the lack of problems or what we describe with the phrase "I'm good".

Julia Boehm says she prefers the term "positive psychological well-being" to "well-being" because she "captures a wide range of conditions, including happiness, purpose in life, optimism, life satisfaction, etc."

Probably some other researchers would prefer another definition. After all, the field of psychology is quite new to traditional psychology, which only deals with the problem, so it is constantly supplemented by additional research and theories.

In any case, what we are talking about in this article is an indicator of psychological functioning that goes beyond mere absence of illness such as depression, anxiety, etc. "Just because you have no symptoms of depression or anxiety doesn't mean you are working in the best way possible," Boehm notes.


What brings happiness?

We have re-written that meaningful life, that is, life for a purpose, is an integral part of positive psychology, thus an integral part of good health.

Professor of Psychology and Social Sciences Edward L. Deci, who was involved in a research study at the University of Rochester, believes that by achieving 'American dream' goals (big house, fancy car, etc.) 'you feel really less satisfied from the need for autonomy and a sense of effectiveness in the world, and this leads to more illness. "

As another participant in Deci's research put it, all this pursuit of wealth and fame "makes me feel like a pawn or a puppet in life."



Alice G. Walton, (2012), What We Know Now About How to Be Happy, The Atlantic.

- Julia K Boehm, Sonja Lyubomirsky, (2008), Does happiness promote career success?, Journal of Career Assessment

Julia K Boehm, Sonja Lyubomirsky et al, (2011), A Longitudinal Experimental Study Comparing the Effectiveness of Happiness-Enhancing Strategies in Anglo Americans and Asian Americans, Cognition & Emotion.



By Dr Angel,

Αggeliki Koskeridou

Holistic Doctor – Counseling Psychotherapist

Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

MSc Health Psychology


insta: dr_aggelikikoskeridou_official 


Pin It

Search for articles

Follow Us

We use cookies for a better browsing experience. We are GDPR compliant.

Εγγραφείτε & Κερδίστε ένα δώρο έκπληξη!