Happiness—The Real Science Behind It

If I were to ask you the question, “Would you like to be happier?”– most of you would say yes.  But do we really know how to become happier?  I am sure many of us think we would have some ideas.  But what are our ideas based on? The media and Western culture in general bombard us with flashy and persuasive messages on how to achieve this goal, making it easy to believe sustainable happiness can be found at the mall, the gym, with that certain someone, or on a beach somewhere.  Meanwhile depression rates have soared, divorce rates are still high, and people are in search of ways to improve their sense of well-being.  But how do we know what really works?

Let us begin with defining happiness.  When psychologists talk about happiness, they mean the experience of frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect, and a sense that life is meaningful and worthwhile.  Happiness also includes low-intensity positive emotions (e.g. tranquility), high-intensity positive emotions (joy, euphoria), and everything in between. Continue reading

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