The pursuit of happiness is one of the great challenges facing our species. Although it may seem subjective, several studies have shown that, in reality, it depends essentially on well-defined factors.
Scientists at the prestigious Harvard University conducted one of the longest studies in history, following over 700 young people since 1938: the Adult Development Study. They discovered that the secret to happiness lies in a healthy environment and quality relationships. But other key factors can also contribute to happiness, such as playing sports and enjoying life's little pleasures. Let's take a closer look at these 3 secrets to happiness according to Harvard.
Experts point to sport, especially outdoor exercise, as the number one factor in happiness. “Fresh air and exercise are a powerful mood-enhancing combination. Walking, cycling, running and other aerobic activities release mood-enhancing hormones that can reduce stress and give a sense of well-being,” the team explains.
In addition, exercise increases levels of serotonin, a hormone known to contribute to well-being. Higher levels of serotonin are associated with a better mood. In fact, one study showed that just 90 minutes of activity a week led to mood improvements comparable to those of antidepressants. When combined with medication, exercise can even help mood disorders that are resistant to other treatments.
In terms of time commitment, the researchers recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week, or 20 vigorous minutes three times a week.
Happiness is found in things as simple as the small pleasures of everyday life. That's what the experts say: “Focus on the little everyday events in the same way you focus on the big ones, like a wedding day, the birth of a child or a relaxing vacation. After all, it's these little moments “that make up the majority of your life”, they remind us.
They provide other examples of simple pleasures: “Savor the time you spend gardening (yes, potted plants count) or sitting in front of a sunny window with a cup of tea. Put on some uplifting music. Laugh with family or friends while enjoying a good meal. Snuggle up under a soft blanket with a good book or podcast to enjoy. They finally remember the importance of celebrating achievements, no matter how small.
Lighten the burden of choice
Although we tend to think it's better to choose from a wide range, having more limited options is less worrisome. “Happiness depends partly on choice – after all, it would be very stressful to have no control whatsoever over your life. However, research has shown that people with more choices are more likely to regret them,” say the experts. Having to make numerous decisions throughout the day can be liberating.
When it's time to choose, don't hesitate to apply some basic advice: “Think that if a decision doesn't have major consequences, you'll limit the time you have to choose or give yourself fewer options.
Don't allow yourself to doubt the decision once made. Save your intense deliberations for more important, far-reaching issues. However, even when making these decisions, try to avoid looking back,” the researchers conclude.
My name is Maggie and I'm a writer for thesilverink.com, a website dedicated to news, culture and lifestyle. I have always been passionate about writing and I decided to make it my profession by becoming a web editor. I work on counterpoint.info and I mainly take care of the lifestyle section. I like to share my discoveries and my favorites with the readers, whether it's about fashion, beauty, decoration or gastronomy.