Written By: Robert R. Cassman, LPCC
What’s the secret to happiness? What do happy people do that depressed people don’t do? Let’s find out.
- Laugh & smile. In a study, researchers gave a happiness test to college students. Those who scored high were put aside. Those who scored low were then told to walk around the campus for the next week smiling and laughing. They were told the study was measuring social acceptance. In reality it was measuring their own happiness. After the week, those students who laughed and smiled had increased their happiness substantially… and the only thing they changed was how much they laughed and smiled. Happy people laugh and smile more than those who aren’t happy.
- Exercise. Happy people exercise more than those who are depressed. As the body gets healthier, the mind gets healthier. There is much science to the chemistry of the body but suffice it to say that happier people exercise.
- Sun exposure. In a previous article, I discussed the benefits of the sun. Happier people get more sun as they tend to get outside more often. Whether it is working on a flower bed or going to the pool, happy people find reasons to be outside. Depressed people stay indoors with the shades drawn. The sun increases the amount of the brain chemical Serotonin. This is the brain’s natural happiness drug.
- Socialize. Loneliness is a trademark of the depressed. Having friends, a spouse etc. can safeguard us against the deep depression that so many suffer from. Getting out and being with others has been shown to lead to more satisfaction and belonging.
- Volunteer. Happy people help others. Happy people are generous with their time and talents. If you are struggling with depression, then do something for another person! Sometimes depression is so selfish that it clouds our judgment into thinking of anyone else.
- Life goal. Happy people are striving toward something. Even better, they have reached their goal and are fully satisfied with where they are in life. They are grateful where they work, who they are married to etc. Depressed people settle for the same old job they have hated for ten years.
- Diet. Along with # 2, happy people eat healthier than those who are sad. Again, it is quite simple: a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
- Religious. For a couple of potential reasons, those who describe themselves as religious tend to be happier over their lifetimes. Going to a church may lead to a community feel and more socialization. Others have theorized that believing in God and an afterlife brings more hope to their lives and allows them to have more purpose.
- More books and less TV. Depressed people watch many more hours of TV each week than those who are happy. There have been studies to show the effects of TV viewing on mood. Also, those who are happier, on average, spend more time reading than those who are not happy. Reading uses more brain power than watch TV (one study even showed that the brain is used more during sleep than during TV viewing!)
- Healthy sleep. Depressed people actually tend to sleep more hours per day than happy people. We know it is not simply the amount of sleep but the quality of sleep. So many people still feel groggy after ten hours of sleep! Finding a good routine to help one fall asleep is very important. Even top athletes understand the importance of healthy sleep.
- Physical touch. Those who are physically touched are those same people who tend to be happy. In a classic but heart-wrenching study, half of the newborn babies were shown to die without being touched or looked at beyond the absolute necessity. In this 1944 study, the babies were fed and cleaned but were not given any affection. This has also been shown in monkeys and other animals. Touch is vitally important. Hugs, a hand being held etc. can go a long way. Some studies have shown an increase in Serotonin and Dopamine by simple physical touch.
- Positive thinking. This is the granddaddy of them all. Those who are optimistic show a greater level of happiness in the same situation as those who are depressed. People with gratitude for what they have tend to take responsibility for their own problems and refuse to be victims. They tend to see the source of change within themselves and not from someone else. They “don’t sweat the small stuff” and are able to see that there is a solution to most problems.
Look over these. Which ones do you not have? Now you know what to increase in your life.