“Happiness is when you are understood by others” – these are the words of a character from a film We’ll Live ‘Till Monday (1968). Everyone has their own answer to the question “What is happiness?”. For some people it’s their family, for others – a possibility to realize your dreams and ambitions, while some of us need to travel in order to be happy. Scientists claim that all of us tend to be happiest at some particular stages of our life. Besides, they are sure that for happiness we mostly need more or less the same things.
One of the goals of LifeSoEasy is to make our readers at least a bit happier and we’ll tell you what is required for that.
Hannes Schwandt, who works at London School of Economics, conducted research among 23 161 people at the age of 17 to 85 living in Germany and asked them to evaluate the level of their satisfaction with life – the first time during 1991 and 2002, and the second time – 5 years later. Based on the results of this survey, the scientist created a U-shaped graph with the highest points being at 23 and 69 years old. It means people of that age feel the happiest in their life.
Why exactly 23 and 69?
The first “Happiness Age” comes when a person is in their early twenties. At this age people are completely satisfied with they physical and mental state and are full of expectations and hope for the future. Moreover, when a person is 23, they assume that the level of their happiness will only increase. The same study showed, however, that the expectations level is actually 10 % higher than the happiness level at a given time. It means people actually live a slightly less happy life than they imagined in their youth.
The lowest level of happiness, however, is at the age of about 50. Apart from the fact that people then feel the loneliest, they also realize that their youth is gone and they are at the threshold of old age. Another thing that brings people at this age down is that they start regretting missed opportunities of their life. But after that we generally start accepting our age and the “happiness graph” is starting to go up reaching its highest point when we’re 69.
The second peak of happiness, which people tend to feel when they are at their late sixties, is caused by a few other factors. Firstly, at this age people start getting satisfaction and happiness from doing simple things and realizing how they underestimated their importance earlier. Secondly, most people who reach 69 are retired and the stress connected to work disappears. Moreover, people have more free time and they get the opportunity to spend it taking care of themselves.
What is happiness from a scientific point of view?
Hormones are responsible for the feeling of happiness. The mechanism of this process is as follows: as a result of some stimulus like, say, hugging a person dear to us, our body produces hormone Dopamine which influences a special group of neurones in our brain that, in return, makes us feel happy. Dopamine is also responsible for the feeling of love, including mother’s love.
Dopamine is produced even when we’re thinking about a pleasurable moment of our life, that’s why even this gives us satisfaction.
In spite of the common belief, happy people are no healthier than unhappy ones. According to a research done on 1 million women, the subjective level of happiness doesn’t influence our health and lifespan. It’s actually the other way around: healthy people feel happier than those who suffer from a disease.
Can the level of happiness be increase?
It surely can. It’s easier than you might think. For example, one of the factors that trigger the happiness mechanism is helping others. A study shows that people who do good deeds 5 times a week, 6 weeks in a row, become happier.
In the same study scientists found out that the more defined your goal is, the more the level of happiness grows. That is, to become happier, you need to help a specific person, other than setting an abstract goal. For example, it’s much more satisfying to find home for a homeless person than to donate money into a fund for people who don’t have a home.
Daniel Gilbert, a social psychologist who is known at Harvard as a Professor of Happiness since he directs a laboratory studying the nature of human happiness, is convinced that the most important thing that makes us happy is spending time with family and people close to us. It’s more important than money and even a bit more important than health. Besides, money spent on going to the cinema or travelling will make you happier than buying things and the reason is that we share such events with others.
In fact, it’s been proved that even a smile can make us happier. So, put a nice big smile on your face and be happy!
What do you think? What age has been the happiest for you?
Featured image: Brodie Vissers / stocksnap