The science of happiness

Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a meaningful contribution to their community. 

Every year, 20 March is commemorated as International Day of Happiness, which was established in 2012 aiming to help us reflect on the importance of happiness in human life. 

We all desire happiness and may spend our whole lives seeking it and struggle to attain it.

Are you happy?

1. Are you satisfied with your life?

2. Do you still find joy in just being alive?

3. Can you face life’s challenges with cheerfulness and enthusiasm?

4. Do you find contentment in life even if you do not necessarily have everything you would want or need?

5. Do you feel fulfilled in life?

The Science of Happiness

Happiness results from a complex interplay of psychological, biological, and social factors including:

 Personality factors like the ability to be optimistic even when facing challenges. 

 Mental resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. 

 Our outlook on life. 

 Genetic factors and our brain chemistry can affect our ability to stay positive and be resilient to adversity. 

 Our physical health. 

 Our mental well-being, mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, substance use disorders, and psychotic mental health disorders can affect our ability to experience happiness

 The strength of relationships and our ability to connect meaningfully to others, is difficult to be happy when you conflict with others

 Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, feeling like one is achieving something in life. The Harvard Study of Human Development is one of the longest longitudinal studies of human life and development and it has followed a cohort of men from their childhood into old age. 

The study has allowed factors that influence overall happiness and  satisfaction to be studied over a lifetime. Factors that were identified in the study included:

1. A happy childhood, teaches us how to be happy and that it is possible to be happy. 

2. Healthy relationships in adulthood that support us and help us whether life’s storms. 

3. Learning to manage stress, to adapt and to be resilient Keys to experiencing more happiness. 

1. Be aware of your emotions and find healthy ways to express them. 

2. Strive to be authentic. 

3. Have a vision for your life, vision is mentally protective, and have clear goals to live towards helps us have a sense of achievement and happiness as we achieve them. 

4. Build meaningful relationships, work on mending broken relationships, or disengage from harmful relationships. Happiness is closely linked to the people we choose to surround ourselves with and the investment we make into our relationships. 

5. Reach out and help others live beyond yourself, beyond your wants and needs. Helping another person has an even stronger impact on our sense of fulfilment and happiness than self-actualisation itself. 

If you think that you or someone that you know may be experiencing a mental health problem, please contact your nearest healthcare provider and get help.

Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse +263777727332 www.ahfoz.org [email protected]

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