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Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness

February 01, 2024

Being happy makes everyone feel good, right? It’s a natural feeling that comes with joyful moments and meaningful relationships. But there is more that happens inside your mind.


This is where positive psychology steps in. Positive psychology is the study of how we function as human beings. As you learn more about positive psychology, you can begin to understand more about what happens when we experience positive emotions.

What is the Human Desire for Happiness?

Our desire to be happy is an essential part of being human. It is ingrained in how we think and act. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain have always been crucial for our survival. 


Happiness really depends on your emotional state. Being content and joyful will contribute to your satisfaction. You will naturally attract people, relationships, and experiences that make you feel good. 


However, happiness doesn’t just focus on human pleasure. It’s also about finding meaning and purpose in your life. Humans are social beings, meaning the desire for happiness comes from those social connections. Being around people can make you feel truly loved and understand your true purpose in life. 

Explaining the Science Behind Being Happy

Researchers study many factors that contribute to happiness. These include psychological, physiological, and social factors. 


Here are some aspects of the science behind being happy:


There are neurotransmitters in your brain for mood regulation. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. You can exercise and socialize with people to stimulate these neurotransmitters and, in turn, impact your mood in a positive way. 


Studies using neuroimaging techniques have also identified brain regions associated with happiness. The iprefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus are some of the prominent locations. These are involved in your emotional regulation, memory, and processing positive stimuli.

Positive Emotional State 

Barbara Fredrickson created a theory called broaden and build. This theory suggests that positive emotions broaden your thoughts and actions. Being happy could enhance your creativity, resilience, and social life. 


More research shows that people have a natural level of happiness that stays consistent. However, certain activities can have a positive impact on this natural level. For example, hanging out with friends can make you feel good.

Cognitive Factors 

Optimistic thinking can actually make you happier. Resilience also contributes to sustained well-being. Being resilient allows you to adapt to unexpected obstacles in your life. 


Mindfulness meditation and positive thinking can also increase your happiness. Doing meditation helps you be present in the moment. On the other hand, positive thinking involves having optimistic and constructive thoughts.

Social Connection and Relationships 

Having strong social connections and supportive relationships can bring more happiness into your life. You should have more positive interactions with your friends, family, and people in your community. 


Helping others could also increase your happiness. Being kind lifts your mood and contributes to a sense of purpose. 

Personal Growth and Behaviour

Setting and working towards meaningful goals contributes to a sense of purpose. You can also do things that you personally value. This should make you feel happier and more excited to try new things in life.

Understanding Positive Psychology 

Positive psychology focuses on various areas. These include positive emotions, strengths, resilience, and optimism. In fact, positive psychology acknowledges the full spectrum of human experiences. It emphasizes personal growth and resilience without disregarding challenges or negative emotions.


Here are some main components of positive psychology: 

Positive Emotions

Positive psychology suggests that positive emotions protect your health. Feeling joy and gratitude can have positive effects on your physical and emotional state. 


Not only that, but positive emotions also contribute to a broader perspective. They enhance creativity, resilience, and your overall mental health. You should express gratitude or savor positive experiences to foster a positive emotional state.

Mindfulness and Presence 

Mindfulness is essential in a world full of distractions. Being mindful involves self-awareness and appreciation. You could try meditation and deep breathing exercises to appreciate each moment and reduce your stress and anxiety. By being fully present, we can find contentment and establish a stronger connection with ourselves. 

Being Happy in Your Daily Life 

Positive psychology focuses on identifying our personal strengths. This means we can better navigate challenges and live a life that aligns with our values. 


Recognizing and applying our strengths is about personal achievement. With this, you can find fulfillment and purpose in life. Embracing your strengths can make you happier and more determined.

3 tips on How to Be Happier 

Everyone finds happiness in different places. Although being around people helps, you shouldn’t depend on others to be happier. Instead, following a few simple habits can help change your mindset. 


Here are ways you can promote your own happiness:

1. Practice Gratitude 

Gratitude is a powerful tool when increasing your happiness. It can impact your well-being when you value the positive aspects of life. Making gratitude a part of your daily routine can boost your overall happiness.


Create a gratitude diary and write down things you appreciate every day. They can be small or big. Writing them down will strengthen positive thoughts and redirect your attention to the positive parts of life.


Show your appreciation to those around you as well. You can do this by writing a sincere note, sending a text, or simply talking to them in person. Letting others know you value them can strengthen your long-term relationships. 

2. Maintain Positive Relationships in Your Life 

The key to a satisfying life lies in the quality of your relationships. Positive psychology suggests that having meaningful bonds with others can enhance your overall well-being.


Show empathy and actively listen to improve your relationships. Make a deliberate attempt to understand other viewpoints and acknowledge their emotions. This helps create understanding and emotional support in your relationships.


You should prioritize quality time over how much time you spend with loved ones. You can build stronger connections when dedicating your undivided attention to meaningful moments. You can do this through heartfelt conversations, activities, or just being there for each other.


Finally, build a strong circle of supportive people around you. You can build relationships with people who motivate and encourage you. Having a reliable social support system helps you overcome problems and boosts your overall happiness.

3. Have Engagement and Flow 

Flow is a mental state where you are fully engaged in an activity. These types of activities will usually allow you to lose track of time. Discovering and nurturing these experiences can increase your happiness in life. You should do things that make time slip away. 


For example, list the things you do regularly that make you really happy. Recognizing these activities that make you feel in the zone is very essential. These are the times when you're most likely to feel extra happy!


If you want, try to reduce any distractions around you. This means silencing your phone and sitting in a quiet area. This will enable you to fully engage in your task, increasing the chances of achieving a state of flow. 


Exploring different activities can also bring more joy and excitement to your life. Try new hobbies or rediscover old interests to keep your engagement experience fresh. 

Why It’s Important to Face Challenges in Life 

Challenges are always there on the path to happiness. Life's ups and downs can bring obstacles that can affect your well-being. However, positive psychology is essential for making you resilient. 


You can’t be happy without facing some challenges. Setbacks, failures, and unexpected events are normal parts of being human. Instead, see these obstacles as chances to develop and learn.


Resilience is not about avoiding challenges. It’s actually about developing a mindset that helps you to handle them. Embrace the notion that setbacks are temporary and conquerable. This positive perspective empowers you to confront challenges with a proactive mindset. 


In some instances, seeking the guidance of a mental health professional can be essential in building resilience. They can give you tools and coping strategies for navigating specific challenges. 


Here at the Ontario Psychological Association, we have an form. Completing this will help us pair you with the right psychologist. It could be the first step to getting the help you deserve. 


Positive psychology can help anyone become happier. We can use a scientific approach to experience a more satisfying life. This begins with acknowledging our natural desire for happiness and practising positive emotions. You must also recognize your strengths and embrace mindfulness.


Being happy in your everyday life is a conscious effort. Gratitude helps us see the world in a positive light. On the other hand, being fully engaged and focused adds purpose to our experiences. Remember that challenges are not obstacles but opportunities for growth. They encourage us to develop resilience and transform ourselves! 


Still want more advice? Check out our OPA resources. We share more about psychology and why finding a psychologist could be right for you. You can also become a member for member discounts and training tips.