Born Joyful or Raised Joyful?
In the Genes
Your Happy Brain ChemicalsNeurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that signal your body to respond to your brain's demands. Those that affect our happiness are involved in other processes, such as addiction, sleep and stress. People are born with different levels of these neurotransmitters, and structural differences in their nervous system that partially account for certain mood disorders, such as depression. The three main neurotransmitters involved in positive moods each have a distinct role:
Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter that connects with the reward centers of the brain. It is central to motivation, pleasure and rewards.
Serotonin regulates mood. High levels are associated with serenity and optimism.
Norepinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter. It causes physical and mental arousal and heightens mood.
Other Components of HappinessBesides our inherited “set point” for a certain level of happiness, what factors determine how much we actually experience joy in our lives? Happiness scientist Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., of the University of California at Riverside, agrees with the twin study, saying each person's innate happiness “set point” accounts for 50% of well-being. READ MORE
Another important factor that is not fully within a person's control is his or her economic circumstances and access to resources. Lacking basic necessities is a barrier to happiness, and economic status accounts for about 10% of the happiness equation, says Lyubomirsky. The remaining 40% is alterable. We can learn new ways to approach life that will make us happier, regardless of the other two components. LESS
Raising Joyful ChildrenWe know that happy people tend to be optimistic, extroverted, have high self-esteem, and feel that they can control important aspects of their lives. Supporting or fostering these qualities in children will give them a bigger emotional tool kit for building and maintaining a happy life.
- Display optimism about life events, especially when they pertain to your family.
- Encourage kids' social life and friendships, and make it clear that your relationships are important to you, too.
- Give your child sincere praise when he or she does well, especially at a task that's important to the child. If kids sense that you are praising every move they make, large or small, it will lose impact.
- Encourage independence appropriate to the child's age. As they demonstrate self-sufficiency at various tasks, cheer them on. It is difficult to give up control, but remind yourself that you are giving your child a gift by showing them all that he or she can do alone. Feeling independent and in control are central to happiness.