The science of happiness
It seems a bit unexpected to write about happiness during a pandemic, even a bit awkward. However, while we wait at home, this perhaps, is the perfect opportunity to think a little more deeply about life.
We are constantly flooded with a new wave of happiness and wellbeing media coverage. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen podcasts about positivity on Instagram these last few weeks. However, little is said about the science behind being happy.
Science has an important role in defining what happiness really looks like. Studies have been going on for years to establish whether happiness is in fact genetic or controlled by external factors.
Research in the field has long established a strong connection between an individual’s mind-set; social support system; day-to-day habits and lifestyle plus, how they react when in a stressful situation. Researchers now think that roughly 40 percent of our happiness is under our own control which means you really can change your outlook from ‘glass half empty’ to’ glass half full’ to result in a happier you.
In this article, we are exploring the building blocks of happiness from a science perspective to help you ‘find your happy’ while you are staying safe at home!
Using the 90-second rule to stay calm
Scientists say that constant reaction to things beyond our control not only creates misery but it also shortens our lives. Let us share something with you that we think is pretty powerful stuff. You can change the course of your reaction to a stressful situation in just 90-seconds.
THE SCIENCE BIT
A neuro-anatomist identified that there is a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body when a person has a reaction to something in their environment. After those 90-seconds have passed, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. So, after that time, those chemicals which have flooded your body are now flushed away.
We challenge you, next time you are emotionally charged or feel stress or anxious in the moment, instead of instantly reacting: PAUSE… INHALE… EXHALE… and allow the tension in your body ease while you look at your watch for 90-seconds. The outcome will be you are calmer and able to deal with the situation in a positive way.
The Power of 'Flow'
You probably know this term better as ‘getting in the zone’. ‘Flow’ is the scientific term used to describe a person totally immersed in an activity. It brings a feeling of focus; total absorption allowing your performance to go through the roof. Athletes, musicians, teachers, artists are all able to find their ‘Flow’ to enhance their abilities, when in a competitive or performance environment.
THE SCIENCE BIT
Research dating as far back as the early 1900’s suggests the brain can alter consciousness to improve performance. More recently, a team of neuro-scientists discovered that the brain releases five chemicals which are; pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing neuro-chemicals, increasing attention, pattern recognition, lateral thinking and muscle reaction times. These chemicals allow our voice of doubt and inner critic to go completely silent providing liberation which allows us to become more creative and to act without hesitation.
Flow really does matter in the quest for happiness. It makes the present instantly more enjoyable; it builds self-confidence and allows us to challenge ourselves and live a more meaningful existence all under our very own control.
To find your Flow, you need to try and allocate some free time on a creative or constructive pursuit. Join an online exercise group to improve your fitness; learn something completely new: a language; musical instrument or a craft. Challenge yourself to be a better cook or just spend time with the children learning their latest favourite trend like TikTok. Whatever you choose, life will feel better!
Find your tribe
Break free from your small tribal circle and reach out to find new relationships to bring your happiness up a notch. We tend to surround ourselves with a few key people who are just like us. They share the same values; lifestyle; temperament and likes but science says we should spread our wings a bit further.
THE SCIENCE BIT
There is preliminary evidence in many studies that people who score higher on the well-being scales have better social relationships with a wider network of people often in group format like belonging to a club or society. Studies also reveal that having more than 10 close social relationships that you are in contact with regularly (at least once a week) equates to a longer life span.
It certainly is more difficult, in these unprecedented times, to stay in touch with our friendship circle when we have to stay at home. The use of Zoom; House Party; FaceTime and other group networking apps is on the increase and even a phone call can make our happiness spike. Why not join a group or a programme where you will meet like-minded people all striving at the same end goal to broaden your network of people? We are obviously bias, but The Six Pack Revolution is a fantastic way to meet new people!
There is a huge scientific link between happiness and food. The term ‘comfort eating’ – the notion that certain foods will cheer us up when we are unhappy is familiar all over the world. However, there is scientific evidence to support the idea that an unhealthy gut can now be linked to how stressed or depressed we are and how we react to the signals our brains send us.
THE SCIENCE BIT
One of the biggest influencers of mood is a chemical called serotonin, a hormone that affects mood, anxiety and happiness. Between 80% – 90% of serotonin is created in our intestines. There is evidence that the healthy food we eat can encourage the production of serotonin, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine. Now there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support that idea of ‘we are what we eat’ – and how that affects our gut bacteria, may actually be linked to how stressed or depressed we are and how we react to the signals our brains send us.
Science says a healthy balanced diet is essential to alleviate mood swings; depression and anxiety. So switch out those baddies like sugary drinks and sweets; starchy foods and alcohol and get ready to detox. Choose more of a whole food, plant-based diet that gives you clarity, energy and lasting vitality. Vegetables, grains and legumes are rich in micro-nutrients and packed with antioxidants that fight disease, alkalise your body and slow the ageing process down. Add super-foods that are known for being nutrient-dense and get ready to feel fantastic!
Ramp up your exercise
Breaking a sweat is about more than burning calories. Studies show that exercising for at least 20 minutes a day; 3 times a week, mitigates symptoms of mental illness and are connected to higher levels of happiness.
THE SCIENCE BIT
Science has determined if you start exercising, your brain recognises this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. Happy endorphins are released into your body, that’s why we often feel so at ease, happier and things feel clearer after exercising.
Treat exercise as ‘play time’ and give your brain a well-needed break. Working out requires you to be fully present and focused in the here and now, giving you time out from the day to day things in your life. Still not sure how to start? check out our latest video… The New and Improved 75 Day Programme.
Sleep like a baby
Humans are built for night time sleeping. All you ‘night owls’ out there may think you are more creative late in the day, or staying up all night doesn’t seem to affect your mood. Think again. Sleep deprivation studies show that late evenings can be directly linked to repetitive negative thoughts and irrational emotional behaviour.
THE SCIENCE BIT
Significant sleep studies carried out in America have found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours. When we are sleep deprived, it’s really as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behaviour, regressing in terms of the control humans normally have over their emotions often leading to irrational thoughts or behaviour. Studies also reveal that sleep loss can impair the immune system and make the brain up to 60% more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. This hyperactive response is caused by a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe which would normally keep our emotions under control.
To improve your sleep and wake up happy there are a number of things you can do during the day to help you slip straight off to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can improve your sleep time. Foods that impact tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin like eggs and salmon can help your sleep quality and duration. Daily exercise will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. It could involve some yoga or relaxation exercises before bed or listening to an audio-book to take your mind away from the daily stresses.
The Six Pack Revolution is a 75 day transformation programme, where we coach you on fitness, mind-set and nutrition.
Founded by Scott Harrison, the programme includes everything you need to get you into the best shape of your life. You’ll learn how to cook delicious recipes, and complete daily and weekly fitness challenges within a group of like-minded people, all looking to achieve the same outcome as YOU!
All our Six Pack Revolution coaches have been through the programme. They started where you are today and are proof that the programme works, and proof that anyone can do it too!
One of the best things about The Six Pack Revolution is the support network. You’ll get to know your new fitness family through a private Facebook Group. This is ‘The Hub’ where others in the group share their experiences, results and tips on overcoming obstacles.
We believe in you, and can’t wait to welcome you to the revolution!
Message from our founder, Scott Harrison
By doing things like practising self-love, getting a better nights rest, being creative, fuelling your body with the right food and exercising regularly you are automatically directing your focus on positive mantras.
Invest your time in people who inspire you, your family and your friends using technology and start to rebuild the foundation that will lead to lasting wellness.
So please allow this time, while you are staying home and staying safe to take time to breathe and to re-centre your priorities to match up with your desires!