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Happiness FAQs

Reviewed by Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

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Q:Negative emotions are more powerful than positive emotions. True or False?

A:False.

While some research supports the assertion that negative emotions can outweigh positive emotions at times, that is contradicted by a number of studies. Positive memories, even positive memories about negative events, tend to be stronger than negative memories over time. Positive feelings tend to be stronger than negative feelings in the mornings compared to evenings and positive emotions tend to increase with age.

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Q:Which pair of chemicals is NOT used by the body to feel good?

A:Cortisol and prolactin.

Endorphins, the body's own opiate, are released during exercise and help elevate mood and decrease pain. Tryptophan is an endorphin that contributes to relaxation and sleep and is found in food sources rather than being made by the body itself. Serotonin and dopamine activity are thought to be deficient in depressed individuals and the replacement of each of these chemicals is the basis for the clinical effects of many antidepressant medications. Oxytocin is a bonding chemical released at times such as when women engage in sexual intercourse or breastfeed. Animal research has shown that vasopressin tends to counteract stress.

Cortisol and prolactin are stress hormones. Cortisol contributes to the body's fight or flight response, increasing heart rate, breathing rate, and appetite. Prolactin tends to increase in response to depression, producing a consoling response.

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Q:From a 2013 study of happiness, which country ranks #1 in life satisfaction?

A:Denmark.

In the 2013 World Happiness Study, Denmark was ranked first in overall in life satisfaction of its citizens while the United States ranked 17th. That is in contrast to Denmark ranking 16th in household income while the United States ranked first.

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Q:In general happy people do NOT have higher incomes or higher intellect than most? True or false?

A:True.

Contrary to the popular pursuit of wealth in the United States, happiness is less connected to income and more to expressing gratitude, savoring joy, forgiving others, and showing kindness to others. Getting a good night's sleep, regular exercise, and sexual activity, as well as practicing positive thinking are also instrumental in gaining and maintaining happiness.

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Q:People are hardwired to be either naturally happy or not. True or False?

A:False.

Research shows that happiness, like most emotional states, is the result of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. It is a combination of nature and nurture rather than either one alone.

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Q:Where do the happiest people in the United States live?

A:Research indicates that 6 of the top 10 ranked states for happiness are in the southern United States.

That is thought to be the result of less overall congestion and perhaps the lower cost of living.

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Q:You are more likely to be unhappy if you live in California. True or False?

A:True.

Despite the temperate weather California is famous for, it is thought that congestion and the high cost of living contribute to it ranking 46th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia on the level of happiness of its residents.

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Q:At what age are people happiest?

A:People are happiest at age 50 and above.

Research shows that as we age, we become happier. That is thought to also be associated with older adults having less negative emotions such as anger, as well as more frequently being in calm, relaxed states rather than thrill seeking.

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Q:Money makes people happier than sex. True or False?

A:False.

Studies show that frequent satisfying sexual activity is associated with marital and personal happiness. Wealth is not necessarily associated with a sense of satisfaction or well-being.

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Q:What is the mesolimbic system?

A:The mesolimbic system produces excitement and happy anticipation that happens when seeking rewards, satisfaction, and joy.

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Q:What method is used to help people gain physical and emotional healing and wellness?

A:Music therapy.

Music therapy, which is treatment that uses music for healing, has been found to help promote health and well-being in general for people with a variety of conditions, ranging from depression and anxiety to cancer.

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Q:Suppression of sadness is one of the keys to long-term happiness. True or False?

A:False.

Rather than suppressing sadness, acknowledging your problems and discussing them with loved ones is an important part of long-term happiness.

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Q:Gratitude improves one's own sense of happiness. True or False?

A:True.

Studies show that gratitude, appreciating what one has, is a key part of feeling happy. From the large to the small aspects of life, people who are in touch with the good parts of their lives tend to be happier than those who are not. To that end, keeping a journal of things you appreciate about your life can help you get in touch with your happiness.

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Q:"Hedonophobia," "hedonism," and "hedonist" are terms rooted in the Greek word that means what?

A:Pleasure. The words hedonism, hedonophobia, and hedonist come from "hedone," the Greek word for pleasure.

Definitions for hedonism are: the principle that moral value is determined by pleasure, or; indulgence in sensual pleasure. Hedonophobia is the fear of pleasure and a hedonist is someone who seeks to feel pleasure.

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Q:What do laughter and comedy do for the human body?

A:Laughter and humor have been found to have a number of health benefits.

Studies show laughter and comedy tend to decrease pain, stress, blood pressure, and heart rate. Other health benefits include improved blood circulation, decreased stress hormones, and improving the body's immune response.

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