The pursuit of
“The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy. It’s all that matters.” – Audrey Hepburn
Until recently it was believed that happiness is something that should be pursued by an individual, that it’s in the eye of the beholder. But in recent decades the idea that the happiness of the population is key to the success of a society, has become the primary view. Studying happiness can impart vital info about the culture at large, whether it’s about society, economic or environmental factors. It may sound strange… how do you study a subjective emotion? But happiness CAN be measured objectively, to the extent that the World Happiness Report has been conducted almost every year since 2012.
One of the positives that have come from the pandemic is that it has given us the time to pursue hobbies, explore our local areas and ask ourselves the big life questions that would normally get drowned out by the monotony of modern life.
“Does my life have a purpose?” – “Do I work to live, or live to work?” – “Am I being fulfilled?” – and most importantly, “am I happy?”
In the UK, we can clearly see the effect of these questions. The large shift to a work from home, flexible working set-up, seems to have made a long-term societal impact. Approximately 73% of employees want to continue working from home at least some of the time post-covid and 49% will look for a new job if employers don’t offer flexi-working after lockdown. Having the freedom to work in ways that suit you, can really benefit your happiness & mental wellbeing and therefore increase your productivity levels.
Personally, before Covid I was working 9:30-6 in an office with a commute that on a good day would take me just over an hour, after about a month I found that the commute really took it out of me to the point where I dreaded work and was constantly tired so my productivity was low. Since I started working from home for Evnly I haven’t felt any of this, and I believe it’s the allowance to work flexibly to get the job done, no the hours that motivates me; I’m happier and healthier for it.
But happiness isn’t just down to external factors like work…
No, like any behaviour in life the ‘nature vs nurture’ battle is valid – is happiness down to who we are as a person or is it due to the situation we find ourselves in? Why is it that one persons’ pain is another persons’ pleasure? If it is purely down to external factors then why don’t we all get the same level of happiness?
The reason our ‘happiness levels’ vary so much is that it, like all emotions, is controlled by hormones. This is the nature side of the equation. There are 4 key hormones that all are responsible for various forms of our body’s emotional response:
- Dopamine aka the ‘Feel Good Hormone’ is responsible for those pleasurable feelings you get when you do something you like. It conditions you to repeat the behaviour to get the happy-high again – for example, listening to your favourite song.
- Serotonin aka the ‘Happy Hormone’ is known to be the natural mood stabiliser but is also key to supporting your digestive function.
- Oxytocin aka the ‘Love Hormone’ is essential for creating the parent-child bond, but also supports trust & empathy in relationships. Oxytocin is released with physical touch, so cuddling, kissing and sex all increase your levels.
- Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever; they reduce the pain and increase the pleasure felt. Like dopamine, endorphin levels increase after reward-producing activities.
Can I influence my own happiness?
I know we’ve just looked at how happiness is physical but, it isn’t purely down to your chemical make-up - so it would be unwise to attribute it fully to this - hormone levels fluctuate, but external factors and activities influence this. Therefore, yes, it is possible to increase your happiness levels consciously.
‘Fake it till you make it’ is a cliché saying, but in the context of happiness, it’s often the case. Like confidence, it’s easy to trick your body into feeling happy. With confidence, if you ‘power pose’ before an interview, you will inadvertently feel more self-confidant – with happiness, if you force a smile or laugh, you’ll often find yourself truly smiling or laughing before long.
Like with anything, however, it’s important to understand the root cause of your dissatisfaction and make lifestyle changes to help shift your long-term happiness. Here are three simple life changes you can make to help impact your happiness level…
One very well-known tip to boost your mood is to exercise, whether that’s a 10km run or a 10min yoga session or a walk around the block- doing something every day REALLY helps. Although it sounds a bit wishy-washy, exercise has been proven to improve wellness and increase happiness. In a study referenced in Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, types of treatment on depression relapse rates were studied in three groups: medication only, exercise only and both. The group where exercise was used alongside medication was found to only have a 9% relapse rate compared to 31% in the medication-only group. Scientifically, when you exercise, endorphins are released leaving you with a lasting euphoric state.
Constantly comparing your life now, to what you believe your life should look like is a sure-fire way to become unhappy. Therefore, improving your self-esteem and self-confidence can have a large improvement on your happiness levels. There are some easy ways to begin to make this change:
- Unfollow social media accounts that you find knocks your self-esteem (for example ‘influencers’ who claim their body shape is down to exercise when they’ve had huge amounts of surgery).
- Try speaking to yourself as if you were talking to a friend, you would never call a friend ‘stupid’ for making a small mistake so why do you say it to yourself?
- Try to practice gratitude, when you start being grateful for who you are and what you have, you’ll notice yourself taking pleasure from the small things in life! As the wonderful Phil Harris sang:
“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife”
Finally, probably the hardest change to make is talking about it. It’s easy to say from behind a screen that ‘everything will be ok if you share your thoughts’ but it does truly help. The benefits of therapy are great, having an impartial person to listen and give you advice shouldn’t be scoffed at – however, if you don’t think you’re ready for that even communicating with friends can lighten your load. Let me give you an analogy that my therapist gave me to help explain my anxiety, which works for unhappiness & depression too:
Your thoughts (whether they’re worries or negativity) are like water dripping out of a tap. On some days the drops may be slow, it may be only a couple a day & on other days it may be a trickle. It may not seem like a lot, but you are the sink, that little bit of water may not make a big difference but if you don’t communicate the plug is in. Over a week, a month or a year that water is piling up, the only way to allow the water to escape is to open the plug, to talk about what’s going on inside your head.
Why do you care?
We believe everyone should be happy and that your happiness & wellness are intrinsically linked. We believe everyone should be happy and that your happiness & wellness are intrinsically linked. Here at Evnly, we want to level with you; we believe that health seriously needs an alternative, so we think it's time alternative health got serious. We truly love CBD, plant-based remedies and supplements. They help us to stay healthy, boost our mood, and keep us grounded and focused each day. We want everyone to understand the intricacies so you too can reach your health and wellness potential! Therefore, if you’ve found this blog useful, share it. If you want to see us write about a specific topic, please let us know.
P.S. we couldn't end this blog post without giving you a much needed dopamine hit, so enjoy this: