The scientific pursuit of happiness

Attitude of gratitude

Wealth can also be that attitude of gratitude where we remind ourselves everyday to count our blessings.

Being grateful has a wealth of benefits. Research studies have shown it leads to better overall life satisfaction. Deliberate counting of “blessings” by writing them down somewhere in a gratitude journal has health benefits, the number of visits to the physicians become fewer within around 3 to 4 weeks. Being thankful improves mood, it also reduces worry and angst which in turn improves sleep. In another study, it was found that writing a thank you note to a loved one instantly increases happiness and satisfaction and also helps with reducing depressive symptoms. So, it’s time we took our notepads and started jotting down the things we are grateful about.


Don’t we all love receiving compliments! An unexpected compliment can brighten even the gloomiest of day. Klarissa Castro, a doctoral researcher at Chicago, suggests that compliments can act as a mood fixer not only for the receiver but also to the giver of the compliment. Compliments act as a positivity blanket around any situation. The compliment giver benefits because s/he has to look for the positives in a person or in any situation. By looking at the positives in the situation, the person feels grateful and thereby s/he feels happy. For giving compliments, we have to focus on what is good about the situation/person.  It changes the way we look at the world, when done consistently for some duration because it trains our brains to focus on the positive instead of the negative. This works only if the compliment is authentic and genuine.

Exercise: You’ve got to move it!

We’ve heard it a thousand times before; exercise is indeed good for your health, both, physical and mental. Human beings have evolved from being nomads who hunted for food to now, sitting at the computer for hours on end to work. There is a stark difference between our active lifestyle in the past to the sedentary lifestyle at present. Exercise helps ease the way by adding activity to our lives. The benefits of exercise are innumerable: reduces fat, makes us fitter, improves sleep, releases endorphins, reduces blood pressure, reduces risk of type 2 diabetes and so on, you get the point. Research has  suggested that among the different leisure activities which we think give happiness only exercise seems to withstand the scrutiny of science. It lowers anxiety and reduces symptoms of depression by increasing the level of happy hormones or ‘endorphins’ and helps redirect our energy toward a different perspective to tackle a problem.  All of this happens within 20 minutes of training. What are you waiting for? Get going on that treadmill.


Caring for others seems to be influential in increasing the positive feelings experienced. Caring for others consistently reduces depressive symptoms, increases our overall life satisfaction and also protects us from death and disease. Caring for others can be in many ways, as a volunteer, by giving financial support, or reaching out to a person in need. Caring for others increases our positive mood and this is especially pronounced in the case of older adults who volunteer. Younger adults who engage in volunteering for a long time for the sake of volunteering itself experience better psychological health. Caring for others thus reduces the negative physiological impacts of stressors.

So, go that extra mile for the people you care about, compliment them, express how grateful you are to have them in your life and you will be running towards happiness.

 Jayanthi Iyengar