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8 Things We All Need to Know About Happiness

TOPICS | Parenting | Education Posted Friday, March 21, 2014 (512 views)

We all have different ideas of how to achieve total bliss. For some it's in the company of loved ones, for others it's following their passions -- but is there more to it when it comes to the bigger picture of happiness?

It turns out there are a lot of factors that can affect whether you're sporting a sunny disposition. Ranging from mindful presence to the scents in the air, you may not even know these influencers could be contributing to your overall life satisfaction. In honor of the International Day of Happiness, below are 8 scientifically-backed facts that you need to know about getting to your happy place.

1. It's a choice.
As Aristotle once said, "Happiness depends upon ourselves." Perhaps the most simple way we can find bliss is to accept that it's completely up to us. As much as 40 percent of our happiness levels are within our control, according to some happiness researchers. In order to turn happiness into something you create, adopt small habits -- such as lingering on positive moments and forcing yourself to smile -- and you'll start to feel joy on your own.

2. The weather can influence happy feelings.
If you live in temperate climate, there's a chance you may be a more cheerful individual. Some research has discovered that there is a correlation between milder summers and winters and happiness. And just as mild climates can boost your mood, harsher climates can have a negative effect. During the winter months, many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, mainly due to the lack of light that comes with the season.

3. Happiness has a fragrance.
If you're looking to feel more cheerful, it may be time to stop and smell the roses -- literally. Researchers at the University of Florida found that the flower's smell has a positive influence on your emotions. Studies have also found that certain perfumes can have a prosocial effect and make people more altruistic.

4. Music can elevate your happiness.
Upbeat music = upbeat mindset? According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, those who listened to rousing music were better able to put themselves in a positive mood.

5. Happiness grows when you're older.
It may be time to forget everything you thought you knew about happiness and youth. Results from a 2013 Harris Poll revealed that life satisfaction is higher for older adults than young adults. Nearly 50 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are very happy, compared to just 31 percent of those ages 18-24.

6. Giving to others can give you a happiness boost.
Whether it's through helping charity or just a small act of kindness, altruism makes us feel good. One study even found that the happiness gleaned from volunteering can increase your longevity.

7. Joy is contagious.
Connecting yourself to happy people will make you happier too, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The research uncovered that if a close friend is happy, it increases the likelihood that you'll feel happier by 15 percent. Even being near people who you don't know very well -- or "third-degree friends" -- will increase your chance for joy by 6 percent.

8. Practicing gratitude can help you lead a happier life.
When you're thankful, you're more likely to be a more joyful person according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Expressing gratitude has also been proven to generate a more optimistic outlook on life and can even help lower stress. "Life is a series of problems that have to be solved -- and a lot of times those problems cause stress," Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, told HuffPost Healthy Living. "Gratitude can be that stress buster."

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