There have been endless books written about the nature of happiness and joy, but for the sake of this article we will define happiness as: a mental state of pleasure ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happiness caused by chemicals produced by both internal and external stimuli such as dopamine and serotonin interacting with the brain.
The more difficult question is not what causes us to be happy, as anyone familiar with basic neurochemistry can give your a fairly straightforward answer, but why happiness varies so much in individuals, even in similar circumstances.
A recent study done by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, James Fowler, and Bruno Frey, using data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, has surmised that not only is around 33% of happiness linked to genetics, a figure found in studies of genetically identical twins, but a more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene 5HTT can raise the likelihood of being “very satisfied with life” anywhere between 8-11%.
This groundbreaking study, which is the first to find a gene directly linked to happiness regardless of outside circumstance, is the harbinger of more research on a genetically set “default” happiness. The island nation of Fiji leads the world in happiness, despite being labeled a “third world” country by more developed nations such as the United States.
There are many theories to explain this figure such as their culture, island setting, diet, lifestyle, and of course, genetics. In my opinion, it is a combination of all of these factors. The sun drenched island of Fiji is not only a great example for the genetic theory of happiness, but also for the carnal.
MovNat is a program dedicated to returning humanity to its evolutionary roots.
The premise of MovNat is that humanity has become disconnected with our roots in nature, eating artificial food, living in artificial habitats, and practicing artificial fitness. This message is very similar to most paleo fitness enthusiasts and zoologist Desmond Morris in his book, The Naked Ape.
This premise, that humanity has evolved for million of years to live in, thrive in, and enjoy a specific environment (notably the warm, sunny climate of sub-Saharan Africa), logically assumes that when people begin to replicate their instinctive behavior in things like diet (Mostly meat, nuts, and some vegetables) and lifestyle (Active and sun drenched), their happiness should rise as their genetic makeup begins to resonate with their lifestyle.
Benefits of an active lifestyle, excluding the obvious overall health benefits, include things such as reduced risk of arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, a stronger immune system, and a severely lessened risk of clinical depression.
Not only can things such as things such as genes, circumstances, and physical activity influence happiness, but also something as small as sunlight. Season affective disorder or SAD (irony?) is defined as disorder marked by episodes of depression that occur at a certain time of year, usually during winter. A large majority of the population, myself included, suffer from this disorder which is generally remedied by sunlight or artificial full spectrum light.
Aside from the more symbolic psychological effects of sunlight as a symbol of freedom and openness, it also assists the body in synthesizing the vast majority of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is synthesized in the skin and is recognized as a common deficient vitamin in developed countries due to lack of sun exposure.
It is recognize to benefit the body in ways ranging from bone health to cancer prevention, but in my personal experience has increased happiness dramatically. When on a D3 regimen I was markedly happier on a base level that during a control period. In addition to helping the body synthesize certain happiness inducing compounds the sun also helps us synchronize our circadian rhythm which is our biological clock for things like sleep, which have tremendous effect on overall happiness.
Things like happiness vs. dissatisfaction or contentment vs. aspiration will continue on ad infintum in the realm of philosophy, and bear special relevance to the aspiring elite, but when happiness is defined, measured, and perceived as feelings of joy and contentment, it is simply a matter of chemistry.
Jacob Elliott | Elite Daily