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A brilliant Harvard psychologist reveals the most important factor in human happiness

It’s a dark world out there. Anytime you switch on the news, there’s always something negative going on like bombings, destruction, natural disasters…and it can seriously mess up our point of view about the world.

It makes things look worse than it is. It’s like wearing the opposite of rose-colored glasses.

But it’s time to stop letting this cloud our view of the world.

Harvard psychologist, Shawn Achor, says that this is crucial if we are to live in happy and fulfilling life:

“It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.”

According to Achor, the actual circumstances in your life – health, money, relationships, prestige – predicts only about 10% of your happiness:

“90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”

Achor’s research has basically flipped our understanding of happiness inside out. He says that you don’t get happy by achieving success. You achieve success by getting happy.

So, how do we change our lens to which we see the world?

Echor says that it’s all about activating dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine can have a huge impact on our overall feelings of wellbeing, pleasure, and mood.

Low levels of this important substance in our brains is associated with things like low mood and depression, pain, loneliness, stress, anxiety, and difficulty feeling motivated.

Therefore, to improve our perspective of the world and activate our dopamine in the brain, we can engage in the following natural activities:

Create a checklist. Every time we achieve a goal, no matter how small, dopamine is released. By keeping a small to-do list you’ll release dopamine each time you check something off. You’ll also get more stuff done!

Keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day. Keeping a gratitude journal has shown to increase dopamine in the brain.

Stand up straight. Assuming a strong posture, even for as little as 2 minutes, has been shown to increase confidence levels and decrease stress hormones like cortisol, which works directly against neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Consume dark chocolate. Consuming chocolate has also been found to increase dopamine levels, which is known for being crucial in motivation. Stick with dark chocolate at least 70 percent cocoa or higher, eat it regularly (about 2-3 times a week), and consume around 1.5 to 2 ounces for best results.

Get a massage. Massages don’t just make your body feel good, but studies have shown that they also help increase levels of dopamine and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

To learn more about Achor’s work, watch his inspiring TED talk:

RELATED ARTICLE: A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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