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Question Your World: What Makes You Happy?

For over a decade scientists around the world have been studying happiness and its impact on our physiology. Why would people spend so much time studying happiness? Maybe that makes them happy? So, what makes you happy? Here’s the latest Question Your World Radio Report from the Science Museum of Virginia with more.

Rod Stewart loves soccer, Jennifer Aniston is a big fan of camping, and Albert Einstein was way into playing violin. The things that make us happy are pretty important to us, but why? Well, it turns out that happiness has a measurable impact on our physiology. Scientists around the world agree that happiness levels impact various aspects of physiology such as muscle tension, cardiorespiratory functions, and even stress management

These recent studies indicate that happiness is no laughing matter. Well, perhaps it is a laughing matter. It’s being taken quite seriously by a lot of people. Gallup, the same folks that do the surveys around election time, conducted a well-being survey and ranked all the United States in order of the happiest states (Virginia was sighted at #15). The United Nations also conducted a similar study. In 2012 the international organization announced that Denmark landed high atop their happiness index. The Danes have actually been landing high up on various happiness studies for a long time now. How do they do this? Dr. Kaare Christensen, researcher, attributes this to their low expectations. “Year after year we’re just happy things didn’t go as badly as we’d feared.” Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to look at one's year!

Keep in mind all this happiness business all stems from an amazing and complex organ, the human brain. This powerhouse has the same computational capacity as one billion laptops yet only weighs about three pounds! Do brain factoids make you happy? Sure hope so!

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city” - George Burns.

We don't think Mr. Burns participated in any of the research.

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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