The great enemy of well-being is stress: 94% of American university students suffer it.
“It’s the new global pandemic,” says Tal Ben-Shahar, a doctor of Psychology and Philosophy from Harvard University.
Doctors call it the “silent killer.” But the psychologist believes that for years he has been looking at the wrong side; do not study the factors that cause it, but the behaviors that do not cure it.
“We have stopped giving importance to rest, recovery and sleep is not enough,” he says.
Constant happiness does not exist
According to Ben-Shahar, genetics make a difference when it comes to happiness.
For example, someone may have not been born with genetics linked to positive emotions. As an anguished child, like parents and grandparents, people may suffer from it generation after generation.
In the 1970s, in the United States, a series of investigations were conducted on twins with identical genes.
They were separated at birth, raised in different countries. Over the years they would have identified with many similarities in terms of their levels of well-being, their behavior and even their passions.
On average, happiness depends 50% on genetics, 40% on personal choices and 10% on the environment. Those percentages can change in extreme situations, like war, for example.
There are brain patterns that are associated with happiness, depression or anger.
It is not only one part, but multiple parts that operate together. An example is the prefrontal cortex: the left part is associated with the positive emotions and the right, with the negative ones.
It is important to know the findings in this field to understand that with our behavior we can improve the levels of well-being.
Happiness has always been part of our thinking. The difference is that we now have more free time and that adds unrealistic life expectations.
The result is that we feel unhappy because we do not understand what happiness is.
It is not possible to always be happy. There are negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or anxiety. Only psychopaths are safe from that.
The problem is that, for lack of emotional education, when we feel, we reject them, and that makes them intensify and panic dominates us. If we block a negative emotion, we also do it with the positive ones.
We must feel the fear and feel that we pull forward with it. It is not resignation, but active acceptance.
Sometimes emotions polarize, we reach extremes and that is why we are not better or worse people. We are humans
According to a recent study by the European agency Eurofound, stress levels are variable in school and the transition of young people into adulthood is complicated by the expectations of their parents and the pressures of society.
Expectations have a key role in happiness. The most dangerous is to believe that you can be on the crest of the wave constantly.
The obsession to be happy all the time makes people feel miserable. In recent years, social networks have greatly influenced; seeing the smiling faces of others, their idyllic relationships, exemplary work…
When we feel sadness or anxiety, these images reinforce our idea that we are doing something wrong. But none of that is real, we all live on an emotional roller coaster. It is inevitable and not bad.
In the United States, mental health levels are measured every five years, which usually vary 1% up or down.
In the last period, the results were very different: among adolescents, depression levels rose up to 30%.
One of the reasons is that face-to-face interactions are decreasing, they are replaced by the smartphone. Personal relationships are an antidote against depression.
In the nineteenth century they worked up to 18 hours a day and no law prevented doing so. Today we have a better quality of life. What is the root of permanent dissatisfaction?
Back then, life expectations were to provide enough food and security for a family to survive.
Today we think about earning more money and dreamy vacations. Today you can do everything, even if you have an interesting job and like your colleagues, it is not enough. As you can choose and change, you are never satisfied.
We must teach to cultivate healthy relationships, identify and understand what we do. And most importantly, find time for rest.
Research has detected a big problem: we don’t recover from stress. It is not worth reading self-help best sellers. Action is needed and no one is acting on what they know.