From money to marriage, what really makes us happy? Our friends at Shape suggest these tips on finding the way.
We know money can’t buy happiness (or can it?) and, as Americans, we all have the right to pursue it. But what are some things we don’t know about this emotional state we all strive for? We tracked down several recent studies to reveal six things we didn't know about happiness.
1. Money Can Buy Happiness — Sort Of
Making more money will boost more than just your income. According to a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a person’s level of happiness and emotional well-being increased along with their paycheck — but capped out at about $75,000 a year. People who made more than that didn’t get any happier after they hit that $75K mark.
2. Meditate to Beat the Blues
Several studies have linked regular meditation to actual physical changes in the brain that are similar to what antidepressant drugs (or so-called "happy pills") do. People who meditate are not only happier and nicer to others, but research also shows that the areas of their brain that respond to stress actually shrink. Big corporations and even the US Marines are all now reportedly using meditation to increase productivity.
Too busy to find time for meditation? It doesn’t take much! Studies show that people who practice mindful meditation — sitting quietly with your eyes closed and repeating a word or "mantra" over and over — for just 20 minutes a day reap significant benefits.
3. Skinny Wife, Happy Life
In a somewhat strange 2011 study, researchers in Tennessee revealed that marriages are happier when the wife is thinner than her husband. The researchers studied the BMI or body mass index of nearly 170 newlywed couples to come to this conclusion.
We don’t recommend comparing yourself to your man, but we love the idea of staying fit as a couple — not just for the obvious health benefits, but also for the bonding experiences. Check out these 11 ways to lose weight as a team.
4. Reason to Put a Ring on It?
Despite the divorce rate, there may be something to the phrase "wedded bliss." A recent study posed the question, are married people happier than their single counterparts? Essentially, yes. Researchers in Michigan found that unmarried people showed a decline in happiness as time went on whereas those that had tied the knot did not.
5. Age Isn't Just a Number
Maybe you thought you were happy getting your driver’s license, graduating college, or landing your dream job. But those teen and 20-something milestones are nothing compared to the feelings of elation that the ripe young age of 33 brings. A UK-based website found that 70 percent of people over 40 surveyed said they were happiest at that age and felt that was when they were able to attain "true" happiness.
6. Facebook Failure
Psychology students at Stanford found that the social network may be making us sad. Why? Because others seem so happy in comparison. The studies examined how college students evaluated moods, and by scrolling through attractive pictures, braggy status updates, accomplished bios, and seemingly "perfect" lives on Facebook, the students became miserable and depressed about their own lives. The researchers reasoned that the depression was due to the human need to not just be happy, but also be happier than others. Maybe these people are onto something (They’re not on Facebook!).
More on Shape:
Curious why that one friend of yours is always happy? It's not just the luck of the draw. Science is discovering that diet, exercise, and daily habits play more of a role in day-to-day happiness than once believed. And that even after all these years, adults still have the power to change. Keep watching to see how you can become one of those people that always seems to have a smile of their face.
A fast-food meal may make you feel sluggish, but the effects don't stop there; a recent study found that there is a link between eating fast food and junk food and having depression.
The study followed almost 9,000 people for an average of six months; the participants had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants. About 500 were later diagnosed with depression or started antidepressant medication; all in all, the researchers found that those who regularly ate fast food were 51 percent more likely to develop depression (with the more fast food consumed leading to a higher rate of depression), and even those who ate just small amounts of fast food or commercially baked goods (like doughnuts or croissants) were susceptible to developing depression.
The study indicates that people who eat fast food regularly are more likely to have unhealthy habits in general, which can contribute to depression. But the link to even just "small quantities" of junk food and fast food was worrying enough for the researchers to warn against eating too much fast food because of the possible effects on mental health, among other health risks.
This isn't the first time a diet has been shown to affect mental health, both positively and negatively. What do you think of the latest news?
Source: Flickr User SteFou!
When January rolls around, the festive fun has come to an end, and we resume our regular day-to-day routines . . . good times, right? This month can be especially difficult for some because the party is over, the temperatures are dropping, and the days are awfully short. If you're experiencing any symptoms that feel like major depression, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that is cyclical and seasonal, meaning that it comes and goes at the same time every year. If you suffer from SAD, symptoms may include irritability, a drop in energy level, and possible weight gain. Various studies have shown that four to six percent of the population has been diagnosed with SAD at some point in their lives, while 10 to 12 percent have shown symptoms related to SAD. Fortunately, there are some easy remedies you can try at home to help get you through the next few months.
The author of the study, Dr. Albert Ascherio, spoke to The New York Times and admitted that more research is needed: "We know that caffeine enters the brain and activates the release of different neurotransmitters that are related to mood, like dopamine and serotonin . . . That may explain the short-term effects on mood. But the long-term mechanisms of caffeine intake on mood we don't really know." While the researchers aren't quite ready to recommend that women drink more coffee, Dr. Ascherio says personal responsibility is key: "We self-medicate ourselves with caffeine, and each person usually knows their optimal level."
Are you convinced? Do you think drinking coffee can lower the risk of depression?
Watching your teen son or daughter go through a breakup is a heart-wrenching experience for a parent, as mom-of-two Tammy shares on Cirlce of Moms. Parents can feel powerless to help kids put their emotions into perspective and channel their feelings into positive growth. In these situations, as with most, understanding the science of what is going on in the adolescent body can help guide teens and their parents through a difficult time. Share these notes with your teen and engage in a conversation about how they’re feeling in this moment, and what they need from you.
A Note to Teens on Healthy Relationships and Love
Pheromones will clue you in that this is a person you are attracted to, but it can be hard to tell the difference from being “in lust” versus “in love.” Do you have anything in common? Anything to talk about? Or is it pure animal attraction? When you are in love, you feel at your best with the object of your affection; you feel that you can be yourself (not pretend to be someone you aren’t) and be valued for it. A “soul mate” is someone with whom it’s safe to be vulnerable; you can share your feelings and intimate thoughts without fear of ridicule or betrayal. It is someone you trust, someone who will treat you with respect all the time, not just some of the time. If some of these things are true but not all, you may be in lust, or even in love with the wrong person. Look further for the right person.
Red flags of an abusive relationship include irrational and jealous accusations, stalking behavior, threats of violence—basically, one partner exerting control over another through direct or indirect threats. Healthy relationships are ones of mutual respect. Unfortunately, many young people stay in abusive relationships because they fear being abused, think the partner will change, or even because they think they’ll never find anyone else. We know it can be difficult, but part of growing up is learning how to set boundaries.
A Note to Teens on Depression
What we really want you to be aware of is the difference between normal mood swings and some serious problems like depression. All of our emotions are really the effect of various neurotransmitters that travel in our brains. Feeling happy about winning the Irish step dance competition? It’s chemistry. Feeling sad that your family pet died? It’s chemistry. Feeling like getting cozy with your lab partner? It really is chemistry. Nevertheless, you still have the power to influence these neurotransmitters’ effects on you, through what you eat, the ways you think, and the actions you take. For example, by using cognitive-behavioral therapy, you can train your brain to short circuit the flight-or-fight response when confronted with something that causes you excess anxiety, so that eventually you no longer respond that way. Or you can counteract an onslaught of feel-bad chemicals by doing something that releases an army of feel-good chemicals to overwhelm them, such as exercise. In some cases, no matter how hard you may try to convinceyourself to be happy, your brain may not cooperate—leaving you feeling depressed. In this case, you may need to take medication to correct an imbalance in your brain’s messengers, under a doctor’s supervision.
Biochemical depression is a disease no different than any other; it just happens to affect the brain, so you don’t look sick on the outside. People with severe depression tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of the feel good chemical serotonin, leading many to believe it reflects an abnormality in the functioning of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.
It’s good to know the signs and symptoms of depression, because if it’s something that you or a friend is struggling with, you or she doesn’t have to be stuck with it. People suffering from a mood disorder, especially depression, need the support of those who care about them, because often they’re too ill to seek professional help on their own.
A New York Times #1 best-selling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. is also professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Dr. Oz, check out You: The Owner's Manual for Teens, co-authored with Michael F. Roizen, M.D.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.
I worry about my mental health, and it's been taking a toll on my relationship. Has anyone had to deal with depression while in a relationship? How did you cope? Or has anyone been on the other side and had a family member or significant other with depression/other mental health issues? How do you maintain your relationship and your sanity?
Welcoming a new baby into the world is a joyful, exciting experience…so why do you feel so sad? While up to 80 percent of mothers experience some form of the “baby blues” (including mood swings, tearfulness and lack of sleep), post-partum depression is a more severe condition experienced by 10-15 percent of women after giving birth. Countless Circle of Moms members have weighed in with their personal post-partum depression experiences; here we share their advice on recognizing symptoms and getting treatment.
Post-partum depression is form of clinical depression that can begin any time between delivery and 6 months after birth, and may last up to several months or even a year. The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown; but risk factors include a history of depression, lack of a support network, stressful events, and an unstable relationship with a significant other.
Recognizing the Symptoms
There are many symptoms of postpartum depression, as Andrea T. shares: “Women with this condition suffer despondency, tearfulness, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue….A woman with postpartum depression may regard her child with ambivalence, negativity or disinterest.” Additional symptoms include loss of appetite, insomnia, severe mood swings, and withdrawal from family and friends.
As Circle of Moms members with post-partum depression experience highlight, these symptoms can appear in a variety of combinations. Joy B., a New York mother of one, recalled that agitation and loss of appetite were dominant symptoms: “I became agitated easily (which is my nature anyhow but this wasn't the same). I stopped eating properly (even though I knew I should eat, I would skip meals).” In contrast, Natalie L. suffered from feelings of detachment and an inability to bond with her child: “My husband said it was like I was there physically but Natalie had left. I couldn't cry, I couldn't laugh and I was not feeling attached to my daughter. I had a sense of obligation that kept me feeding and changing her but that was it.”
Treatment for Post-Partum Depression
If you think you may have post-partum depression, consult with your doctor about treatments for your specific condition. Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following strategies:
Medication is often recommended for treating post-natal depression. Many Circle of Moms members who suffered from post-partum depression, including Megan N., confirmed that medication can help: “There were days I thought things couldn’t get any worse and others when I’d feel fine. I recommend medication. I took a light dose of Zoloft for 6–9 months and then my Dr. took me off and I felt fine again.” And as Sarah T. advised, there are several medications for post-partum depression that are safe to take while breastfeeding: “I saw my doctor last week and was prescribed Lexapro—safe to take while breastfeeding, thank goodness!”
Talking with a professional therapist is another treatment for post-partum depression recommended by many Circle of Moms members. Toni B. explains: “Counseling was great for me; talking aloud to someone who doesn’t know me outside of that room, or my family/friends, was really freeing for me—talking about things aloud for the first time, and having my actions questioned was crucial for me to understand how I need to help myself.” Your doctor can provide referrals to mental health therapists specializing in post-partum depression.
In addition to medication and therapy, establishing or returning to a strong support network can help relieve post-natal depression. Even though you may feel isolated or detached, Andrea T. recommends: “Spend time with your partner and/or close friends. Share your feelings and ask for help. Consult your doctor and look for a local support group.”
Sunlight and Exercise
In addition the treatments above, natural mood boosters like sunshine and exercise have helped many moms alleviate their post-partum depression. Brenda A. shares: “While medicine is often necessary to combat this disease there are other factors to look at if it’s a mild case. Are you exercising, getting sunlight, sleeping as often as possible… I personally think my best defense has always been a walk in the sunshine.” Virginia mom Kelsey B. agrees: “Seriously, the sunshine is a natural anti-depressant. Take advantage of sunshine and go for a walk or open a window when the sun is shining through it and breathe the fresh air and meditate there for 10-30 minutes. You'll be surprised at how much the sun makes you feel better.” In addition to walking, Samantha S. found running helped alleviate her post-partum depression: “I started running. It works. Just a walk in the stroller one a day, then move to twice a day, then start a slow jog. Makes me feel great.”
Forget about weight gain, maternity leave, juggling baby and career, and prenatal health concerns. Guess what stresses expecting moms the most? Dads-to-be, specifically the type who is ambivalent even before baby arrives.
A new study says that unsupportive fathers-to-be depress expecting moms the most, which not only is harmful to their health, but can threaten the health of the unborn child. This kind of depression has been linked to premature delivery, low birth-weight and a host of ill effects later in a child’s life, reports the BMC Public Health journal.
Researchers studied 50,000 pregnant Norwegian women and found that the biggest predictor of maternal blues is a woman’s concerns about her relationship with her partner, according to Time’s online health site.
Stories about guys like these surface again and again in the conversations of Circle of Moms Circle of Moms Single Moms" target="_blank">Single Moms community members.
Kim T. is a mom who says her husband was not supportive through the pregnancies of either of their children. “I was so stressed out that I had my second baby weeks early (he spent a week in the Special Care Unit)."
And Sernna A. shares a pretty straightforward plea for help: “I'm one month pregnant and so depressed. Is this normal?" As she explains: “My husband is emotionless, he doesn't support me and is not responsible at all."
Depression doesn't just affect moms, it can have a serious impact on the baby as well.
A separate study, researchers at Columbia University and The University of Michigan found that in contrast to the fetuses of pregnant women with normal moods, fetuses of depressed women show signs of distress when the women are asked to do a challenging mental task.
Scientists say the effects of depression during gestation and premature birth have wide implications for society and that this is an important public health issue, according to Time.
"Failure to recognize and treat emotional distress during pregnancy stores up problems for both mother and child, and impacts continuing family welfare," says one of the co-authors, Gun-Mette Rosand, in Time.
Any tips for finding support during pregnancy when you don't have a supportive partner or husband?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.