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Mental Health
3 Min Read
Last Updated: 12.06.23

Science-​​Based Tools for Increasing Happiness

Happiness science: types, control by actions, circumstances, mindset. Framework for natural happiness: financial security, purposeful work, relationships. Tools for synthetic happiness. Human connection, choices influence happiness. Physical contact, gratitude, finances, volunteering boost happiness. Children, pets, well-​​being, substance, traumas, milestones impact happiness.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Happiness is a brain state and a state of mind and body

  • It involves similar emotions like joy, gratitude, and meaning

Synthetic happiness can be as powerful as happiness achieved through external goals.

No single neurotransmitter or neuromodulator is solely responsible for happiness or lack thereof.

Lower baseline levels of dopamine are associated with lower self-​​reported levels of happiness.

Controversy over whether lower levels of serotonin cause depression or merely correlate with it

  • Administering drugs that increase serotonin levels can often help alleviate symptoms of depression

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buffer stress

  • Provides options for social interactions and recreation

Factors that Determine Happiness

  • Social connection
  • Open thinking and creativity
  • Physical health and mobility
  • Basic physiological factors 
    • Sufficient deep sleep
    • Quality nutrition
    • Quality social interactions
    • Purposeful work (paid or unpaid)
    • Exercise, relationships with pets, etc.

People who have children report their overall levels of happiness as lower than those who opt not to have children. Possible reasons for this finding:

  • People without children have more income to devote to themselves or their partner
  • People without children may get more sleep or have more time for exercise

People tend to report feeling lower levels of happiness on their birthday Potential reasons for this finding:

  • Birthdays serve as a benchmark for comparing oneself to age-​​matched peers
  • Most people are not good at reflecting on where they are in their life arc

Chronic smoking and alcohol consumption are strongly anticorrelated with happiness.

  • Natural happiness: happiness from completing a degree, finding a mate, making a certain income, etc.
  • Synthetic happiness: potentially more powerful source of happiness, requires effort and certain environmental conditions

Receiving gratitude, observing gratitude, and giving gratitude can all evoke positive emotions and neurochemical changes

  • The impact is greater when there is a genuine connection between the giver and receiver

Creating an aesthetically pleasing environment at work and home can be valuable for maintaining an elevated mood

  • Windows, fresh air, and personal preferences for decorations
  • Incorporate positive visual and auditory cues

Study found higher prosocial spending (giving a portion of income to others for causes or things deemed important)  associated with significantly greater happiness. Giving resources (money, effort, time) is immensely beneficial for increasing happiness levels

  • Degree of increase in happiness is proportional to the extent the receiver needed and registered the help

Being present and focused on what we’re doing, regardless of the activity, increases happiness

  • Practices like meditation can enhance focus and happiness levels

Quality social connection is a powerful factor in increasing happiness

  • Can include romantic connections, friendships, coworker relationships, or even daily superficial interactions
  • Research shows that sharing trivial day-​​to-​​day experiences can lead to feelings of connection

Brief interactions with familiar faces can create a sense of social bond and predictability

  • Seeing faces, even without exchanging words, especially in the morning and late afternoon, can create a sense of social bond and has a positive impact on emotional well-being

Deep social connection doesn’t require constant eye contact.

Animal-​​assisted activities (AAAs) can increase happiness and well-being

  • Brief interactions with dogs can reduce stress and increase happiness
  • Pets can provide a sense of social connection and support

Allogrooming (consensual, context-​​appropriate touch)  can enhance social connection and happiness

  • Examples: hair brushing, manicures, massages, grooming
  • Stimulates Ctactile fibers in the skin, creating a feeling of well-being

When people are forced to stick to a choice, they tend to be happier with that choice than if they maintain the option to change their mind

  • Once a choice is made, limiting other options increases satisfaction
  • Leaving doors open or options available diminishes satisfaction

Focusing on a choice and limiting other options increases neurochemical reward and happiness

  • Considering alternative options divides attention and reduces reward associated with the chosen option
  • Focusing on chosen options and investing in them as good or great choices can also contribute to natural happiness
  • Constantly evaluating decisions after making them prevents extracting feelings of happiness associated with the choice

Ketamine has gained attention for its potential use in mental health treatment

  • Particularly for depression, anxiety, and PTSD
  • Rapid-​​acting effects, unlike traditional antidepressants that take weeks to work


Science-​​based tools and supplements that push the needle.

Sunlight Exposure + Sleep for Mood & Happiness


Allogrooming to Enhance Social Connection and Happiness


Focus on Activities for Happiness


Focus on a Choice for Happiness



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Science-​​Based Tools for Increasing Happiness

    Huberman Lab #98

    Happiness science: types, control by actions, circumstances, mindset. Framework for natural happiness: security, work, relationships. Tools for synthetic happiness.

Full Notes

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