We’ve learned a lot about happiness over the last 10 years; and here are the 8 most important things!

We’ve learned a lot about happiness over the last 10 years; and here are the 8 most important things!

by Carolyn Gregoire via the Huffington Post

We're living in a golden age of happiness — the scientific study of happiness, at least.

The field of positive psychology has exploded in growth since its inception in 1998, dramatically increasing our understanding of human flourishing. We now know more than ever about what makes us happy, how we can spread happiness socially and geographically, and how happiness affects our physical and mental health.

But it's just the beginning. In the next decade, we're likely to see not only a greater understanding of positive emotions, but also the application of this research on a practical level to improve well-being on a global scale.

"Positive psychology has just scratched at the surface of the benefits of topics like meditation, gratitude and forgiveness," Emma Seppala, Ph.D., a positive psychologist at Stanford and associate director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, told The Huffington Post in an email. "The next decade of research will dive deep into these topics."

Already, this burgeoning research offers valuable tools for each one of us to bring more joy into our own lives and the lives of others. In honor of HuffPost's 10th anniversary, here are eight scientific findings about happiness from the past decade — and reasons why we'll be happier in the future, too.

1. We get happier as we get older.

Although we tend to focus on the downsides of aging, a robust body of research suggests we've got a lot to look forward to as we get older. One survey conducted in 2013 found 23 and 69 to be life's two happiest ages. Other data suggests that after happiness levels drop around mid-life, they tend to increase steadily into old age. One conducted by Duke University researchers in 2006 found that 70-year-olds tended to rate themselves as being happier than 30-year-olds did.

Why? Greater appreciations for life's little triumphs and acceptance of life's trials likely play a role, as well as lower stress levels.

"As we age, we have the opportunity to accept who we are, instead of focusing on who we feel we need to become," psychoanalyst Ken Eisold wrote in Psychology Today. "We relax into being ourselves."

"As we age… we relax into being ourselves."

2. You can rewire your brain for happiness.

One of the most amazing things about the human brain is neuroplasticity — the brain's capacity to rewire itself in response to new experiences.

We can actually wire our brains for happiness by focusing our attention on positive experiences and emotions, says neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. When you linger on a positive experience, it becomes encoded in your neural chemistry. Linger on many of these experiences, and the connections become strengthened over time and easier to retrieve.

“The longer the neurons fire, the more of them that fire, and the more intensely they fire, the more they’re going to wire that inner strength –- that happiness, gratitude, feeling confident, feeling successful, feeling loved and lovable," Hanson told HuffPost in 2013…

…keep reading for more great nuggets of happiness wisdom – HERE