Yesterday I met two lovely sets of twins. Chantelle and Charmaine (the grown ups) and Agnus and Maya (the babies). They all seemed really happy and really close to their twin and it got me thinking about whether having a twin to grow up with would increase their level of happiness. We already know that close bonds with others increase happiness and perhaps being a twin is the ultimate connection.
Happiness is a complex trait and when scientists at Warwick University set out to discover whether it is our genes or our environment that determine our happiness they used twins as the basis for their study.
The study involved the twins doing three acts of kindness a day for others and then feeding back on the feelings this created. The study meant that the participants spent much of their day seeking out kind acts to carry out.
The study found that it was not a general family ethos that determined their happiness in carrying out the acts of kindness but their own individual experiences. The way they were taught and the way others reacted to their acts of kindness were important factors.
There isn’t a single gene for happiness. Thousands of our genes interact with environmental influences to determine our happiness. So the good news is that genetic influences aren’t the be all and end all. Whatever your genes and whatever your experiences it is possible to increase your levels of happiness.
When we meditate and when we are mindful our levels of happiness increase. This is because our minds become more settled and we reduce mental chatter, we live in the moment and can let go of worrying thoughts about the past and concerns about the future.
So whether you are a twin or not and whether you have happy genes or not mindfulness can still make you happier. Try this simple exercise to get you in training for happier thoughts…
1) Bring to mind a memory that makes you smile (for me Noah giving me a cuddle or a good gallop on my horse are both great memories to use).
2) Stay with that memory for one minute. Each time the feeling fades replay the memory.
3) If you find yourself deep in thought, even if this starts with the memory, simply bring your attention back to the feeling that memory creates.
4) Repeat as often as you can throughout your day.
Be doing this short exercise regularly you will start to influence your thought pattern so that you begin to have more thoughts that make you smile. Smiling makes us happy so get started right now.
Come on a Revitalise Day to learn other techniques to train your brain to think more positively.