The importance of happiness, laughter and vitamin D for our health

It's often said that everyone is responsible for their own happiness. But is it actually true that we can determine our own happiness or how happy we feel? SWICA got to the bottom of this question and discovered that there are some simple hacks you can use that will actually increase your production of happiness hormones. Find out why you should laugh more often and what role vitamin D plays in boosting your mood.

And don't miss our amazing competition: with a bit of luck you can win a two-night stay in the modern and sustainable Valsana Hotel Arosa****.

What is happiness?

As human beings, there's one thing we probably all have in common, which is that we'd like to lead a happy and healthy life. But what is happiness exactly? The "Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache" defines happiness as a joyful emotional state that one reaches upon achieving the intangible goals or obtaining the material items that one desires.
Other definitions describe happiness as the absence of emotions or events that we perceive as negative. And in Hinduism, happiness is regarded very matter-of-factly as the result of reality minus expectations: the lower your expectations of life, the greater your happiness.


Does money bring you happiness?

Many people associate happiness with money and wealth. But does money really make you happy? The answers from happiness research vary widely when it comes to this question. The fact is that money can of course affect our happiness, but only to a certain extent. The saying "Money can't buy you happiness" is an apt summary of the results. Although money and wealth can play an important role in our search for happiness, in reality they only have a limited impact on our sense of satisfaction. For Dr Evelyn Mauch, a neurologist and senior doctor at santé24, happiness does not primarily depend on wealth. "If people can satisfy their basic needs, are surrounded by familiar or community-based structures and have something productive to do, their fundamental requirements for happiness are fulfilled." Of course it's helpful if you don't have to count every franc and can treat yourself once in a while. But it's more important to do things that make you happy, and money plays only a small part in that.

What happens in your body when you're happy

Happiness is very specific to the individual and can mean something different for everyone. But the reactions that occur in our bodies when we feel happy are the same. This is what happens:

1. We produce serotonin, one of the most well-known happiness hormones. It lifts our mood, promotes our wellbeing and has a soothing effect.

2. Dopamine is released: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is linked to the brain's reward centre. Dopamine is produced during activities that we find pleasant, and these moments elicit a feeling of happiness.

3. Other important hormones are produced: endorphins. Endorphins act as natural pain relievers that help with our bodies' self-healing. They also reduce anxiety and help to relieve stress.

4. Oxytocin is released: Oxytocin is often called the "love hormone" or "cuddle hormone", because it is produced during hugging, kissing and motherhood. This promotes feelings of love and trust, which are an important element of our feelings of happiness.

5. Stress hormones decrease. The production of stress hormones such as cortisol is reduced, leading to a more relaxed and contented state.

6. Immune function is improved. A positive attitude can strengthen the immune system, which in turn reduces the risk of illness. More information on this topic is available in this article.

7. Heart health improves: If we're even-keeled and content, then our hearts also benefit. In this way, positive emotions can help lower blood pressure and regulate our heart rates.

8. The autonomic nervous system is activated
: This "rest and digest" system helps the body to relax and to recuperate, which boosts our general wellbeing.

9. The brain changes
: Happy experiences and thoughts can affect the structure and function of the brain by promoting neuronal connections and increasing the brain's plasticity.

10. Sleep improves: Happiness and positive emotions can help us sleep better, which in turn improves mood and wellbeing.

Make your own happiness – how to feel more happy

What many people don't know is that happiness can be learned. According to neurologist Dr Evelyn Mauch, "You can work on your sense of happiness just like you can any other skill. Of course it takes practice, but you can learn to direct your focus more towards the positives." One thing that can help is taking time each day to note down three things that you are thankful for. "Feeling gratitude relaxes the brain and reduces stress," she explains. Humour and funny situations have the same effect.

So on the one hand, you can boost your happiness with a positive attitude. On the other hand, doing certain activities can also prompt your body to produce more happiness hormones. Here's the ultimate guide to experiencing more happiness in your daily life:

1. Daily exercise does you good

It really is true that exercise makes you happy. When we engage in physical activity, the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin are released. And that's not all: they also stay in your body for a longer period of time. Just 20 minutes of casual jogging is enough to increase your dopamine levels. After your workout they gradually go down again. To counter this, the level of serotonin increases, making us feel good and even-keeled.

When we exercise, endorphins are also released. These boost our motivation and supply us with energy. Endorphins can even put us in a state of euphoria, also known as a runner’s high. Despite exhaustion and pain, endorphins allow us to keep going over long distances – and also let us still feel good in the process.


2. Outwit your brain with laughter

While children laugh 400 times a day, adults only manage to laugh 15 times. Laughter has huge potential when it comes to our health. Scientific studies have shown that even cracking a little smile can reduce stress and release various happiness hormones. So even if we don't feel like laughing, we can trick our brains by putting on happy facial expressions. This method has been known for a while in science as "embodied emotions". What this means is that we can positively influence our mental health with our posture, movements and behaviour.

Humorous leisure activities
There's a definite reason why laughter yoga has become a popular trend. Although the laughter may be artificial to begin with, it can actually help to combat a bad mood. And when the whole yoga class is laughing at the latest, it's natural to join in.

It's no joke: you can integrate laughter into your everyday life in a targeted fashion. For example, how about watching a funny television series or a comedy at the cinema or theatre? Or you could of course spend an evening with friends where you play a fun social game such as Taboo or do a challenge where people aren't supposed to laugh. Give your humour free rein – it can make an important contribution to your happiness.
"Laughter is enjoyable and stimulates our emotional centre. It activates many muscles in your face and your entire body, and functions like a massage for the brain." Dr Evelyn Mauch, senior doctor at santé24

3. Activate the cuddle hormone

Have you already cuddled, kissed or hugged someone today? Physical contact is an important factor when it comes to our feelings of happiness. Physical touch prompts our brains to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes us very happy because it gives us feelings of love and comfort while at the same time counteracting stress.

Studies on the topic of oxytocin have shown:

  • When couples hug for just 20 seconds, their levels of oxytocin rise.
  • Although the release of the hormone normally occurs as a response to physical contact in positive relationships, a feeling of closeness can to a certain extent be produced by receiving a massage treatment.
  • Your cuddle partner doesn't necessarily have to be a human being: we also produce oxytocin when we pet animals – especially dogs.


4. Soak up the sun – the right way

It's an indescribably good feeling when the sun is finally shining again after a long period of wet and cold weather. We automatically feel a compulsion to head straight outside. But why is that?

Vitamin D has an effect on our mental wellbeing
When the sun shines on your skin, your body produces vitamin D. Not only is this vitamin important for healthy bones and teeth, but it also has a big impact on our mental wellbeing. In short, vitamin D plays an important role for certain neurotransmitters that have an impact on our mood and enjoyment of life and how we deal with stress.

In regard to mental wellbeing, a vitamin D deficiency is primarily expressed through:

  • Mood swings
  • Concentration problems
  • Drops in performance
  • Sleep issues

How to increase your vitamin D levels
While sunshine is important for our feelings of happiness, the associated UV radiation is harmful to our skin. According to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), here's the correct way to soak up some sun: It's recommended that in the summer months you expose yourself to 30 minutes of sun in the morning or 10 minutes in the afternoon – wearing short sleeves and without sun cream. That's how you can get enough vitamin D without getting a sun burn.

Preventing vitamin D deficiency
In winter, on the other hand, there isn't enough sunshine in our part of the world for sufficient vitamin D production. It's true that we can store a certain amount of vitamin D in our bodies. But during the darker seasons of the year, when the sun is weak and we spend too much time indoors, these stores are quickly depleted. "According to the FOPH, in winter, 60% of the Swiss population has an insufficient supply of vitamin D," explains Dr Silke Schmitt Oggier. The Medical Director of Telemedicine at santé24 explains in this article in the SWICA customer magazine how you can prevent a vitamin D deficiency and what role nutrition plays in this.

For additional tips on how you can become happier, check out this health tip.


We can actually have an impact on our own happiness. The key factors are:

  • Getting enough exercise, ideally out in the fresh air (vitamin D, remember): Exercise releases the happiness hormones dopamine, serotonin and endorphins in the body, and makes it so that they remain active for a longer period of time.
  • Our social environment: We need regular physical contact with others in order to produce the cuddle hormone oxytocin. Social connections also have a big impact on whether we feel happy. Having a good network of people that supports us, listens to us and motivates us creates a feeling of belonging.
  • A pinch of humour: Laughter relaxes you and combats stress hormones. So the best thing to do is to consciously plan amusing activities into your free time to give yourself opportunities for lots of laughter.
  • The power of the sun, or rather, the vitamin D that's produced under our skin through UV radiation. It affects our mood and our wellbeing. That's why it's indispensable for our feelings of happiness.

How SWICA helps you live a healthy lifestyle

Anyone who is active or does something for their nutrition or wellbeing is making a difference to their health and mental wellbeing in the long term. That's why SWICA gives customers with supplementary insurance up to 1 300 francs* per year (*find out more) for a wide range of health promotion products and services. These include nutritional advice, traditional massage, autogenic training and breathing exercises, as well as activities such as personal training, yoga, fitness courses, Pilates, tennis and much more. By the way, supplementary insurance is always a valuable add-on to your basic insurance, and you can purchase a plan from SWICA at any time, regardless of which insurer currently provides your basic insurance.

Go to the supplementary insurance plans

For maximum happiness vibes: win a two-night stay in Arosa

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The voucher for two, worth a total of 1'000 francs, includes:

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  • An extensive breakfast buffet
  • Can be redeemed until 31 August 2025 by prior arrangement

Enter today for a chance to win

Good luck!

«Other» health insurer:
Terms of the competition
The closing date for entries is 30 September 2024. The winner will be notified by phone or in writing, either by post or by email. The organisers' decision is final. The organisers will not enter into any correspondence about the draw. The competition is open to all adult residents of Switzerland. Employees of SWICA are excluded. Participants can enter the competition only once. SWICA uses the data for managing the draw and for marketing purposes (including contacting for insurance advice). You can revoke permission to use your data at any time, without giving reasons, via the following link: Data is stored only for as long as is necessary for the stated purpose or is permitted or required by law. During this time, SWICA will take all technical and organisational measures to protect the data against unlawful and improper processing. Data subjects may exercise their rights with respect to their personal data at any time. The data will be deleted in accordance with data protection regulations once the processing purpose no longer applies or the retention period has expired. Read more about the data protection policies of SWICA at:

* Compulsory field

SWICA – Because health is everything

Being active pays off. SWICA – unlike many other health insurance companies – supports your personal commitment through a wide range of activities and offers relating to health promotion and preventive healthcare. Whether it's yoga, tai chi, fitness classes, swimming lessons, breathing exercises, personal training, nutritional advice, mindfulness training, tennis or one of the other available options, you enjoy attractive contributions of up to 1'300 francs* per year from the COMPLETA FORTE, COMPLETA PRAEVENTA and OPTIMA supplementary insurance plans (*see detailed information).

Incidentally, supplementary insurance always provides valuable additional benefits above and beyond those available under basic insurance. It can be taken out with SWICA at any time, regardless of which insurer currently provides your basic insurance.


Personal consultation

Would you like more information or a personal consultation? SWICA Client Services would be happy to assist. Call us on 0800 80 90 80 or send us a message using the contact form below.

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Glück und Herzgesundheit:

Glück im Gehirn:

Studien Oxytocin-Ausschüttung:
Massage: Uvnäs-Moberg, K. (2004). “Massage, relaxation and well-being: a possible role for oxytocin as an integrative principle?,” in Touch and Massage in Early Child Development, ed. T. Field (Calverton, NY: Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute).
Studie: Grewen KM, Girdler SS, Amico J, et al. MD Effects of partner support on resting oxytocin, cortisol, norepinephrine, and blood pressure before and after warm partner contact. Psychosom Med. 2005;67:531-538.

Lachen und Gesundheit:

Vitamin D: Vitamin D und Sonnenstrahlung vom BAG

Geld und Glück: Es gibt sehr unterschiedliche Resultate zum Thema Geld & Glück (teilweise von denselben Forschenden, siehe z.B. Daniel Kahneman):
«Die Tretmühlen des Glücks» von Mathias Binswanger, Ausgabe 2019 (Bekannter Buchautor & Glücksforscher besagt, das Geld alleine bzw. immer mehr Wohlstand nicht glücklich macht),