Happiness is…


ALL our lives, we talk about being happy.

We talk about how to attain happiness. When things in life dragging us down we silently hoping that it would be over soon and we would be… happy again.

What happiness really…

Happiness is such an elusive state of mind.

In my quest to understand what happiness is, the past several days were spent on reading on researches, journals and articles that discuss the issue in length.

However, they are all are more of scientific study which made fairly dry reading really…

Being an emotional person that I am, I am more gravitated towards more easy reading materials.

Well, for the sake of translating what I read thus far for our reading pleasure here, I decided to try my best to articulate my understanding of happiness. But of course with my own thoughts thrown in good measure too…

From an article I read in Psychology Today, apparently philosophers, psychologists and theologians have long sought to define it, and since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning it down and propagating it.

It said that more than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.

Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point. Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, clothing. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. 

So does individual ways of thinking and expressing feeling. Researchers estimate that much of happiness is under personal control. Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself are all actions that increase life satisfaction.

For centuries, spiritual leaders and philosophers have viewed generosity as the key to happiness. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up,” wrote John Holmes, the late poet and critic. However, the link between happiness and generosity is no longer just a theory.

One of the article I read cited a research conducted by the University of Zurich that offered scientific proof that generous behaviour can give us a happier life.

In the study, conducted by Ernst Fehr and Philippe Tobler, 50 participants were promised varied sums of money that they’d receive in the near future. The control group committed to spending the money on themselves, while the other subjects chose to spend it on others.

While the study subjects made their decisions, Fehr and Tobler studied activity in three parts of the brain — the ventral striatum (which controls happiness), the temporoparietal junction (which processes generosity), and the orbitofrontal cortex (which regulates the decision-making process).

The areas of the brain associated with generosity and happiness interacted more intensely in those who chose to give the money to others. And this result was consistent regardless of the amount of money being given. It’s also important to note this neural activity intensified with just the promise of giving away the money — not with the act itself. However, those who went through with the generous act also felt happier afterwards.

The study also showed that generosity truly is enough to boost personal happiness, and that generosity doesn’t need to border on martyrdom to be effective. Helping others, in any way that we can, is enough to lead us toward a brighter tomorrow.

We, people, haven been agonising over this question for centuries, and from several articles I read about this subject I can summarise them into several things. So please bear with me okay…

One great news is that happiness is not about us feeling good all the time. And I agree. There is no way that we can be happy all the time. It is impossible. Phew!

Apparently recent research suggested that an even-keeled mood is more psychologically healthy than a mood in which you achieve great heights of happiness regularly—after all, what goes up must come down. Furthermore, when you ask people what makes their lives worth living, they rarely say anything about their mood.

They are more likely to cite things that they find meaningful, such as their work or relationships.

The research also suggested that if we focus too much on trying to feel good all the time, we will actually undermine our ability to feel good at all—in other words, no amount of feeling good will be satisfying to us, since what we expect (all the time) isn’t physically possible for most people.

Secondly, happiness is not about being rich or affording everything we want.

Seriously how many of us can actually become rich and can afford every bloody thing in the world. While living below the poverty line certainly makes it hard to be happy, beyond that, money does not appear to buy happiness. That’s great news really!

And yes folks, happiness is not about reaching it as the final destination.

It is not about us reaching the destination of happiness. There is no such this as “Are we there yet?”, as if a person works towards happiness and one day “arrives.” But we can establish techniques to become happier individuals —keeping a gratitude journal.

Then what is happiness?

Again, the research also suggested that happiness is a combination of how satisfied we are with our life (work, family) and how good we feel on a day-to-day basis. Both of these are relatively stable—that is, our life changes, and our mood fluctuates, but our general happiness is more genetically determined than anything else. 

In other words, we all have the ability to control how we feel—and with consistent practice, we can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life. A