By Vladimir Marchenko
Happiness is an extremely desirable human condition and most people believe that without achieving it, one cannot feel fulfilled. So how can you bring more joy into your life and become happy right now?
What happiness means
Happiness is a specific state, which is experienced in a form of the ultimate satisfaction of needs, harmony, inspiration, meaningfulness and pleasure from everything that happens in life. This feeling can be triggered by various things, events or feelings, and that’s why it is a very individual characteristic that can fade over time. Preferences change, situations change, and you ask yourself how to find happiness again. Sometimes it lasts for a few seconds, sometimes for a longer period, but invariably warming up the soul.
Nevertheless, happiness is very different from common feelings and sensations. Most often it is confused with falling in love, satisfaction from the work done, or pleasure from satisfying your needs. In regards to this, falling in love is always associated with attraction to a specific person and can be only one of the components of happines; satisfaction with the work done comes only after taking specific actions and achieving a result; pleasure, as a rule, is associated with subjective experiences from satisfying needs and in some philosophical teachings is identical to happiness. However, true happiness is still a much more significant and lasting state than ordinary positive emotions; besides, it is reinforced by chemical reactions.
What causes happiness
It should be noted that the concept of happiness is interpreted in different ways in biology, philosophy, religion and psychology. Each of the spheres tried to "dissect" this phenomenon and give it its own definition. Let's dwell on the main points.
Happiness from a neurophysiological perspective
“Cathing” happiness turned out to be a hard task for physiologists. It became obvious that the stimuli that cause positive emotions in people can differ and change for the same person throughout life. Love, money, your home, a trip to the sea, flying in a hot air balloon - there can actually be hundreds if not thousands of different triggers. If we take emotions as a reference point for happiness, then the limbic system of the brain would be responsible for it. Any emotion is a positive or negative reaction to internal and external stimuli. Negative emotions, for example, arise in the amygdala or insular cortex and comprise a natural defence mechanism. With positive emotions, things are a little more complicated.
The main discovery regarding the physiological mechanism of happiness belongs to J. Olds and P. Milner in 1954. They discovered the so-called "pleasure centre" in the brain of a rat (it is located in the “nucleus accumbens” region of the limbic system). The animals participating in the experiment who received a positive stimulation of the area with electric current by chance became so carried away that eventually were continuing to stimulate themselves to the point of exhaustion. Soon after this experiment, dopamine and, a little later, endorphins were discovered. In addition to those, another main neurotransmitter of the brain, serotonin, produced by the pineal gland was also added to the list. It is serotonin that creates a long-term feeling of satisfaction while endorphins tend to elicit short-term feelings of euphoria and joy in response to stress and stimuli. Dopamine, on the contrary, participates more in promoting brain activity during positive experiences. Accordingly, the most complete feeling of happiness is mediated by the “cocktail” of the indicated neurotransmitters. All of them were called "hormones of happiness", and this is how scientists were able to understand what makes happiness.
Note that there are several "pleasure centres" in our brain (for example, the dorsolateral cortex of the left hemisphere is distinguished as one of them), and the chemical triggers also include endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, oxytocin, etc.
How philosophers interpret happiness
Philosophers and thinkers of all times have tried to find out how to achieve happiness. Aristotle took the lead in explaining it. He considered happiness to be "the pursuit of the soul in the greatness of virtue," and considered a virtue to be everything that leads to happiness. Hedonists, for example, believed that the meaning of life is in getting the maximum pleasure and enjoyment at any cost, especially through physical satisfaction, and in the complete absence of pain and suffering.Eastern philosophies suggest immersing deep into yourself and not expecting happiness from the outside world. In their opinion, the best way to happiness lies only through inner peace. There are dozens of philosophical schools, teachers and definitions, and you can choose the one to your taste. However, in general, philosophers have come to the conclusion that happiness is in harmony with oneself and the world around, and the ability to overcome negative factors with complete subjective satisfaction.
Happiness and psychology
Psychologists in comparison with philosophers use a more simplified formula for happiness. In its general form, it looks like this:
Happiness = deep subjective satisfaction with life + positive emotions - dissatisfaction - negative emotions
In this formula satisfaction with life helps to maintain a feeling of happiness in the long term, and positive emotions in the short term. The main point of phycologists here is that you need to fulfil yourself, regardless of the way how (overall, psychology is less concerned with ethical issues than philosophy and religion). Does money bring happiness? If in your case yes, then no problem, the main thing is that it works, as phycologists look at happiness as at a continuous journey rather than a final destination.One of the famous books by Sonja Lyubomirsky called “The How of Happiness” is based on scientific research and some practical advice on how to find happiness.
Religion and happiness
Religions have their own concepts of happiness. Of course, here we won’t’ go deep and will give only a simplified overview of it from the perspective of the main world religions. For example, Christianity divides happiness into earthly blessings and pleasures, especially the external ones, and the highest form of happiness - bliss. The latter is achieved only through faith in the Lord, salvation of the soul and going to heaven, which occurs only after the earthly life. Islam has a similar view on it. A person is expected to do good deeds, experience inner joy, accept Allah and his commandments in order to go to paradise.
In Buddhism, the concept of happiness is somewhat different and is not associated with the grace of external forces. Much attention is paid here to finding peace within oneself by performing constructive actions aimed at improving karma. Also, it includes doing things that are pleasing to the person and bring him closer to exiting from samsara and achieving nirvana.
Happiness is a choice
Everyone has their own recipe for a happy life and even if it is difficult to give general recommendations here, here are several tips on how to achieve happiness in life:
1. Find the perfect balance between work, family and play.
2. Smile often and make the best of each moment.
3. Show empathy and generosity.
4. Learn to forgive.
5. Connect with like-minded people.
6. Keep your promises.
7. Get to know the world and develop yourself.
8. "Catch" happiness in every moment of life.
9. Be creative.
10. Interact with animals.
11. Enjoy nature in your free time.
12. Have a digital detox.
13. Get inspired by the examples of the people you admire.
14. Write and repeat your personalized “declaration of happiness”.
15. Be grateful.
16. Don't be afraid to start from scratch.
17. Set and achieve both small and global goals.
18. Seek compromises and listen to the opinions of people who you respect.
19. Know what triggers your happiness and do these things more often.
20. Can you buy happiness for money? Seek answers within you.
Pumping your mental health can also help you achieve happiness. Nowadays you can do it using mobile applications, for example, Hypnopedia app, which combines a scientific approach with the features of a mobile application that are easy to use. It works with mental health but in a unique way - while you sleep. The main difference of the application is thematic affirmations aimed at improving psychophysiological characteristics and ultimately enhancing your own feeling of satisfaction, both with life and with yourself. Before sleep, affirmations are selected from a list and then played at the most optimal time during sleep. The time is chosen by an algorithm specifically created for this purpose and based on data received from Apple Watch sensors. As a bonus, there are also special relaxing sounds for falling asleep and a smart alarm clock built-in the application.Ссылка App Store
Wise sayings about happiness
In conclusion, here are some motivational quotes about happiness:
- Not many of us can endure happiness - especially the happiness of our neighbour (Mark Twain).
- It often happens that a person considers happiness to be something very far, but it has already come to him insensibly (Giovanni Boccaccio).
- One of the most amazing delusions is a misconception that a person's happiness lies in doing nothing (Leo Tolstoy).
- The happiest person is the one who gives happiness to the greatest number of people (D. Diderot).
- Happiness is the same as a watch: the simpler the mechanism, the less often it breaks down (Sébastien-Roche Nicolas de Chamfort).
- The wise forge their own happiness (Plautus).
- Happiness sells a great many things to impatient people, which it gives for free to the patient ones (Francis Bacon).
- There is nothing more terrible in the world than eternal happiness (George Bernard Shaw).
- Happiness lies not so much in possession of things as in the process of acquiring the object of our desires (Claude Helvetius).
- Human happiness is not about dying well, but about living well (Michel de Montaigne).
- Human happiness has two enemies - pain and boredom (Arthur Schopenhauer).
- Do not chase happiness: it is always in you (Pythagoras).
- We have only one single responsibility - to be happy (Ray Bradbury).
- I was born, and this is all that is necessary to be happy (Albert Einstein).
How do I find happiness? Now at least you know where to look for it. In any case, remember that your experience will be unique and unlike any other, and the result will largely depend on the desire to achieve what you intended.