The question as old as time. Aristotle was busy with it already 2300 years ago, although he perceived happiness more as a goal than a state of mind. It is a very popular topic these days. We have got plenty of time to think about it. Time to sit down and think about these subjective feelings, these thoughts. What is happiness? It is incredibly difficult to give a definition to something that is so subjective. After all, what I perceive as happiness may very well not be the same as what you perceive as happiness (but I do hope I can inspire you!). Some say love is happiness, being with their family and loved ones. Others say, standing alone on top of a mountain is happiness. Again others say watching a video of jumping little goats wearing pyamas is happiness (that would be me…).
The Oxford dictionary has the following description of happiness:
The state of being happy.
Now there’s really an eye-opener, right there. We definitely know now what it means….
If you just google “What is Happiness”, you end up in an overflow of information. Psychological research on happiness. The difference between natural happiness and synthetic happiness. Studies on how we can make ourselves happier. How to be happy in seven steps. Ah well, you get my drift. Plenty of information. In fact, it’s not even possible to look at it purely scientifically because The Science of Happiness is an actual psychological study. Science researching happiness. But – it’s being researched from a psychological point of view. That indicates that happiness is something that happens in the brain.
That is actually true.
You see – our brain produces this one big chemical soup which directs your behavior:
- Dopamine (your motivation to take action because the reward coming from it triggers that dopamine based good feeling in your brain)
- Oxytocin (the cuddle neurochecmical, which is released through closeness with another person and helps you build trust and healthy relationships)
- Serotonin (Think of it as the confidence molecule, that flows when you feel significant or important and controls your overall mood. Serotonin is the reason for your good mood – or your bad mood)
- Endorphins (This one you know, with their chemical structure comparable to opiates. Think of it as self-produced morphine, which will diminish your perception of pain)
This chemical soup brewing in your brain is the reason why you are either happy or sad. For example: remember how you always feel a bit depressed and lonely in winter? And how happy you are in summer? This is because the UV rays from the sun promote Vitamin D and serotonin production! Without serotonin you are much more prone to depression and feelings of loneliness. Another example is when you cuddle with your dog. I, for example, can get extremely happy when I get to cuddle with a puppy! Why? Because my oxytocin levels are sky-rocketing in that moment. The cuddle neurochemical, remember.
Happiness is in that regard a completely chemical process. However, it is the actions that you take and the things that you experience that start or end that process. One quote that I’ve seen almost everywhere, which speaks very straightforward for itself is:
And that is 100% true. Only you can make yourself happy because only you can understand and realize what makes you happy. Recently I came to realize that all my boyfriends have had the one same behavior in regard to me. At some point or another they all started to bring me chocolate. Why? Because they started to notice how happy chocolate can make me. They would see my response and decide for themselves: “That’s nice. I’m gonna bring some more.”. But it is my response to that bar of chocolate, it’s not like they once brought me a bar of chocolate, told me to like it and that I adapted myself to it. In fact, if I would’ve responded as happy to a couple of bananas, I am convinced they would’ve started to bring me bananas.
But still – we humans, we have started to make others responsible for our happiness. Truth be told, I have been very prone to that. I have been unhappy for a part of my life, because I felt not in my place, because I felt alone, because I thought I was stuck and because I believed I did not have the power to change it. And I blamed the people around me. They didn’t make me feel at home. They didn’t accept me the way I am. They didn’t work hard enough to stop making me feel alone. I fought and fought and blamed and yelled and kicked left, right and center until I had enough. And I left that unhealthy environment. Which is not saying that the environment in itself was bad, not at all. But for me, it was absolutely unhealthy. I was not happy there.
And when I left, when I created an environment for me again in which I felt comfortable, my happiness started coming back. Only I know what makes me happy. And nobody, nobody in the whole wide world, can know upfront what is going to make me happy.
This basically means two things:
- Happiness is triggered by chemicals in your brain
- Chemicals in your brain are triggered by the experiences and the environment where you put yourself in
That. Is. Happiness.
And we can go over and over this. The psychological impact of happiness. Natural happiness versus induced happiness. What does it matter? If you have any experience that activates those chemicals in your brain, you have that happy feeling. Which also means that you have all the power in your hand to actually
be happy. In a different post I wrote about the influence of thoughts on emotions. The exact same things happens with happiness: bad thoughts create unhappy feelings, happy thoughts create happy feelings.
Again – it’s so easy.
Then why isn’t nobody living like this? Why aren’t we happy all the time?
Honestly, would you challenge yourself if you would be completely happy and satisfied all the time? Would you feel the need to become a better person, to thrive at what you do? I wouldn’t. Happiness comes and goes, exactly how it’s supposed to be. Imagine living on that high all the time? Everything would be blissful, everything would be peaceful. Everything would be …. BORING! We humans, we need the challenge. This thirst for this Happiness drug, it’s what drives each and every one of us. We all know the stories of people who use medications to induce that same state of mind. After a few years of extensive usage, they have ruined their body and their mind is only a slither of what it once was. That’s unhealthy. You cannot get to the highest high unless you’ve felt what it’s like to be on the lowest low. So personally, I’ll take the challenge. I am not seeking to be happy all the time.
What about you?