Updated: Oct 3, 2020
In the words of the DALAI LAMA, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” But lately, I feel like there hasn’t been enough happiness in our world.
I see a lot of hate, sadness and division which mainly stems from politics. As I take in all that's happening around me, around the globe, it really makes me question what happiness really is and if there's a secret behind it? In today's society, the search for happiness seems very complex. Through this post, together our readers, I'd like to figure out what defines happiness, what the secret to obtaining happiness is, and how to maintain a state of happiness.
Researchers find it difficult to agree on the scope of defining this state of being “...satisfied with life, in a good mood, feeling positive emotions, feeling enjoyment, etc.( “What is Happiness”). This leads me to realize that the happiness is and can be infinite. Usually this occurs when we are in our most important relationships (spouse/children/family etc.). And when we are really happy, we tend to be even more happy - if that even makes sense. It’s similar to the idea of time being relative. As the time progresses that we maintain a consistent state of happiness, we will continuously become even more happy. So, happiness actually breeds more and stronger feelings of happiness. That's a lot of happy!
Happiness is an incredibly broad subject. It isn't just one specific long lasting feeling or trait, but it’s a state of mind that is changeable, and that can be “turned off and on." Happiness can also be genetic. Anywhere from 10% to 50% of our happiness actually stems from our genetics.
Hedonic v. Eudemonic Happiness
There are two types of happiness: 1) hedonic and 2) eudemonic.
Hedonic describes a feeling of having more positive and less negative energy or experiences going on in your life. Hedonism also has a much more cognitive component to it which is satisfaction. Eudemonic happiness is typically the state of emotion you feel when conquering a challenge or experiencing some level of personal growth. For example, a lightbulb moment when figuring out a difficult math problem.
Secret to Happiness
What is the “secret” to happiness or, what is it that some people believe is the secret? Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and author of the book “Happy Brain,” has his own philosophy.
Burnett describes his "37 Rule" theory. This concept says that 37 items is the key number of this item to own resulting in making a person happy. Sounds a bit odd and I can only imagine the effort involved in reaching such a conclusion. Which leads me to wonder about socks? A pair of socks are two items of clothing, I believe. Having a week's worth of pairs of socks will take up 14 clothing items alone. Will a person subconsciously lose one sock of the pair in order to allow more room for upper body coverings? And also, what if you already have 37 pieces of clothing and someone buys you a new shirt? Now you need to decide which of your favorite other clothing items you need to toss. Will you collapse, go into a deep depression or easily choose? Probably not.
Another theory of Burnett's is the money issue. Although people say ‘you can’t buy happiness' - that's one to really ponder. If I lost a bunch of my hard-earned money I know I wouldn’t be too happy. I also can't imagine someone jumping for joy over their stolen wallet.
I then ask myself, is having a consistent income a key to happiness or at least some level of happiness?
At the end of the day it’s pretty absurd to believe there is one secret to being happy. Believing that is possible uses the same logic as saying someone with depression can “just snap out of it.” A more logical reality is that not being happy every day, all day, all year and a full life time is okay, that is the a more totally normal state of being alive and human in the real world.
Turning Your Happy On
How can a person try and be happy or get to happy if you simply are not feeling happy? There are a few ways to turn on your happy. First, sometimes it's a conscious forced effort to build the pressure from a sad place to a happy one. For example, forcing a smile on the outside when filled with inward sadness. I know that sounds odd but I recently read an article that makes one really think, “...are you smiling because you're happy or are you happy because you're smiling?” Meaning, when you're not happy smiling can cause you to become happy.
Or, If you're feeling lonely, you can use your imagination to not feel alone. Our brains are very powerful tools. By simply closing your eyes, relaxing and taking a deep breath, you can escape loneliness through meditation. Think of a special place or person you deeply care about standing in front of with a warm and welcoming smile.
Feel empathetic towards other people and making someone who is down, feel better, inevitably will make you feel better too. This tends to also put our lives in perspective, a pocket perspective on life, remembering you could always be worse off then the next person. And just waking up to greet a new day is something to be fortunate for and happy about.
Happiness is much more than just one simple idea or one path. It is actually a very broad concept. What makes one person happy, at a particular time, is different from what sparks happiness in another person. By considering the concept of happiness, and the state of our divided country, my hope is that more people will come together. We need to work together to make our lives and the world a better place for every single one of us, of every race, religion and sexual preference. We need to spread the idea of happiness and appreciate our lives and those of others.