What makes you happy?
Some people travel the earth looking for happiness. Some travel inwards seeking mindfulness and internal peace. Of course, there are many other ways that people seek to find happiness today but the questions are as old as humanity itself. I’ll assert that happiness is highly personal even without the benefit of all the great minds who’ve sought the question of happiness before me. With all of the bullshit around us today, I thought I’d write about something positive.
Conversations with Ron
I have an ongoing conversation with a mentor of mine. We talk about happiness amongst other things but as a person of faith and an engineering type, he has a unique perspective that informs my curiosity.
He recently wrote:
Herman Miller said “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”
Experiments show that having a sense of higher purpose stimulates Oxytocin production in your brain, as does trust. Trust and purpose then mutually reinforce each other, providing a mechanism for extended oxytocin release, which provides happiness. So joy on the job comes from doing purpose-driven work with a trusted team.
While he was referring to work, many studies point to psychological safety as being a very important part of happiness. If we are part of something and accepted. What else? If you want to be happy, surround yourself with happy people. This INC article refers to the long-term study on happiness.
The article I referred to makes it seem sort of easy. Just take these five bullet points and you are all good, right? Well, not really. It turns out that Aristotle had a thought or two about happiness.
Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence.
Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a
Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human
happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of
courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve
striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our
rational capacities. – Reference http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/aristotle-on-happiness/
An APA study that refers to the “Secret to Happiness” also looks at Aristotle with a conclusion and summary of
What emotions should people strive for to be happy? Consistent
with Aristotle’s claims, our investigation suggests that people are
happier when they experience emotions they desire, whether such
emotions are pleasant or unpleasant. To the extent that people
desire emotions that are consistent with their values, this suggests
that happiness entails feeling emotions that are valued, as determined
by the unique personal, social, and cultural context of each
individual – Reference Journal of Experimental Psychology: General © 2017 American Psychological Association 2017, Vol. 146, No. 10, 1448–1459
Is happiness a choice?
Beyond the thinking of Aristotle, many people have written about happiness. I have read a lot about it and I am HAPPY to share with you both what I have read and some thoughts on it. It isn’t simple and I don’t think we can just put it into some bullet points and be done with it. Looking at scientific studies, it seems that even though we have massive amounts of data on human existence, we are still in the discovery mode. Happiness is highly dependant on our perspective at any given point in time. It can’t be formulaic. The question of happiness is a very specific one meant for an individual. It is likely that some commonality exists with happiness.
You can enroll in a class about happiness at Yale at no cost starting today. Take a look http://fbuy.me/v/howardscohenmba <- referral to Coursera but the course is (here) This is for practical consideration.
I read in the book The Three-Petalled Rose, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-94) expressed that spiritual growth is our only means of achieving genuine happiness. The idea behind this is that we all seek redemption. He asserts that redemption means freedom – freedom from the boundaries that confine the human spirit. How could happiness be so complicated and at the same time so very simple?
Taking the leap here on some other thoughts or considerations on happiness. For this portion of the post, I’ll consider happiness as a movie genre. I don’t like horror movies but for other types of movies, I can be a few minutes in and predict if most people will like it or not. In the same way, I’ll suggest that happiness has a heck of a lot to do with acceptance. It doesn’t mean that other factors don’t come into play but I am happiest when I am accepted or not confronted with the need to be accepted. When I think of all the shit going on in our world today, it has a lot to do with a lack of tolerance and acceptance. We don’t hear of governments fighting for the cause of happiness. We don’t see marches on Washington with signs raised and hands in the air showing the love sign saying we need to “hug instead of fight.” What we have today is people inflicting their power and opinion on each other. When people feel they aren’t heard or accepted, they become unhappy. It spirals and spreads. In the middle of this, they find a glimpse of happiness in the misery but overall, there isn’t happiness on the larger scale. I wonder why there isn’t a campaign for happiness across the globe? Even thinking about passive and peace-loving movements, I can’t think of one that was about happiness. Could you imagine? The UN assembly meeting to discuss and fund the “Happiness Movement” and all that it entails. Well, since that doesn’t exist and won’t in my lifetime, I’m always looking to learn what can help me understand happiness and find ways to create conditions where I am happier for longer periods of time.
I’ve been using this mindfulness tool in virtual reality to help me “be in the moment” and travel inward. The woman who takes you through the practice asks you to find something that made you happy and bring it forward. Once you have that thought, she invites you to enjoy it now at the moment. I was playing back happy moments and for me, they were all centered on me being part of something and accepted. As I said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors but as I’ve reflected, it was feeling rejection that caused me the most pain overall. Even today, as I think of the people I am close with, they “accept” me or at least tolerate me. I’ll be happy with tolerate as I still am part of the something and feel connected. At the same time, I could also see being happy if the pressure of being part of something didn’t exist at all. When people make a choice to live on their own or separate themselves, they could be very happy.
It may be worth it to take that course on the science of well-being. As I take it, if I find anything that I can share with you, I’ll write it to you. In the meantime, if you aren’t happy right now for some reason, it’s ok. There is no requirement to be happy and there are good reasons to work through sadness. If happiness is attained through acceptance, redemption, and a life-long process, then so be it. Enjoy your journey..