The majority of you will agree with me when I say that happiness is the Holy Grail of our lives. We all pursue it throughout our existence. Given that it is such a critical objective for so many of us, it is important to understand what it is and how we can reach it. Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what makes us happy and why.
There has never been a better moment to talk about happiness. In today’s world, despite all the developments meant to ease our lives, people are increasingly in the shadow of unhappiness and, in some cases, even depression. The way we live has never been more fast-paced, stressful and characterised by uncertainty. There have never been as many deadlines, socio-technological and political changes disturbing our mental and physical balance as we encounter nowadays. In the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the ordinary, people resort to what is actively promoted as happiness through mass media, with most of them seeking an elevated social status or financial gain translated into exclusive experiences. However, that kind of happiness has little or no substance, thus it is crucial that we dig deeper within ourselves to find out what truly makes us accomplished.
One aspect I want to highlight is that happiness cannot be defined in an objective manner. We describe it depending on our surroundings and experiences; for example a parent might be happy when his son makes his first steps, while a ballerina might feel over the moon about her new pair of slippers. Even when we are talking about the same person, the source of happiness changes as they age. At early stages of their lives, people find toys and games fulfilling, while at later stages it takes a lot more to feel accomplished and happy.
Scientists have long been trying to quantify and measure happiness with some successes here and there. While it cannot be measured as length or volume can, researchers have concluded that we can evaluate our own level of happiness by honest self-analysis and reporting on how happy we feel in a certain situation in comparison with other moments. This suggests that happiness is more about a balance between negative and positive events. If we were happy all the time how would we know what happiness is?
Speaking of science, it has been long known that the activity of certain hormones in our bodies influence our level of happiness. For instance, Serotonin helps regulate learning, mood, sleep, sexuality and appetite. This indicates that certain activities or foods will make us happier, with those being physically active and following a healthy diet being 20% happier than average. The takeaway here is that we can build our way to a happier life!
It is important to take the time and work on our happiness because it is solely up to us to find out what makes us happy. In general when we think about happiness we think balance, equal engagement with family, friends, hobbies and work, pleasure and meaning, satisfaction and fulfilment. You will say that there is a great deal of situations out there that we cannot have control over, however we can still exert some influence on important aspects of our lives such as the people we surround ourselves with and what we do with our free time. Popular and effective methods to feel achieved include building relationships, being kind to the people around us, physical exercise, getting rest and focusing on immaterial wealth.
In a nutshell, we are confronted with decisions every day and happiness is one of them. We can choose to be happy.