HAPPINESS: WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO WE FIND IT?

 CatSilouetteHAPPINESS: SEARCHING FOR AN ELUSIVE ANIMAL         

 Since the beginning of human awareness, homo sapiens across the globe have gone to the ends of the earth and back in search of the Holiest of Grails: happiness.  We’ve pursued or pined for anything and everything from fame, money, sex, and love to experimenting with a  exotic substances, conquering those weaker than ourselves, collecting or hoarding buildings, property, food, businesses, friends, snow globes, lovers and tchotchkes. Indeed there are many things in life that bring us momentary joy, entertainment, good cheer and good feelings, but what, if anything, can seriously make us happy?

             Lots of folks have offered a wide variety of thoughts, feelings and ideas on the subject and for as many speculations as to origin, cause and meaning of happiness, there are just as many theories focused on what happiness is not. Here is a small niblet of recent scientific findings:

 HAPPINESS IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT…

1.) Having a serious and constant cash flow!
Although living below the poverty level most definitely makes life way more difficult, overall happiness seems to have nothing to do with money. One study conducted by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that lottery winners felt a surge of happiness when they collected their prizes, but then returned to their regular ole pre-lottery moods a few months later.

2). Happiness is not: A Naturally Occurring State!
As it turns out, most of us are not born with a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts. The truth is that we emerge from the warm, snuggly womb all covered in slime only to be spanked into a world that does not naturally have our best interests in mind.  Although we are genetically programmed for happiness, it does, in fact, require of us a considerable amount of blood, sweat and a few tears along the way. And once you get there, it takes even more energy and focus to maintain.

3.) Happiness is not: Feeling Marvelous 24/7

The sad truth is that nobody ever lives happily ever after.  The research suggests that happiness is not a continual state of mind or being, it comes and goes, and ebbs and flows. One study found that most people who reported feeling happiness regularly claimed it had nothing at all to do with their moods. In fact, the focused pursuit of happiness actually quashes one’s ability to feel happy. If the focus is about the feeling, no amount of awesomeness will ever be enough, you will always want more and feeling happy 24/7 is just not humanly possible. 

SO, WHAT IN THE HOTEL IS HAPPINESS?

            After thousands of years fretting, digging, scheming, and discussing, science is just now rustling up some fresh ideas. According to data from a new round research, happiness is comprised of a combination of feelings. These include: feeling good about who you are, where you are going, who you love and what you’ve achieved. Psychologist Ed Diener, in his book “Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth,” posits that happiness is a healthy dose of life satisfaction mixed with more positive emotions than negative.

             Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl claimed happiness to be “the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”  Meaning that we may find it along the way as we pursue things that are most important to us. Even the Dalai Lama weighed in sharing that “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

            To sum it alllll up, perhaps one recipe for happiness is a robust pairing of a quest for pleasurable things delicately infused with the pursuit of challenging experiences that push us towards meaningful life goals.

             So yeah, dark chocolate with toffee, binge-watching The Good Wife, Paris in spring, New York at Christmas, or when your partner admits her mistakes are all things that can help us feel good temporarily, but if we add these to doing work that we enjoy, being around people we love, and striving to take care of ourselves, we just might stand a fighting chance for spates of joy and merriment in this world that at times, can seem so bleak.