Sustainable happiness results from what we do, not from what we have.
Chasing happiness as an aggregate of wealth and pleasure is a vicious spiral. A huge number of empirical studies show that vast amounts of material wealth do not make people happier once they have reached a certain level of financial security. Rather than crushing our spirits, the realization that we exist together for a narrow slice of time and space elevates us to higher plane of humanity and humility: a proud act in the drama of the cosmos.
Happiness isn’t just a vague, overwhelming feeling; it is a physical state of the brain – one that you can induce deliberately. Scientists have discovered that happiness or related mental states like hopefulness, optimism and contentment appear to reduce the risk or limit the severity of cardiovascular disease, pul- monary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds and upper-respiratory infections.
Doctors have known for years that clinical depression – the extreme opposite of happiness – can worsen heart disease, diabetes and host of other illnesses. But the neurochemistry of depression is much better known than that of happiness, mostly because the former has been studied more intensively and for much longer. A growing number of researchers exploring the physiology and neurology of happiness are starting to answer as to what happiness is in a clinical sense. At this point no one can say with precision. The word happiness is kind of placeholder for a constellation of positive emotional states. It is a state of well being where individuals are typically not motivated to change their state. They are motivated to preserve it. It’s associated with an active embracingof the world, but the precise characteristics and boundaries have really yet to be seriously characterized in scientific research.
Two brain imaging technologies – 1. functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which maps blood flow to active parts of the brain, and 2. electroen- cephalograms which sense the electrical activity of neuronal circuits- consistently point to the prefrontal cortex as a prime focus of happiness. Scientists are confident that this part of the brain is a proximal cause of at least certain kinds of happiness. That suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to be happy by virtue of their busy prefrontal cortexes and research in infants confirms it. Neuroscientists have also learned over the past decade that the brain is highly plastic. It rewires it self in response to experience and that’s especially true before the age of puberty. One might naively assume that negative experiences might destroy a happy personality.
Optimists may simply feel less stress than pessimists and thereby avoid the noxious biochemical cascades that stress is known to trigger. Another likely factor: optimistic, happy type seems to take better care of themselves than sad sacks do.
Does our happiness depend on that of others: –
(Joy shared is joy doubled; sorrow shared is sorrow halved)
When the selfish happiness is the only goal in life, life soon becomes goalless. We can never be truly happy if we dissociate ourselves from the happiness of others. This in no way requires us to neglect our own happiness. To love oneself is to love life. It is essential to understand that we make ourselves happy in making others happy. The goal of life is a deep state of well-being and wisdom at all moments, accompanied by love for every being. It is love that is always available, without showiness or self-interest.
Looking within, looking without: –
We willingly spend dozen years in school, then go on to college or professional training for several more; we work out at the gym to stay healthy; we spend a lot of time enhancing our comfort, our wealth and our social status. We put a great deal in to all this and yet we do so little to improve the inner condition that determines the very quality of our lives. What strange hesitancy, fear or apathy stops us from looking within ourselves, from trying to grab the true essence of joy and sadness, desire and hatred? Fear of the unknown prevails and the courage to explore that inner world fails at the frontier of our mind. In pinning all our hopes on the external world, however, we can only end up being disappointed.