Happiness is like a tangerine – bright, colorful, juicy, and healthy. I suggest you start the harvest at dawn. Scientific research and ancient wisdom show that happy people live longer, have more energy, and achieve better results at work and play.
Happiness is a path, and someone wisely said that if you want to be happy, you ought to study happiness. Reading this article is an opportunity to do just that. Within it, you’ll find practical ideas for happy living.
What is happiness?
1. The elusive notion of happiness
It’s not possible to stay happy all the time and quite often, our pensive moods are the wellspring of artistic inspiration. Rabindranath Tagore said it best in his collection of Stray Birds:
The sunshine greets me with a smile. The rain, his sad sister, talks to my heart.
According to Aristotle, achieving happiness is the ultimate goal of humankind. Well-being, however, is elusive and it tends to slip away as soon as we stop paying attention. Fortunately, with the rise of positive psychology, we have data that shows what exactly we need to do in order to be happy.
There’s still no app for that, and you can’t drug yourself to happiness (at least in the long term). But you can take specific actions and build habits that will let you walk the Tao of Happiness every day.
2. Different levels of happiness
Let’s distinguish between two primary levels of happiness. These are:
“The feeling of boundless joy, pleasure, euphoria, and well-being.”
“Being satisfied with your life, combined with having peace of mind and optimism; seeing the life as valuable and sensible in one’s eyes.”
You may define happiness on your own terms, but we have to start somewhere. The fact of the matter is that happiness is deeply connected to feelings of joy and gratitude. These feelings can be cultivated on a regular basis until they become new habits of the mind.
3. Clues about happiness lie in your genetic code
Part of your baseline level of happiness is genetically coded. There’s the serotonin transporter called 5-HTT and it’s responsible for the distribution of serotonin in your brain. As you probably know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.
The long version of the 5-HTT gene causes serotonin to be widely spread through the nervous system. The short version has the opposite effect. It’s possible to get three versions of 5-HTT by heredity; “long-long”, “long-short” or “short-short”.
Jan Emmanuel De Neve from the London School of Economics asked 2500 Americans about their perceived satisfaction with life. Next, they had their DNA tested and searched for 5-HTT. The research showed that people with the best combination (long-long) were very satisfied (35%) or satisfied (34%) with their lives. In comparison, only 19% of the short-short group ticked off either of these options.
4. You are responsible for your feelings of happiness
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
Now that you’re thinking your genes sentenced you to everlasting feelings of doom, I have good news for you.
Only about 50% of your overall well-being depends on psychological makeup. Around 10% depends on your life’s circumstances – personal experience, vocation, health, religious faith (or lack of thereof), age, gender, geographical location, human development index, etc.
Furthermore, about 40% of happiness depends on the actions and attitudes you choose to adopt in your everyday life. In that case, you are responsible and you don’t have to leave anything to chance. So let’s go for it.
5. The most important factors affecting your level of happiness
At this point in history, happiness has been well researched and we know exactly which factors contribute to it the most.
If you want to be happy – whatever the definition – you should take care of the following areas in your life:
- Goal setting and search for meaning
- Healthy habits
- Appearance, style, and grooming
- Holidays and recreation
- Money and financial security
- Generosity and altruism
- Setting positive rewards for your achievements
- Getting enough high-quality sleep
- Positive mental diet
- Meditation (or other spiritual practice)
- Mastery of your craft (being the best at what you do)
Study the areas above and think about how can you improve them in your life. Your level of happiness will steadily increase.
“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV
How did you like this article about happiness? Please let me know.
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