The Basis of Happiness

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

“Happiness”, in its entirety, is one of the most interesting phenomena that is known to mankind. Its ambiguous makeup drives the user insane in their chase for it, while leaving the ones that achieved it perpetually hungry for more. It is an endless cycle that leaves a chronic void once unachieved. How, then, does one become happy? More importantly, how does one remain happy?

The late Dr. John Cacioppo - the pioneer who developed the social neuroscience field - coined happiness as the “state of wellbeing” or “life satisfaction”. To achieve such a state, one needs to surpass their personal threshold required to upregulate a release of dopamine, serotonin, or similar neurotransmitters in their brain. However, the issue lies in this basic chemical response here. The brain tends to get “bored” of similar stimuli that release these neurotransmitters, requiring more and more each time to obtain the same desired levels of happiness - a term called desensitization. Essentially, your body is telling you that you require more of the same cause to achieve that desired effect of happiness.

This is where the problem lies. We as a human population have a tendency to let our desires dictate our decisions. That is just our primitive nature. We aim to endlessly satisfy our desire for happiness, relief, or similar phenomena by constantly looking to pursue outlets that may maximize this. We require more of the same stimuli each time to obtain the baseline level of happiness.

The pace at which our everyday life functions is sometimes a little too rapid for our liking. Amidst this consistent battle to stay on top of things, we tend to sometimes lose focus of what truly makes us happy. We attempt to oversaturate our senses with surface level happiness catalyzers that have worked in the past but are bound to run out of their magic one day. Maybe it’s not the high test grades or the international awards. Maybe it was never the big parties or the thousands of social media friends. To attempt to completely define happiness in this short piece would be an enormous task to take, so I will simplify it for myself by putting my personal thoughts to close. Valuing your surroundings and opportunities will bring about a happiness the chase towards material goods will never be able to bring. Understanding that everything is truly a blessing and that you have the choice to smile at the little things, such as studying with friends or giving a compliment to someone, could truly change our lives. The little things may bring about positives the largest material successes fail to do. Maybe we should start by prioritizing these little things - the intangibles. This could be the route we take to being and staying happy.

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