Achieving True Happiness
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The question “why are we on this planet?” is one that everyone at some point in his or her life ponders about. For some it might be family, others success or religion, but at the root of it all, if we are not happy, what is the point of asking? “Happiness” can be defined as a mental state or emotion in which we are content with everything in out surroundings and encounters. In the essay, “Born to Be Happy, Through a Twist of Human Hard Wire,” author Richard A. Friedman explains happiness in a very interesting way. He states that chemicals the brain produces, such as dopamine and serotonin is the causes of happiness and other emotions. That may be a way of generalizing the causes scientifically, but for something so complex and mysterious such as happiness, it becomes the aspects in your life that enable you to achieve true happiness. They can be summed down to daily satisfaction, social satisfaction, and personal satisfaction. Those three components cover every section of your life; having all three evident in your life with good balance between each of them will enable you to achieve true lasting happiness.
In his essay, Friedman, talks about a rare circumstance of a woman that lost her job and husband died from cancer, but was still always abnormally happy. The woman was lucky to be born with a joyous temperament, which in its most extreme form is called hyperthymia. Despite life’s misfortunes and any bad event, hyperthymic people remain energetic; they are considered the psychiatric mirror image of people who suffer from lifelong mild depression called dysthymia. Over two thousand years ago, Hippocrates proposed that a mixture of four basic things determined human temperament. Those were thought to be “blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile”. Today that theory is now replaced with chemicals your brain produces called neurotransmitters.
Modern day science shows that emotional levels are based on the amounts of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. Humans for the past two thousand years have experimented trying to recreate those chemicals your brain produces, like cocaine, which overloads your brain with dopamine, or ecstasy, which releases serotonin. Both drugs are unsuccessful in creating a stable lasting, positive emotional level. They cause the brains neurotransmitters and receptors to get dulled, making you desensitized to those chemicals, which your brain naturally produces. Friedman concludes that there are no recreational drugs that can recreate the stable, happy mental state of hyperthymic people. For everyone else, achieving happiness is not as easy as it is for that woman. It is difficult and takes constant work throughout your life.
For the rest of us who were not lucky enough to be born with hyperthymia, we have to look at the three aspects I mentioned earlier. The first main aspect is daily satisfaction. This can translate to enjoying the simple things in life, keeping a clear mind, and a positive attitude. This might mean finding happiness in activities we enjoy, and hobbies we like to do. It can also be as simple as looking up at the stars after a long, stressful day and marveling at the world’s beauty. Life and happiness are not determined by one event; it is the combination of all the little things that happen along the way that make it worthwhile for us to keep going.
This ensures that when hardships come our way, we will not be easily discouraged or affected. I once had this neighbor a few years ago that would always be smiling. Day after day whenever I would see him he would always be happy. I soon began to believe that happiness was the only emotion he was able to feel. One day I come home to see a for sale sign on his house. I would later find out that he was going through a divorce, and his wife was taking the house and the kids. On his last day living at the house he comes to say goodbye to us, and I asked him how are you still smiling after everything that has happened? He replies saying that he woke up healthy this morning and that there is still a long road ahead of him; things will get better. We have to take everything one step at a time, and just be happy that we are alive. The issue of unhappiness comes about when we do not appreciate what we have and look for happiness in things we do not have.
The next main happiness contributor is social satisfaction. One of the main causes of depression is loneliness; the opposite would be having social acceptance and recognition. Humans are the most social creatures on this planet. We are constantly seeking affection, attention, and acceptance from others. When we reach a certain age we look to get married, and a few years later we bring kids. We can have all the success and fame in the world, but at the end of the day if you are alone, what is the point of that greatness? Rapper and artist Kanye West says in one of his songs, “My friend showed me a picture of his kids, and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs, (meaning houses). He said his daughter got a brand new report card, and all I got was a brand new sports car.” He is talking about how all the people around him have families and kids, and although he might be famous and rich, there is nobody in his life he can share it with. Having people we love to share our daily lives with is one of the basic forms of how we can achieve true happiness.
Daily and social satisfactions are a few ways that are essential to a life of happiness; however the most important aspect is personal satisfaction. This means that whatever your goals and dreams are, you work to fulfill them to the best of your abilities. This is different for everyone; there is no set formula. One person’s goal or dream might be as exciting and difficult as becoming a professional athlete, or it might be as simple as becoming a small business owner. This does not mean that the professional athlete will be happier than the small business owner just because he or she did something more difficult or rewarding. Personal satisfaction is whatever you hold dear to your heart, and working to achieve what you want to do, not anyone else. Becoming a doctor because your parents want you to will mean that you will be making great amounts of money, however if you are waking up everyday hating your job, and your life, that is not the way to go. Achieving true happiness through personal satisfaction is turning your dreams and desires into reality; whatever they may be, as long as they are yours.
Happiness will always be one of the greatest marvels of this world. Human emotions are the most complicated things to explain, because they are something we feel. It is not a physical item. Something that might bring happiness to one person could have no effect in another; there are no common variables to go off of. No matter how educated a scholar might be, or how much research a scientist might have done on happiness there will never be a happiness pill that provides constant life long happiness without side effects. However daily, social, and personal satisfaction can be an essential formula we can implement in our lives that can help us get on the right track to achieving that long term happiness. It is something all humans crave to have evident in their lives.