The Science of Happiness & Well-being
Philosophers have been pondering about happiness since ancient times. When asked, ‘what is the ultimate purpose of human existence?’, Aristotle implied that purpose is what he argued to be happiness: eudaimonia, a human flourishing. It’s not an end state but a process of realizing your true nature and developing individual happiness.
As far as science goes, there isn’t a clear definition of happiness since it varies from person to person. But when we take a broader look, we can find that the science of happiness lies in our ability to create a healthy connection with others and our true nature, to be mindful, have meaningful relationships, and achieve what we want. Much like the idea of eudaimonia, isn’t it?
Though the concept of the science of happiness has evolved from the discipline of psychology, it has deep roots in various disciplines that consist of humanism, moral psychology, emotion research, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and philosophy. So, to put it simply, the science of happiness looks at what makes people happy.
In the early days of his career, Martin Seligman, an American psychologist, educator, and author, came across the theory of learned helplessness, which outlines the people who think that their actions don’t matter in their happiness. With this idea in mind, Seligman started exploring the field of learned optimism, stating that if people can learn to be negative and helpless towards life, they can also learn to be optimistic about their lives. So the concept of positive psychology was born, and over the next 20 years, Seligman has been working on drawing the attention of psychology towards the positive elements, focusing on our strengths instead of our weaknesses, building the good instead of repairing the bad in life, and everything else that can help people cultivate happier lives.
Building on this type of thinking, Dan Gilbert, a social psychologist, also referred to as Professor Happiness at Harvard University, says that most people have a remarkable ability to make the best of things. He claims that happiness can be synthesized due to what he calls a psychological immune system. This is a system of cognitive processes that help people change their views of the world so that they can feel better about the situation in which they find themselves. It’s the power of our own mindfulness that can be used to create happiness and not look for it in things or people.
Happiness as a State of Being
If someone would ask you now, ‘when were you happy?’ would you think of the time when you were celebrating something or having a great time with your loved ones? Or even when you were experiencing something for the first time? Most of us would answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, not thinking twice about it.
But what does this actually mean? It means that we connect our feelings of happiness to people or occasions when we think we have a reason to be happy. But true happiness is so much more than fleeting, happy moments where we recognize this emotion. Happiness can be a real state of being, brought on by simply deciding to be happy. Modern society often views happiness as something to pursue, a destination, a thing to acquire.
‘I’ll be happy once I graduate, I’ll be happy once I get that job, I’ll be happy when I find love,’ and so on. This view of happiness is not only materialistic and chaotic, but it’s all backward. Happiness is what comes first, and success, love, and everything else follow behind it. Even scientists are uncovering the secrets to a happy life! In the past couple of decades, many of them have switched from studying stress, depression, and anxiety to those things which make humans happy. The results were astounding – even the smallest changes in our mindset and habits are capable of creating massive shifts in our happiness. Having a positive mind can create amazing benefits for our ability to be successful, healthy, productive, and creative.
The trick is to realize that to be happy, you will have to create happiness for yourself. And there are some great tips for doing so:
01. Happiness comes from within, not external causes
02. Cultivate happiness
03. It’s a decision we make
04. It’s our mindset
Happiness and Mindfulness
Scientists have confirmed that humans are naturally hardwired with a negativity bias, which is an evolutionary function once needed for our survival. This means that our brains are built with a tendency to embed negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. The good news is that we can rewire the brain and break this bias – with mindfulness.
With regular practice of mindfulness, we can deliberately be fully attentive to what we are experiencing or doing at that moment. This doesn’t mean we should ignore our feelings at that specific time. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing and accepting what is happening around us and inside our bodies and minds. Various studies have shown that mindfulness can:
1. Short circuit negative thinking
2. Promote gratitude
3. Rewire the brain
4. Build inner contentment
Although mindfulness is a Buddhist religious and spiritual practice, it can be adapted to suit non-religious contexts, including schools, sports teams, hospitals, corporations, and board rooms. It is cultivated through mindful meditation, a practice that includes aware, compassionate, non-reactive engagement with our immediate experience. Many people who started practicing mindfulness have reported improvements in their mood, stress levels, and quality of life. But why stop there? Why not let mindfulness find its way into government? This can be an incredibly promising prospect, considering the wisdom, empathy, and compassion that is developed with regular mindfulness practice. And when our politicians learn how to be more present, they will be able to make better decisions, resist bad judgment, be less reactive, and improve their problem-solving skills.
The Future of Happiness
Technology is constantly improving our communication, efficiency, and productivity, enabling us to achieve more and leading us towards happiness. Such devices include smartphones, smartwatches, or trackers but also AI, robotics, sensors, synthetic biology, blockchain, and other tech forms that can help humanity flourish. Those revolutionaries who work on building such tech are aware that happiness is less about money and more about quality of life, and they are working on helping us succeed in this regard.
The dramatic times in which we live show us that to survive and evolve past the current difficulties, it’s vital for humanity to forgive our differences and unite in a more compassionate alliance. Happytalism is creating such an ecosystem where people can live in full awareness, mindfulness, and happiness through the teamwork of transformative technologies, compassion, kindness, and wisdom. The aim is to establish a set of rules and systems that will resolve basic human problems so that we can boost global human flourishing.
In order to further human progress, we have to start from our communities and reach our governments. The evolution of health, business, education, and self are imperative for the future of happiness. One becomes many who will build new technologies, discover new cures, create new business opportunities, and push humanity forward. That’s the image of a happy future worth working for.
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