By Corina Tan
Most people want to be happy, but many people simply don’t know how to. Happiness is such an abstract concept that it is difficult to measure and quantify. It is almost impossible to come up with a guideline as to what makes a person happy, as it may mean different things to different people. When a person is happy, their brain releases dopamine which is a neurotransmitter involved in feeling pleasure. Happiness affects so many aspects of life – physical, emotional and mental health, but what does it actually mean to be happy?
Psychologists tend to define happiness as a subjective way a person perceives their well-being. In other words, how people judge the quality of their own lives. There is no one concept of happiness that applies to everyone, but in general, it is usually a feeling of satisfaction and contentment with life. This feeling can be attributed to life’s circumstances but some experts believe genes actually make up half of one’s ability to achieve happiness. Social injustice, childhood trauma, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), socioeconomic inequality, personal relationships, emotional distress, and work stress can be significant barriers to happiness, but daily habits, positive affirmations and ways of thinking may help increase it.
It is important to note that superficial forms of happiness that bring fleeting moments of euphoria might feel good for a short while or even longer, but if our focus is on pursuing something external, there are no long-term benefits to our state of remaining happy. It can actually hurt our true sense of happiness because we will always want more and never truly be content with what we already have. While there is no concrete way to measure happiness, the simpler someone’s personal definition of happiness, the less it takes to be happy and the more likely it is to achieve it.
Here are a few things that researchers believe enable happiness:
- Practise gratitude – This includes taking time to reflect on what you have, writing them down and expressing gratefulness.
- Think, talk and write positive things about yourself – Reminding yourself about your abilities and achievements tend to invoke positive feelings of self-worth.
- Living according to your values – Writing down your personal values and the ways you demonstrate these values in your daily life will give you a sense of satisfaction that you are abiding by what you believe in.
- Relish in positive experiences and allow yourself to feel pleasure in those moments – Reminding yourself of happy feelings may encourage you to continue to feel the same way.
- Be kind to others – Studies indicate that altruistic behaviour makes people happy and a continued state of generosity accumulates over time and results in satisfaction and contentment.
Not everyone is born bursting with sunshine, but these reminders may bring us a little closer to our happy place. It is well worth the effort to invest in happiness because when we are happy, we are more growth-oriented, open to learning and our interpersonal relationships are more meaningful.