In the previous post, we saw that humans have this amazing ability to synthesize happiness (achieve the right hormone chemistry and neural connections) under almost any circumstances. For example, studies have found that lottery winners are no happier than quadriplegics. In this post, we will explore why the general happiness guidelines often given on this blog; vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression, make the most of this amazing human ability.
For health, it must simply be understood that you need your health to experience the vast majority of external stimuli that lead to pleasurable internal chemistry. Painful internal stimuli caused by poor health are also a very large detractor from happiness. Therefore, if you keep yourself close to optimal health, you will give your body/mind every chance to synthesize happiness based on pleasurable internal and external stimuli.
Note that the reason why quadriplegics can synthesize happiness equivalent to that experienced by normal healthy people is because they know that they cannot regain the use of their limbs. This knowledge allows their minds to reset to a different level and synthesize happiness within this new reality. For an obese and unfit person, on the other hand, this is not the case because he will always know that excellent health is attainable if only he could skip the fast food and get off his ass.
Keeping your body/mind in excellent health not only opens up a wide range of pleasurable activities while eliminating the discomfort caused by ill health, it is also an essential part of longer term factors like personal growth and self-actualization. As discussed in a previous post therefore, it covers both the hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of happiness.
Personal relationships have a somewhat different relationship to happiness. The primary reason why healthy personal relationships get your body to secrete happiness hormones is because relationships were essential for survival over the vast majority of human history. Thus, we become happy when we connect with others primarily as a survival mechanism.
Nowadays it is possible to survive without maintaining personal relationships, but we still have our instincts which were formed through evolution over many millennia. It would therefore just be stupid not to tap into this natural source of happiness, especially when considering that a healthy relationship grants the ability to very effectively synthesize happiness to everyone involved.
Lasting relationships are also central in the long-term process of personal growth and self-actualization. Many would say that lasting happiness cannot be achieved without at least one deep and meaningful relationship. Thus, once again, we cover both the hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of happiness.
When it comes to creative expression, happiness stems from two main sources: the need to contribute to the lives of our fellow man (the need to be valuable to others) and the need for personal growth and self-expression.
Happiness derived from meaningful contributions to society comes from the same place as happiness derived from healthy personal relationships: evolutionary survival instincts. The need for personal growth and self-expression goes a little deeper and combines the pleasures of a body/mind capable of experiencing and contributing on progressively higher levels and the simple satisfaction derived from the process of growing and developing. This will be taken further in later posts.
The third and final part of this post will take a deeper look at the failure of increased consumption to bring happiness.
Filed under: Mental control – Happiness