Finding Lasting Happiness: Why Is It Such a Puzzle?
Is Finding Happiness What You Want?
How do we tackle finding happiness? That is the billion dollar piece to the happiness puzzle that even having a billion dollars may not solve. More than any other emotion - perhaps even more than romantic love - you ask yourself, your family, your ministers and anyone else you come into contact with, the age old question of how and where do you find happiness?
Finding happiness is like seeking the Holy Grail. It is a global quest most people can relate to. It is so important, that one country, Bhutan, has a national edict that mandates its citizens to look for happiness. Unfortunately, happiness can be elusive, mystical, mythical even, and it is the rare person who does not spend time looking for ways to find happiness.
Sadly, it is also true that some may have resigned themselves to thinking that they will never be happy and have abandoned the quest. With no hope for happiness, is the search for love and peace summarily dismissed?
To answer the question of finding happiness, you must first admit to the existence of happiness and the importance of happiness. It is often a difficult admission in a world so full of sorrowful events that contradict and block even the most persistent pursuit of happiness. But the route to happiness is actually all around you and can appear in unexpected places, in unexpected ways. The trick is to be open to receive and experience it when you find happiness or when happiness finds you!
Happiness is an individually defined, and, admittedly, an often elusive emotion. Scientists have long searched for a gene that is connected to and, may be responsible for the feeling of happiness.
As it turns out, scientists think they have found the gene for happiness, with its own specific place on the DNA molecular structure. That gene actually regulates the distribution of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Research has demonstrated that low levels of serotonin contribute to depression. Adequate amounts or an abundance of serotonin helps contribute to innate optimism. Optimism is the thread connected to happiness.
The pathway to happiness, in other words, where to find happiness, really does lay within you or at least the propensity for happiness is somewhat controlled biologically. The mesolimbic pathway, an area located in the center of your brain, is most associated with the emotions of joy and happiness and is the area most affected by serotonin levels. But biology isn't the only factor in determining if you will find happiness.
Who can't find happiness in a baby's laughter, at least temporarily?
Journaling your gratitude can help you find happiness.
Why Even Look for Happiness?
There are many reasons to look for happiness. Aside from the feeling of well being, studies show that happy people are generally healthier people. Happy people tend to also enjoy greater success in life because they are often more productive in their endeavors and friendlier to others, key components to being successful. A case could be made that happiness is even infectious. Social scientists observe that people tend to intuitively gravitate towards happy people.
Fortunately, possessing the "happiness gene" is not the only determinant in finding happiness. Although, if it were, there would still be some people who would be happy and others not quite so, depending on the levels of serotonin their bodies produced.
The absolutely wonderful news is that it is within your ability to find happiness. Sometimes the trick becomes recognizing that you have the this amazing ability to find it. The next is to recognize that it is there in front of you.
Indulge in Happiness
Listen to Music!
Keys to Finding Happiness
So, where and how can you find happiness? How do we create the opportunities for experiencing joy? Can the happiness puzzle be assembled?
There are a multitude of circumstances that will produce feelings of great contentment and happiness. Many of those circumstances come from a few basic activities, some that are listed below. Read a few of them and maybe the pieces will fit for you.
1. Fall in love. Serotonin is released in large amounts in persons who are experiencing love. With increased levels of serotonin come the feelings of joy and contentment. That is why poets write about it and singers sing about love.
2. Have a baby. The physical act of having a baby releases hormones. Some of those hormones directly affect the feelings of well being and the reduction of fear and anxiety. When all events are occurring as they should, the act of giving birth produces an incredible feeling of joy that is not just intellectual joy, but also a chemical reaction. Granted, this is not possible for a huge segment of the population (sorry guys), nor is it experienced very often by one individual. However, for those who do experience it, the memory of that joy can be revisited over a lifetime.
4. Buy a dog, cat or some other pet. Rescue a dog or cat from the pound to feel an even greater sense of happiness. Pets provide hours of enjoyment. Their antics are often surprising and hilarious. The simple acting of caring for the needs of something else and knowing you are depended on, can help you find happiness.
5. Be grateful. Gratitude is the surest way to find happiness. It may not be the easiest because, unfortunately, there are many individuals who do not recognize what there is to be be grateful for. Open your eyes to what may be there. Be very intentional and create a gratitude journal. Identify those people, actions, events and even items you are grateful for. The magnitude does not matter, rather it's how they make you feel that matters.
6. Move to Denmark. Sounds funny, but according to studies, more positive people live in Denmark than anywhere else. Positive people are generally optimistic and happy. Short of moving to Denmark, surround yourself with positive people. The emotion is contagious, just as genuine laughter is. So pack the U-Haul or screen your friends.
6. Give freely. Giving fosters feelings of altruism and those feelings make you feel happy. This is why so many people volunteer to help others. There are many ways to volunteer in your community. Seek them out through your church or other sources simply by searching the web for opportunities. Don't think you have to take on a huge volunteer project right away. Just giving your smile when you get on the elevator can contribute to feeling happy. As mentioned before, smiles are generally contagious. Pass it on.
7. Eat dark chocolate. Chocolate contains chemicals that activate certain neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel content. Eating dark chocolate also contains antioxidants that contribute to good health. So eat a few pieces, guilt free. It will put a smile on your face.
8. Be social. It has been proven that if you have friends and community connections, it is more likely that you will be happier. Stay connected to friends and family, they're important to your happiness and also to their happiness.
9. Have economic stability. Prosperity, the ability to easily take care of your needs, strongly impacts happiness. If you're not worrying about how to pay the bills, you can concentrate on other activities that bring contentment.
10. Most important of all, recognize and embrace the times you are happy. You deserve it. Develop a sense of satisfaction in all of your accomplishments and endeavors. That sense of satisfaction, over time, creates the perfect atmosphere for happiness.
Remember, when you are exploring where and how to find happiness, you must look within yourself. According to scientists, you really do carry a gene for it. It will not make you happy all the time. No one is, nor should you be. How would you know if you were happy if that was your only state of emotions? And there are events that will happen to you throughout your life that affect you profoundly and negatively. Like happiness, they are a part of life. They can't be avoided. The point is, you should actively pursue activities that contribute to your happiness. Sometimes happiness will just find you. Be grateful when it does.
Last, spread your happiness around and it's sure to increase for you. Do things for others. Reach out in a positive way.
Where to find happiness? Why, its path leads to you.
Copyright Cynthia Turner, 2012.