It looks like everyone is running after happiness but no one seems to really find it. Let’s explore this dimension of our life scientifically. In one of the conferences in the past His Holiness ‘Tenzin Gyatso’, the 14th Dalai Lama asked the social scientists to do a research on Happiness & Happy Emotions. He mentioned that we have already invested enough on the negative emotions. Everybody is so much interested in stress management, depression, anxiety etc… but why it is so that we are not doing anything about happiness. The idea which he was implying was that we can’t really fight with negative emotions, however, if we simply learn how to be happy, then suddenly all the negativity just vanishes. It’s like you can’t fight with darkness, but if you simply bring the light, the darkness is gone. Inspired by that idea the social scientists took this responsibility and did a research on different scientific ways through which human beings can create a happy chemistry within themselves. On the basis of their research they came up with the following happiness formula:
‘H = S + C + V’
H: Overall level of happiness
S: Biological set point
C: Conditions of Living
V: Voluntary activities or Choices we make daily
Let’s discuss all of these aspects one by one below:
S: Our Biological set point. The setpoint is a brain mechanism and determines 50 percent of your total happiness experience. Let’s take an example to understand it. Let’s say there is a situation which a group of people is facing. Now there will be few people who will immediately start complaining about the situation, they will become stressful, angry & will show hostility. (This means they are unhappy). However, there will be people who will respond to the situation instead of reacting, they will see an opportunity of finding out a solution to the problem (Usually people of this approach tend to be more happier than the other ones). That’s what a set point is. It’s the way you look at a particular situation and respond to it.
Now the next question arises, How the set point is determined? The set point gets determined in the first 3 years of your life when you were growing up. Which means if the parents are always fighting and having an argument at home, then the child’s brain responds to the environment accordingly. The neurons in child’s brain start mirroring the neurons of the environment. Just like we learn the linguistic language by observation using sense perceptions, similarly we learn the emotional language and our brain responds to it as per the situations around us.
Now many of you must be thinking that this is a bad news, because if in case you had such an environment as a baby, then you are screwed, Isn’t it?. But let me ease out the situation. The good news is you can easily change your set point by doing various Mindful & Yogic practices. Meditation, for example, allows you to go deeper into the true nature of who you are & it also allows you to have a sense of balance in your body as well your mind and emotions. If you sustain meditative practices even for 2-3 months, you will see a dramatic change in the way you respond to your day to day life situations. Your set point can easily be shifted towards the direction you want, provided you are persistent with your efforts.
C: Conditions of Living. In this context, we are primarily talking about the financial conditions. It contributes approximately 10 percent to your overall happiness experience. Let’s say for e.g your boss gave you a hefty appraisal this year or you won a 1 million dollar lottery. In this case, your happiness will increase to a certain level in first few weeks. After few months it will become stagnant, and by the time you reach the end of the year, you are again back to your initial set point. If you give too much over exaggerated importance to this aspect then in 5 years time you will be below your set point because the moment you have more money, then there is a tendency that you start identifying with it. You start to feel that you are an important person & start expecting the same from others, which leads to arrogance & anger if you don’t get the same treatment as you expected. This ultimately leads to more misery than the way you originally were. So too much of Richie rich thing also lowers down your happiness index if you do not know how to handle it properly. This doesn’t mean that you should not aspire to be a millionaire. Of course, you should if you wish to, however, you should not let this aspiration affect your life’s quality in any way. Again meditation and other mindful practices can help you maintain your calmness & will keep you grounded. There has been a research which shows that extremely poor people are unhappy & extremely rich people are also unhappy. Both categories share the common ground, they are too much identified & obsessed with money. So the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you are all the time thinking about money, you live a poor life.
V: Voluntary Actions or the choices we make every day. This contributes 40 percent to your overall happiness experience. There are primarily two kinds of choices we make. First one is for personal pleasure. For e.g Going out for a dinner party, having a champagne, long drive at the countryside or simply shopping. These are different ways which people use for personal pleasure, however, the happiness gained out of these activities have a very short graph. They excite you for few hours or days and then it goes away. The more lasting happiness is when you are involved in some sort of creative expression for e.g painting, writing, art, music, theatre etc. When you are doing something which gives meaning to your life, this makes your experience pleasant. Forming relationships which are beyond material transactions will lead to immense fulfillment and bliss. Love is one of the most wonderful emotions and creates pleasantness within and around you. When you do something which is little beyond yourself, you feel much happier than the personal pleasure and it sustains for a longer period of time. And the best way to sustain your happiness is to make other people happy. It has been identified that you can make other people happy primarily by using 3 A principle. A: Attention, which means you listen to them, A: Appreciation, which means you notice something good about them & A: Affection, which means you care for them.
There was a research which was done in Gallup Organisation about happiness and they came up with the following results. If you have a happy friend, then your happiness increases up by 15 percent. If your happy friend has a happy friend, it further goes up by 10 percent. If your happy friend has a happy friend has a happy friend, it further goes up by 10 percent and so on. So the conclusion is, the best and easy way to become happy is to increase the capacity of other’s happiness. This could be anybody whom you know, whom you do not know or even your enemies. If you will increase the capacity of happiness for your enemy, you will end up having one more happy friend. And this pool of happiness will further keep attracting more happy people in your life.
So what are you waiting for? Get started with your happiness campaign and make sure whom so ever you meet in your life, you increase the capacity of their happiness.