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Psychology | We all want to be happy

We all want to be happy, but what is happiness? Many people have made lots of money in their search for happiness and still aren’t happy. So how do we define happiness? What would make you happy? A lottery win?

In our brains, dopamine plays a role in making us feel good. It is activated by some drugs like cocaine making them highly addictive. It is also involved in motivating us through the process of rewards. We get emotional or physical rewards and it makes us feel good. Would we be happy, if we went shopping all day, rewarding ourselves with new things and stopping only to gorge ourselves on chocolate and other ‘rewarding’ foods? 

It seems the reward of new things does make some people happy, temporarily. In fact, most happy events are only temporary. Einstein said that everything was relative and being happy is only good, if we can compare it with being unhappy. We have to know both emotional states. So the way we feel constantly changes and that boost that we regard as a ‘happy event’ is only possible if it is a temporary thing. We can’t be happy all the time.

It seems we can be fairly contented all the time and frequent ‘happy events’ will make us feel reasonably happy and contented. The occasional shopping trip, the odd bar of chocolate will help us have a happy lifestyle, but those things cost money. So money can buy some happiness. Most of our dopamine rewards come from an ‘approval rating’ given by other people. These ‘approval ratings’ are more frequent if we are successful. People approve of us and give us more emotional rewards if we are good at doing things. If you are an amazing artist, have a beautiful garden or can do anything that others will admire and comment on, these are emotional rewards. They contribute to your happiness or at least make you feel more contented. We should be aware of emotional rewards, because we too can give them out freely and reward others.

If you contribute to the community you live in or to society, you are likely to be appreciated and so there are emotional rewards. You would also be in a position to hand out those rewards more easily. Not all politicians and community leaders get those emotional rewards though or at least not from the community at large. The rewards sometimes come from a tight little clique of like-minded people. When there is a conflict between what you believe and what is generally believed then your happiness is likely to be very temporary.

If you want to be happy, become an expert at something. Especially if you have a job that you hate. Take up an interest. Take a walk around an art gallery and see if that interests you, walk around a library, a nature reserve or a museum. Listen to what people are saying and hand out those emotional rewards freely. Children appreciate those emotional rewards and are more free when it comes to giving them away too. When a child shows you their picture they did at school, don’t dismiss it out of hand, look at it and appreciate it. Then tell them that is colourful or whatever to encourage their interest in art.

You have a huge store of rewards that can contribute to the happiness of others; share those rewards and spread the happiness. They might do the same for you in return!

What do you think? Please share you thoughts in the comments box. I need those rewards too!

One response

  1. Pingback: Setting priorities | Mike10613's Blog

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