Throughout the ages, people have built societies designed to support the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being of its citizens. Any ruling authority realizes, at some point, that happy people are easier to manage then unhappy ones. Left unhappy long enough, and even the most suppressed populations will revolt.
So in this article, we will look at how our happiness can be affected by the four traits mentioned above.
1. Emotional and Mental Happiness:
It seems to me that our happiness is often co-dependent. This means our mind and emotions need to be in-sync for us to be happy. We use the term feeling happy, but to be more realistic we should say thinking happy.
There are some interesting findings, through brain imaging studies, which have proved how the brain regulates emotions. Here is a quote from an article entitled Brain Activity Regulates Emotions by Rick Nauert PHD.
“Recently developed brain-based models of emotion regulation identify the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as a key player in the cognitive regulation of emotion… Scientists think that these brain regions are involved in bringing feelings into line with what the situation demands – for example, avoiding feeling or expressing anger during a conflict with a boss… the prefrontal cortex is involved in both creating and mitigating negative emotion, depending on the contents of thought.”
There is another interesting article in the U.S. News and World Report about our feelings, and the brain’s ability to effect happiness. It’s entitled The Science of Workplace Happiness, by Robert Silverblatt. .
“Over the past several years, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has peered into the minds of monks, pored over brain scans, analyzed neural processes, and may have discovered some of the keys to manufacturing happiness…”
In one experiment, Davidson compared brain scans of Buddhist monks with those of novice meditators. At the time of the scans, both groups were engaged in compassion meditation, and yet the monks registered greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with happiness, than did the novices… This finding, like others in the field, suggests that certain practices can, through repetition, nurture positive emotions.
“Unsurprisingly, researchers have also linked increased levels of happiness to better-functioning immune systems and to decreased amounts of stress.”
Now obviously we still have a long way to go when it comes to the mental and emotional process in finding happiness. However, research like this has shown that the brain and emotions work hand in hand to help us experience happiness.
So let’s stop depending on our emotional state to decide happiness, and find ways to train our brain to find satisfaction not because of, but in conjunction with our emotions.
There are many physical actions that help us experience happiness – playing sports, dancing, eating, and of course sex. It’s no mystery that our happiness often depends on our physical state. We could all probably write a long list of physical activities that make us happy, and a few that make us unhappy.
Think about it. It’s hard to be happy when we’re sick or in agony, and easy to be happy when we are enjoying our favorite food, or at our physical peak. Too bad our physical peaks (and foods) are so few and far between.
Understanding physical happiness is pretty easy, but let’s look at another area that’s harder to nail down – spiritual happiness.
In religious terms, happiness is often described as the state of joy. But what exactly is Joy?
Joy is like happiness, but on steroids. Many religious people have experienced joy even in most turbulent of times. This is because joy can be found in the belief that a more powerful being actually cares for our welfare. Knowing that there is a spiritual side to life that transforms our present condition. Basically, joy is found when we believe that someone else is in control, even when we are not.
Our spiritual belief can have a huge impact on our ability to experience joy. There is no greater feeling than knowing that our physical experience is not all there is to life. There is a quote in the bible that says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26)
Every race on earth has a set of spiritual practices and beliefs woven into the very fabric of their society. Maslow even put spirituality at the top of his famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
If you are not convinced, let’s look a number of recent research that shows spiritual or religious people are far more happy than their non-religious counterparts. Various titles include
- Religion ‘linked to happy life’ – A belief in God could lead to a more contented life, research suggests. -BBC News
- Why Are Religious People Happier? – Discovery.com
- Religion Makes People Happier—But Why? – U.S. News and World Report
- Defending the Faith: Religious people are happier, studies show – Desert News
Conclusion of part 2: What is Happiness
Now the definition and understanding of happiness will always be hard to nail down, regardless of surveys, news articles, research and the multitude of opinions (even mine).
This article was not trying to focus on anyone area, but to cover the basic components in understanding and experiencing happiness. So maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much to attend a church service, start praying or begin meditating. Also expanding our mental and emotional ability to experience happiness might also be a good idea.
However in the end, I like Walt Disney’s definition of happiness:
“Happiness is a state of mind, it’s just according to the way you look at things.”