How to synthesise happiness?
How to synthesise happiness? – this is a million-dollar question. We all want to be happy and be happy quickly, effortlessly, and continuously. But what does it mean to be happy? Fast pleasures, fast food, fast sex, fast relationships, and interactions fill our life. We can have it all to some extend, but does it make us happier? We consume things, emotions, events, goods, even relationships… We run fast in order to be first, to acquire, see, and experience more, and we even have no time, or at least we think so, to slow down and properly digest consumed goodness. We turned into sharks: we just swallow emotions, feelings and thoughts without chewing and distinguishing tastes and aftertastes, and keep rushing faster and faster, compete harder and harder. We ask each other “how are you” and genuinely have no time and desire even to hear the answer. We run our businesses, our careers, our lives like perfectly build machines, and as a result, find ourselves running empty…
9 out of 10 of my clients come to me and say: “I just want to be happy”. And this is a pretty big statement. Immediate gratifications come and go and we don’t even remember a year later how it was. But why? We learned well how to collect experiences, brands, events, lovers, ect., but, seems, we completely unlearned how to saver the moment, nurture relationships, and simply breath and be. We feel more and more lonely and empty, we are searching for something that would make us content, we want to fall in love with someone amazing and kind, but the first thing we all have to do is to fall in love with our hungry for true happiness souls driven by our inflated egos and social conditioning. And here it is! The million-dollar question arises again. What is true happiness and how to get it?
In order to get or create something we have to determine it first. So, what is happiness: a comfortable life, a fleeting subtle emotion, a feeling of ecstasy, a state of mind, a sense of achievement, fulfilling relationships, inner peace and love, or a combination of all of that? I reckon, there is no a unified answer because we are all unique. Unique to some extent! And this is a good news! We are all humans and we definitely have something in common. I’m talking now about our natural origins and neuro-physiological structure. The happiness equation is various from person to person, however, we all know how it is to be happy. First of all, it feels good. Secondly, multiple research studies show that happiness increases longevity, improves health and relationships, makes us kinder, more empathetic, loving, caring, and beautiful balanced human beings. We all strive for happiness but, seems, only a few find a way to get it, and even fewer can sustain it. We often think that if we get a higher paycheck, meet our soulmate, get a baby, buy a house, overcome physical misbalances and ailments or even simply start having more fun - we will be able to obtain this well-deserve privilege to be happy. But the point is, the more we strive for happiness the lower our chances to get it. I’m going to zero in on this paradox during the course “How to synthesise happiness” in more details. Also I intend to run 2.5 hours intensive workshop "How to synthesise happiness" together with London-based intellectual event organiser Funzing. Dates will be announced shortly.
Now let me give you a bit of a history. There are millions of studies about depression, anxiety, anger, personality disorders, and traumas but there are just a few hundreds of studies related to happiness. The main paradox of happiness is: we all want to be happy but keep focusing on things that go wrong. Such approach looks at least counterintuitive. How can we be happy focusing on what makes us hurt? We opt towards well-paid jobs sacrificing our physical and mental health and private life. We compete instead of cooperating, we fight instead of loving and we become greedy and self-centered trying to make things happen. But the point is, it’s the wrong strategy from the beginning.
One of the reasons we think we have to work hard and sacrifice in order to be happy is cultural. In Christian tradition happiness was always considered as something that we have to earn. In eastern culture happiness is believed to be a final destination of the journey to enlightenment. We are used living with understanding that happiness is not for everyone. Only the luckiest or the most virtuous people can get it. From 18th century the perception of happiness changed, and after the French revolution happiness turned in human perception into the right we have to fight for. 20th century brought the new understanding of happiness: hedonic and materialistic. However, research suggest that money can increase happiness but only to some extent allowing people to achieve more comfortable life, get better healthcare, improve nutrition, and ease day-to-day straggle. But the logical question is why so many rich and successful people are still unhappy, suffer from depressions and commit suicides? Multiple studies show that higher income could elevate happiness only for those who live in poverty. The threshold is 55K GBP (75K USD) per year for a household. After this figure money have no influence on the happiness level and life satisfaction overall.
Another pretty recent cultural phenomenon is so-called “the power of now” ideology. It might be a good idea but it was massively misinterpreted. Mindfulness and deliberate prioritising pleasures and positive emotions are extremely attractive themes for the western society which was too busy during the past few centuries fighting for and earning happiness. The idea looks like well-deserved holidays and the opportunity to finally relax and soften the grip. However, in practice, this paradigm revealed multiple limitations. For example, many people lost the deeper layer of happiness and the sense of meaning focusing on “here and now” immediate gratifications. Desperate hedonic treadmill and endless hunting for more and more of fleeting pleasures brought us into the depression epidemic of the beginning of the 21st century. Getting sick of endless celebration and meaningless life we start searching for meaning, love, and depth but the point is other people around us lost the sense of meaning too. And it is a massive emotional and spiritual contamination. Such approach to life leads us to extreme individualism and isolation that increases unhappiness. We build and cultivate our egos even talking about the concept of “ego death”. We read Buddhists' holy texts and learn neuroscience and quantum physics, get obsessed with perfecting ourselves believing that we will be able to get back the lost paradise but the point is: the paradise has never been lost. We just stopped seeing it being constantly anxious and busy making money, polishing our lame mental images and striving for perfection and happiness.
The recipe for happiness is not obvious at all. But there is a recipe and pretty simple one! And the main secret is: in order to be happy, feel it fully and be able to sustain it we have to turn happiness from the abstract philosophical idea into the very practical mental habit. Let me tell you more: it’s already wired into our over-conditioned by civilisation brains. And as any mental habit the habit of happiness requires the understanding of its nature, the right strategy and tactics, exercise, and repetition until it will become hard-wired into our brain again. In other words, it’s already there we just lost the focus and we have to re-attune it. Good news is we can deliberately alter out focus and, therefore, our brain, mind and bodies the way we want extracting the old but gold habit of happiness buried under multiple piles of mental junk. Thanks to neuroplasticity, epigenetics, quantum physics, and cognitive-behavioural neuroscience, we now know how to make things happen.