“In every life there comes some trouble, when you
worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy!”
Bobby’s McFerrin song from 1988:
Definition of Happiness:
“State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging
from contentment to intense joy”
In essence, there is a distinct difference between memory
of happiness and the experience of happiness.
Memory of happiness equates to a sense of well being
or being happy “about your life.”
Experience of happiness is being happy “in your life!”
Let’s say you attended a beautiful symphony last night
that you enjoyed immensely, however at the end of the
performance the PA system went haywire and there was
a long screeching, gut wrenching, squeal that brought
loud boos from the audience.
“What would be your memory of this evening?”
“Did the squeal ruin your experience?”
Most people would remember the squeal when recalling
the evening, however the squeal cannot take away
from the wonderful experience that was enjoyed during
When I go back to visit my family and friends in Ohio
they often say, “I bet you’re happy living in California!”
Obviously referring to the stark difference in the weather
between Ohio and California.
One might assume people are happier in California
than in Ohio? The truth is that people are not any happier
in California, they only think they are happier. Both
experience happiness, joy and pain equally. Only when
they think about the contrast between the climates do
people perceive California folks as happier.
Memory is perception – the experience of happiness is
in the now and is spiritual by nature.
“Perception always involves some misuse of the active
mind.” – A Course in Miracles.
Neuroscience can measure happiness by increased
activity in the left prefrontal cortex in the brain. Neurotransmitters,
such as dopamine, serotonin, GABA,
norepinephrine, acetylcholine, are related to experiencing
pleasure (temporary happiness) and active MRIs
can register arousal in the reward circuits in the brain.
The most primitive reward circuit is between the ventral
tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens.
The hormone cortisol can be measured in the blood
and is released in unhealthy amounts when a person is
under stress, therefore reduced levels of cortisol will be
present when a person is happy.
Also, happiness can be measured by surveys. Of course
the wording of the survey can bring about different results.
Pleasure Versus Happiness
Pleasure is the state of feeling pleased or gratified. Our
brains are wired to experience pleasure to ensure we
repeat life-sustaining activities such as sex and eating.
The same reward circuits for food and sex are activated
with alcohol and drug use, and maybe activated by
gambling, shopping and even anger and chaos.
Pleasure is a temporary experience with either positive
or negative consequences.
Happiness carries a deep sense of fulfillment. Happiness
is also the result of overcoming pain and adversity.
Once again this is where contrast comes into play. A
person who has had a near death experience, recovered
from a terminal disease or has had a spiritual awakening
as a result of life changing experiences will tend to
appreciate the happiness associated with normal daily
living more than other people.
Pain the Price of Admission
“In every AA story, pain has been the price of admission
into a new life. But this admission price purchased more
than we expected. It led to a measure of humility, which
we soon discovered to be the healer of pain. We began to
fear pain less, and desire humility more than ever.” As I
See It… Bill W. and the Twelve and Twelve
Human Negative Bias
Freud stated: “the pursuit of happiness is doomed, the
plan of creation doesn’t include that man should be
– People hate to lose more than they love to win
– There is no word in the English language for the happiness
one person feels for another person’s good fortune
– The Buddhist term for this “mudita”
– Marriage Ratio: One negative comment requires 5
positive comments to equal out
How Ego Blocks Happiness
– Ego uses the past to destroy present joy
– Ego cannot survive without judgment
– Ego lives by comparison (media, celebrities, athletes,
education, family, religion)
– Ego wants you miserable and then it wants you dead
– Ego seeks to divide and separate, Spirit seeks to unify
This is a psychological phenomenon that equates to
“the more you get the more you want.” A major achievement
of a life goal (or expensive purchase) brings on a
temporary burst of happiness that is quickly replaced
with increased expectations of material desires. Overall
happiness does not change.
Common areas of never having enough are: wealth,
power, status, physique, attention, drugs, booze, sex,
and plastic surgery.
On the Happier Side
“The pursuit of happiness is obligatory. Man wishes to be
happy and only wishes to be happy and cannot wish not
to be happy.”
He went on to say what makes man happy is widely varied.
Some men are happy avoiding war and others are
happy creating war.
What Is the Source of Happiness in Human Beings?
50% is of happiness is genetic, 10% is status which includes
wealth, job and social status, while intentional
behaviors is the source of the other 40%. Knowing
that our thoughts and behaviors actually create new
neural circuits in the brain, intentional self-enhancing
thoughts and behaviors can overtime rewire our brains
so that we enjoy more happiness.
Certain activities are known for stimulating the brains
sources for happiness.
People are the happiest when they are:
– In the flow, absorbed in a task such as, physical
activity (sports) and even work
– People who seek variety and new adventures are
– People are happy when focused on a loved one
– People are happy when discovering and learning
– And of course, people are happy while engaged
Ironically, people are least happy when they are looking
in the mirror and, or when they are self-analyzing.
This is different from the authentic good feelings one
experiences by honest self-assessment and by journalizing
People who are members of strict fundamentalist
groups tend to not be happy. Also with people who
commute more than 45 minutes to work daily are not
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Goals and Values
Extrinsic (external goals) include: money, image and
popularity. I associate these with “memory happiness.”
Intrinsic (internal goals) include: personal, growth, relationships
and community feeling.
These I associate with the experience of happiness.
These are similar to value shifts with people whom survive
a near death experience, recovery from a terminal
disease or recovery from addiction. They usually also
include the spiritual experience of belief in a divine intelligence,
higher power or God.
Money’s Role in Happiness
Over the last five decades individual wealth has doubled
in the USA with no marketable increase in happiness.
In a recent survey of over 600,000 Americans indicates:
Money doesn’t buy happiness; nevertheless
poverty does correlate with
Families with incomes of less than $60,000 annually
and tend to become more miserable with the less they
make below that level. Families earning over $60,000,
up to billions in annual income, all “experience” happiness
on the same level.
When people equate their status and wealth to their
happiness, it’s only the “remembering self” – not the
“experiencing self” – that undergoes the feeling of wellbeing.
Tips for Happiness
– Live close to where you work
– Write or mentally review a daily gratitude list
– Take nothing personal
– Recognize you are not what you do for a living
– Recognize you are not your thoughts
– Challenge your beliefs and establish and review
your personal values
– Take quiet time to pray, meditate
– Don’t take yourself too seriously, seriously!
– Help others daily and be generous
– Smile – laugh – hug
“Now and then, it’s good to pause from the pursuit of happiness
and just BE happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-
“Happiness without reasons is real happiness – it is frequently
referred to as bliss, this is a happiness that can
never be taken away. Bliss is available in the now.” Depak
“My function is happiness. My happiness and function
are one, because God has given me both.” A Course In
Thank you for reading,”
I wish each of you love, peace, abundance and happiness…”