Happiness

Intro

Image
Man in exuberant mood

Most people would admit that the main thing they want out of life is happiness.  We do things in order to make ourselves happy.  We find a career that we are happy with, a partner we are happy with.  We do the things we enjoy and try and avoid the things we don’t enjoy.  Our lives are the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is having food to eat, the warmth of family togetherness and a house to live in.  Happiness is knowing who you are and being able to express it.  In respect of emotional fitness we focus on happiness as an emotion that we feel at any given time rather than the feeling that we have about our life overall. Happiness is written into the US declaration of independence as an unalienable right: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Definition of happiness

Happiness is usually accompanied by the presence of hormones such as dopamine and endorphins and the most common facial expression is a smile. There is probably a lot of overlap between happiness and the sense of well-being that comes with love and no doubt lots of coherent experience of love contributes to happiness, but we should view it as distinct because of the distinct hormones involved and because the emotion occurs in the absence of interpersonal interactions.  We can experience happiness as a result of achieving personal goals, doing exercise, watching a comedy; all things that occur to us in isolation from other people. 

Benefits of this definition

The main event

Image
Smiling woman

Everyone experiences happiness differently and there are some things that make some people happy while other things that make other people happy.  Happiness, like all emotions is 

There is a lot to be gained by discussing the emotion of happiness with other people to compare how different people experience the emotion.  We all experience it differently and some of us might be more coherent than others.  By hearing other peoples' experiences we might learn new ways of expressing ourselves.

Let's say you are on a high.  You know you won't always feel happy.  Over time you'll get hungry or tired and in your happiness you might be less than considerate to someone close to you.  Over time life events will slowly erode your happy state and you'll return to something more mundane, or even tip the scales in the other direction.  We can refer here to the rhythm chart from an earlier presentation and remind ourselves that emotions are constantly in motion.  What goes up must come down.

Constructive

Happiness is a highly constructive emotional state.  The hormones released by the emotion are life enhancing in many areas of health and well-being.

Destructive

Since the dawn of time people have taken drugs to create a pleasurable or happy experience.  In our society the drug of choice is alcohol, in other societies it is marijuana, hashish, coca leaves, or opium.  The moderate use of drugs to enhance happiness works okay but when people take drugs to elicit happiness, then there can be a problem, especially when addiction occurs and more and more of the drug has to be taken for the same effect and the person loses the ability to elicit happiness through natural hormones.

Problems with Happiness: Drugs

There are many different kinds of drugs used to artificially create happiness: alcohol, marijuana, heroin, amphetamines, barbiturates and the list goes on.  Some drugs work on the brain, others on the rest of the body. They are all used essentially to make the user feel happy, although after prolonged use and addiction the distinction is lost and the drug simply becomes a necessity.  Drug addiction is a terrible condition to have, especially for those who use heroin, but also alcohol and even nicotine, all of which are physiologically addictive.  People find their way into heavy drug use often while young as a result of peer pressure or fashion.  Even as adults in our society we cannot avoid being offered the most socially acceptable drug, alcohol, at social occasions.  As with all the emotions we must always remember opposites.  In the case of happiness, drug users experience the true rhythmic nature of emotions when, after a night out on the town tanked to the full they suffer a hangover the next day.  What goes up must come down.  Heroin addicts must suffer the most.  Just to stay on the level they must keep taking a fix.  If they don’t they spiral out into the deepest pits of physical dependency and emotional despair.  Alcoholics are similar.  In order to feel happy they have to take a stronger and stronger drink, until they are having whiskey for breakfast.  Smokers have it bad too.  The day becomes focused psychologically and emotionally around the next fix.  This is hardest when trying to give up.  I know I’ve been there.  When you try to give up, everything irritates, nothing is good and you are constantly on edge, all for the sake of a bit of nicotine. 

Channelling

Happiness is not an emotion that lends itself well to channelling.  However it is ironic that in some societies, when we feel happy about something and have a need to celebrate, we often take some kind of drug such as alcohol and thereby distort our experience of that happiness.  Alcohol is a depressant which actually works in the opposite direction to the natural hormones being a depressant rather than a stimulant.

Personal example

I used to chain smoke.  Sometimes that was all I could do.  I hated myself for it, but I couldn’t stop.  I was physiologically and psychologically addicted.  Eventually I psyched myself into giving it up.  I planned it so that I would stop when I started to do what I wanted to do with my life which was to become a musician and an emotional fitness facilitator.  It helped being able to tell myself that smoking was bad for the voice, not to mention the wallet and the health.  My happiness was dependent on doing what I wanted with my life, and smoking became a hindrance to my happiness rather than a help.  Once this was clear, and I starting taking the steps to realising my ambitions I gave up smoking and never went back.  I was happy with my accomplishment, and had more energy and lung capacity which I put into my singing and into the muscles on my face through lots of smiling.  Whereas previously smiling was a chore, now I can smile freely.

Challenge to audience

References and further reading

X