Every discipline from philosophy to theology has taken comparably unsatisfying stabs at it, though the former may have given us more to chew on.
Psychologically speaking, the state of being happy exists on a continuum that subsumes life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, and flourishing (or the rapid rate of positive developments).
It’s important to distinguish the mechanics that define happiness as an emotional state from the ones that define it as a mental one, given the road to recovery is certainly impacted by the nature of one’s personal relationship with happiness.
This distinction explains why subjects faced with the same circumstances often cope with varying degrees of success.
“If we’re talking about a clinical depression, it’s useful to say that there’s a physiology to this that can be driven from below in a way that’s not narrowly responsive to one’s thinking,” neuroscientist, Sam Harris explained in a recent edition of Impact Theory. “But the normal range of psychological suffering—not clinical depression but just feeling like life sucks and you’re a failure, that is the story of telling yourself a story. You’re thinking. You can either become more and more mindful of that and interrupt that more and more, and or, and it should be or, you can reframe this continually and tell yourself a better story.”
If we remove negative circumstances from analysis, we see that there is genetic material responsible for our general capability to feel happy.
Even its punitive influence can be corrected with the help of pharmacology, though any breed of depression, be it clinical or otherwise, can be addressed to some degree with a change in narrative.
According to a new paper, medically reviewed by psychologist and author, Alisa Ruby Bash, genetics are responsible for roughly 40% of our ability to obtain happiness while the remaining 60% of the equation comes down to lifestyle and environmental factors.
“Although research suggests that happiness is inherited to some extent, you’re not limited by your DNA. The ability to feel happy takes practice and can be achieved with the right mindset,” the authors wrote in the report.
“Volunteering, exercise, nature, and attention to gratitude practices are just a few things you can do to increase your sense of life satisfaction, well-being, purpose, and ultimately, happiness.”
We also might consider taking advantage of the overwhelming negative that is the human experience.
In Studies in Pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer likened existence to lambs in a field trying to evade the eye of the butcher. Eventually, the last lamb will meet the same fate as the others. Likewise, sickness, poverty, and spiritual mutilation will impact us all in due time, so every day that it doesn’t is elevated beyond its means.
Knowing this, we can appreciate every theoretical defeat as a present and tangible victory. We can even redefine life satisfaction as a life not yet terminated or augmented past recognition.
“I know of no greater absurdity than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative in its character. Evil is just what is positive; it makes its own existence felt,” Schopenhauer wrote. “Happiness and satisfaction always imply some desire fulfilled. Some state of pain brought to an end.”
Happiness, as an emotional state staffed with career objectives and personal milestones, appears to be a privilege co-authored by luck and perseverance. Happiness, as a mental state free of neurological disruptions, is a right owed to every living organism even if some must achieve it via clinical intervention.