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Happiness - What Is It and How Do We Find It?

Happiness is something that we all want and search for. But what exactly is happiness, and how should one pursue it?

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Senior Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

Happiness – It’s something we all want and are constantly seeking, and often just pretending to be.

As we start a new year – one carrying the burden of performing better than its predecessor – we decided to get philosophical and ask, what is happiness?

And philosopher, scientists, researchers and our families, are all divided on what is and isn’t happiness. And none of them are completely wrong.

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For some, happiness is doing well in school or college, getting the best job, making loads of money, or having the family life they desired. But, for others, it may be day-dreaming, having that work-Netflix balance, not wanting to get married or being in a romantic relationship. And for some others, it maybe living in complete isolation from humankind.

So, we turned towards Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate and psychologist, who believes the key to happiness lies in these two questions – are you happy about your life? Or are you happy in your life?

Yep, that’s deep. And while we figure that out, let’s look at the science of happiness.

Here, we need to look at the brain and four neurotransmitters that play a huge role in controlling how we feel. And before you ask, neurotransmitters are the body's chemical messengers, that keep telling our nerve cells what to do, in order keep our brain functioning, which in turn keeps our body functioning.

The four neurotransmitters that we need to know about are – dopamine, which is known as the reward or anticipation chemical. You know what you will feel when you finally hug your best friend after eight months? Yes, that.

Next, serotonin, which is responsible for both our good and bad moods. About 80 per cent of it is produced in our gut, and research shows that serotonin levels can also affect your hunger levels. Hangry, anyone?

The third neurotransmitter that we need to look at is endorphin, which helps reduce pain and increase pleasure – what we get when we exercise.

And finally, oxytocin, the social chemical and the reason we tolerate each other.

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Science dictates that we are wired to seek happiness and pleasure, but how exactly are we doing that? In 2020, IPSOS did a study on happiness across 27 countries. They found that six in ten adults were happy despite the pandemic, while 55 per cent said that they believed health and physical well being was key to their happiness.

And other factors included – relationship with partner, children, good living conditions and feeling that their life had a bigger purpose or meaning. And the happiest country in the world, according to this survey, is China.

Happiness is such a coveted goal, that one Google search will lead you to thousands of websites, courses, articles, all promising to lead you to it. In fact, when Harvard University introduced a course called ‘Happiness 101’ in 2004 & 2006, it saw one of the largest enrolments ever. Happiness is key to all of us, and psychologists and experts are now researching and applying what is known as positive psychology, a deviation from the regular approach to psychology, which focuses on human failings.

Positive psychology, while acknowledging our shortcomings, uses positive subjective experiences to improve the quality of life.

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There is nothing wrong in seeking happiness, as long as you know, that happiness is what you choose for yourself, and not what anyone else thinks you should have.

The pursuit of happiness is not a competition and it comes and goes in waves. So, if you can, be grateful for what worked in 2020, enjoy those small moments that made you smile and just know that we are all in this together.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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