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Researchers have been pursuing a ‘scientific study of happiness’ over the past three decades. Nobel prize winners, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton from Princeton University have been publishing extensive research papers on the subject, formulating that happiness is in fact a deterministic science, built using a multitude of social, behavioural, genetic and environmental influences.
Strange right? Well, not really. For example, research clearly shows that the genetic component triggering happiness is the baseline to return to when understanding which events influence your mood. In easy words, this means that your emotional responses to certain things are already in-built. The ultimate nature vs. nurture argument. Psychological Sciences reported an analysis of twins to test this theory. Sets of identical twins brought up apart were tested to determine ‘happiness triggers’. The estimates, from psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen estimated that the genetic component of a person’s ‘well-being’ is roughly 50%. That’s a huge number.
Moving past genetics, the answers aren’t as black and white. There’s social norms of happiness - relegion, familial ties and jobs, primal norms like sex and love and then personal motivations built from traits like altruism, ambition and greed. Then comes factors that exist outside our control - anthropology, socio-economic standing, calamities, world events (like pandemics), inter-planetary movements, the universe. It’s difficult and maybe too clinical to dissect each feeling we’re having in the moment, humans just aren’t built that way. But, what we do know and accept is that happiness comes in phases. It’s impossible to be happy all the time and a little bit weird too.
THE HAPPINESS CHEAT SHEET
Is there a cheat sheet to happiness? There could be. Let’s list down a few things that make most people undeniably happy. Note: if you have an overarching mental health condition, it’s probably not as easy. But, these things can give you a little comfort on your good and bad days :)
We’re all social creatures and we crave connection with our species. Some of these attachments turn unhealthy in the long run, whether it’s with family, friends or our partners. That’s a well-known cause for grief. There’s a lot on the topic of toxic relationships, but one rule of thumb can be to stay away from them. Cultivating a few strong, reliable, mutually respectful relationships help form a soft cushion of support around us. It’s also nice to know you can provide that support to the people you love.
It’s scary (or maybe relieving) to know how much your gut affects your mental health. Eating right and working out sounds a bit banal when you say it like that, but honestly, try it. A week of not eating sugar or taking a walk in the spring sunshine everyday can change the game. If not, just the prospect of changing up your routine can shake up the monotony.
Doing things for yourself
A predominantly capitalist world wants to make us believe that creative pursuits are always tied to productivity. That’s really far away from the truth. Why did you start messing about with crayons when you were young? Because you liked drawing, not because you wanted a mansion with a pool and a stock portfolio. Get back to doing things just because you love doing them.
Escapism isn’t really the healthiest option. But, in moderation it can be freeing to be a bit hedonistic.
ART. MUSIC. DANCE. LITERATURE. FILM. FASHION. MANGA. DIY HOME DECOR. POTTERY. POKEMON GO.
Experience the world you were meant to live in, before we created another. Nature can be nothing short of miraculous.
Yes, there’s something bigger at play. No, it’s not necessarily a white bearded man sitting on a cloud. Find faith and connection to the universe wherever you deem fit.
Without it you wouldn’t know happiness either.
Our ‘Happiness comes in phases’ t-shirt was conceptualised to show that just like inter-planetary movements or cycles of the moon, our purpose and joy waxes and wanes. There’s a science to it, but naturality too. Allow the emotions.
Shop the T here.