Hi! My name is Jasmine Paduraru, and my inquiry question is: What does it take to be happy? This post, I am going to be asking myself what exactly is happiness?
This post will be split into three parts:
- What does happiness mean? Is happiness what we think it is?
- The three different levels of happiness
- What, scientifically, causes us to be happy?
1 – What does happiness mean and is it what we think it is?
I find that people use the word happiness so often, it’s hard to be able to tell what it really refers to.Psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomisky explains that happiness has two components. The first component is experiencing more positive emotions than negative emotions overall. The second component is feeling that your life is “good, meaningful, and worthwhile”. Lyubomisky believes that you need both of these components to truly be happy. (1)
It’s also important to understand the external variables that play a part in how we perceive happiness. What does happiness look like? Well, it all depends on your opinion. One of the things that is changing what we think of happiness is social media. Psychologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge’s conducted a research project, which concluded that the longer people use Facebook, the stronger they believe that other people’s lives are happier than their’s. Similarly, the more “friends” someone has added on Facebook that they don’t know personally, the more inclined they are to believe that others are happier than them (2). I think that this is because, on social media, people only share the positive aspects of their lives. To the outside eye, it makes it seem like people with happy lives only experience positive emotions. We compare ourselves to this standard of happiness, when it isn’t achievable. It’s important to understand the real definition of happiness, in order to avoid getting swayed by societal views.
2. The three different levels of happiness
Since happiness is such a general term, psychologists have split it into three different levels. In his article, “What is Happiness?”, Benjamin Radcliff explains that the first level of happiness is all about your present emotions. It’s the most simple version of happiness. Essentially, it’s just a positive feeling we have during a certain point in time. The second level of happiness is what Radcliff refers to as a cognitive evaluation of one’s life. This second level is achieved when we reflect on our positive and negative experiences, and conclude whether or not we are happy overall. The third level of happiness is all about finding your sense of purpose, or feeling a certain sense of freedom. I found this really interesting, because the more I think about it, the more I realise how different these levels of happiness truly are. I’m so glad that I’ve learnt this, because i believe it’ll help me better understand myself in the future. (3)
3. What, scientifically, causes us to be happy?
Happiness is a sensation we experience when certain neurochemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters are released in our brains. Below are the four main chemicals that make us feel happiness:
Endorphins – Endorphins are produced by our central nervous system, in order for us to deal with physical pain. When feeling happy because of endorphins, it’s common to feel lightheaded or “giddy”. Endorphins are produced when exercising, which would be something interesting for me to look into in my future posts.
Serotonin – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is triggered by several things, such as bright light exposure, exercise, positive thinking, and certain diets.
Dopamine – Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that gives you that sense of accomplishment when you accomplish something, such as scoring a goal.
Oxytocin – Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when you feel safe and loved. (4)
That’s all, thank you for reading my post! Next post, I’m going into look into how happiness is affected by our lifestyles. Particularly, I am going to try to find an answer to whether happiness depends on our lifestyle or mindset? It would be really helpful if you could complete this survey that I made, in order to help me with my next research rounds: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TQC92N6 (The survey is anonymous)