Monday, November 23, 2015

The art (and practice) of happiness

Happy faces

Happiness is an overflowing feeling of elation or joy. Happiness is implicated so tightly with well-being, health and even longevity (the famous Minnesota nun study and others), that it has become an important field of study in psychology. It can be shown that happiness is connected to a feeling of trust. Even laughing is the result of a tense or puzzling situation being resolved being innocent, comprehensible, which renews our confidence. Happiness builds trust and inversely only a comfortable, trusting mind can be happy. However, at the root of happiness great differences exist in trust, which is an important indicator of a varying degree of long term satisfaction, joy. The first, most basic level is money or power. These two are so closely connected; historically they were invariably one and the same. The second level is trust through knowledge, and the third is love. We will examine them in order.

The resulting differences are based on the level of emotional gravity, which is analyzed in detail in earlier posts. Emotional gravity is an emotional analogue of gravity, and corresponds to connection to things or people. Trust means taking things granted, making verification unnecessary. Children and young people are more trusting and adapt easily to changes. However emotional gravity increases with age, and changes are stressful for the elderly. Trust increases with more access to 'things,' so trust is a cultural (trust is proportional with the degree of democracy), as well as wealth issue. An extensive 2012 study examined happiness as a function of financial means in various countries. Not surprisingly the study found a positive relationship between income growth and overall satisfaction. However, the study also found the dark side of wealth. A satiation 'richness' point is an illusion, which is continuously re-positioned as we strive for greater and greater wealth. This tilted viewpoint always denies us full happiness. A sudden change of financial means, such as winning the lottery generally does not change the mental state, therefore the attachment to possessions (the emotional gravity). People who suddenly find themselves awash in money not necessarily become trusting. In fact it is often found that lottery winners are often back to their prior financial state and the happiness of the recipients also returns close to its original level. The reversal of fortune of the prize recipients probably can be explained by the difficulty or mental change.

Winning the lottery, or completion of a difficult task obviously involves starkly different preparation and also have contrasting after effects. In the first case happiness is triggered by solely an environmental happens-chance, whereas in the second case, it results from the positive mental transformation achieved by hard work (Csikszentmihaly). Diligent work invariably enhances trust, generosity (less attachment to possessions) and results long term satisfaction. This mental state in turn leads to decisions, which positively influence the person's social, professional status and health. Consequently it is regularly found that people with higher education level are more trusting and they tend to make better financial and health decisions. In other words, learning leads to long term happiness.

The most important and greatest source of trust is love. Those who trust, also can be trusted, which turns love a two way street. This is why we tend to find dedicated people in occupations, which requires love. Love exists in emotional animals, mammals and birds (and even crocodiles). Love will allow a bird to risk her life to protect its progeny. It fortifies the hero's determination to win in difficult undertaking. In children stories and literary classics it is love that transforms, and moves toward a moral upper ground. To love is to trust the beloved. Thus love can be directed toward God, or abstract mathematics. If you do not follow your heart, you cripple your soul. To love is also to trust others, the future, leading to generosity, honesty, and cooperation.

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