Happiness is the main goal of any living being. However, it is not always possible to understand what exactly it will bring, and what to direct efforts to become happier. We understand with the help of Western scientific research and centuries-old Eastern wisdom.
Scientists have long discovered that positive emotions strengthen the immune and cardiovascular systems, add 3-7 years of life to us, give us psychological stability, and make it easier to establish relationships and recover faster after severe shocks. At the same time, it is not episodic moments of joy that are important, but the so-called “basic level of happiness” – the state to which we return after emotionally significant events.
It turned out that, contrary to popular belief, this indicator does not depend on the size of income, figure, marital status, and other life circumstances. Quite the contrary: the endless pursuit of all these external attributes makes us unhappy.
What actually affects our level of satisfaction with life? The answer lies in Western scientific research and Eastern spiritual traditions.
West: 7 Happiness Factors
Martin Seligman and Sonya Lubomirsky, the founders of positive psychology, did a lot of research in their time, which formed the basis of the course “The Science of Happiness” from the University of Berkeley. Based on the data obtained, the authors of the course draw interesting conclusions.
It is curious, for example, that our level of happiness is 50% determined genetically (by temperament and other innate characteristics), and 10% by living conditions. But there are still as many as 40% that we can directly influence our way of thinking and behavior.
What unites truly happy people?
Relationships and Cooperation
It’s not necessarily about romantic relationships, but having close people and regular contact with them increases life satisfaction, and loneliness – on the contrary. Not only do babies literally die without love (remember Bowlby’s research on attachment?), but adults do it much faster if there are no significant people around them.
Happy people are characterized by such qualities as altruism and compassion. Very often they help their environment and are engaged in socially useful activities, volunteering, and charity.
The more we focus on the good in ourselves, others, and the world, the higher our level of happiness. This is the basis of the popular practice of gratitude – the habit of celebrating all the good things that happened during the day.
A sensational study by psychologists Matthew Keelingworthy and Daniel Gilbert from Harvard University proves that we are present in the “here and now” only half the time – the other half we just do something automatically. At the same time, when we are “at the moment”, we are happier, no matter what we do. For example, conscious dishwashing is more satisfying than unconscious washing.
As it turned out, movement is not only life but also happiness. Obviously, this is due to the powerful effect of exercise on the hormonal background. In addition, you can use any options for rest and relaxation – for example, play hellspin1.
The happy people who took part in the studies were united by the presence of a religious or spiritual worldview – while confessions and teachings were very different.
Knowing what you live for, and where you are going is an important factor in happiness. This is not about money or a blurry “success”, but about something that truly inspires and ignites. Ikigai, in other words.
As you can see, true happiness is not equal to a calm and comfortable life. All of these factors can be present in a difficult life situation – it all depends on the internal state of the person himself. You can overcome many obstacles, sacrifice yourself for others, temporarily limit yourself to achieve some goal, and still be happy “in the long run.”
It is important to understand that happiness is not a given (at least 40%), but a choice. Each of these qualities can be developed by regularly doing simple things like keeping a gratitude journal, practicing meditation, or doing spontaneous acts of kindness.
East: 4 Keys to a Harmonious Life
Previously, Western and Eastern views of happiness seemed to be opposite: if in developed countries all efforts are aimed at satisfying the ego (creating an attractive image of yourself, finding a suitable partner, building a career or business), then Asian sages, on the contrary, glorify freedom from the ego (that is, desires). and attachments) as the highest goal.
But now these two worlds are getting closer: Western scientists find confirmation of many Buddhist positions, opening up new possibilities for human consciousness, and modern Eastern gurus no longer call for the denial of worldly life but teach how to live in harmony with yourself, wherever you are. no matter where he was or what he was doing.
If we analyze the main religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism) and spiritual traditions (yoga, tantra, shamanism), then we can find many theses similar to the statements of Western researchers: for example, that compassion and altruism are indispensable companions of life “in goodness”. However, on a number of points, Eastern wisdom went a little further.
What determines the level of happiness, according to spiritual teachings?
The focus of a person who lives in harmony with himself is inside. Instead of excessive control of external scenery (place of residence, status, property), he hones the art of controlling his reactions – that is, thoughts and feelings. This is not only about optimism, but about tracking and transforming any negative states of mind (there are as many as 84,000 of them in Buddhism!) – desires and attachments, hostility and anger, ignorance, pride, and jealousy. It is they who close the original happiness and peace from us.
As we have already found out, the basic level of happiness is not affected by the number of sensual pleasures that we experience, but by the ability to deeply immerse ourselves in everything we do (both pleasant and not so pleasant), to be present here and now as much as possible. The same skill allows you to quickly “digest” negative emotions, not suppressing, but calmly observing them. In the East, this has been known for many centuries and meditation has been practiced, while the West has only relatively recently come to similar conclusions (hence the now popular trend of mindfulness was born).
When you do spiritual practices for quite a long time, you begin to notice that they all cultivate a deep and continuous contact with yourself. This is especially true for Tantra and other schools, where the concept of energy plays an important role.
Since the energy of each person is unique, then it must manifest itself in a unique, peculiar way only to him. This is the key to harmonious self-realization in society, real, close, honest relationships, and, ultimately, the overall level of life satisfaction. Modern psychotherapy also pays much attention to revealing and maintaining one’s authenticity through bodily, emotional, and other techniques.
Going Beyond the Personality
What in the West is called transpersonal psychology? The ability to see the big picture, or the conviction that the world is more complex and multi-level than it is commonly believed that we are all interconnected and influenced by invisible processes, that a person is more than a body and more than a mind. You can believe it or not, but such a worldview gives a high degree of acceptance and trust in what is happening, resistance to life’s cataclysms, and the ability to transform difficulties into opportunities for growth.
As we can see, the “eastern” technology of happiness also requires effort, deep commitment, and continuous practice – only in this way the skills necessary for stable life satisfaction are honed.