Design yourself to be happy in 2022 | Part 1: Chemicals have solutions!

New Year brings in the season of giving and taking greetings and good wishes. The most common of them is ‘Happy New Year to You!’. Does it really ensure or enhance happiness in our life? No guarantee, but our understanding of happiness enhancing factors and facets can help reclaim our health and happiness for a better life. Here is a series to focus on what all we need to know.  

‘Happy new year to you & your family’ –indeed the most common line in greetings on New Year, both received and given. At least I received it in plenty, most of it as forwarded messages, in WhatsApp, Email in-box, Facebook, Instagram and in several ways – and why not, one needs to send it to friends in thousands and it is really easy to forward message rather than writing for each one of them! I do not know how much it contributes to happiness in our life. We still remember how many calls we used to receive and how many calls we used to make—not just to say happy New Year but also on this pretext to get re-connected with old friends, families and loved ones. Gone are the days! Those calls definitely added to our happiness as we used to regain warmth of relationship (more of serotonin and endorphins) but the forwarded messages have made us stale, not even worthy of receiving dopamine!

We can learn a lesson or two from the science of happiness, in at least 2022.

Can we work to improve happiness?

Generally speaking, we do leave happiness to chance and think that happiness is a spontaneously occurring phenomenon, it just happens. However, the proliferation of research on human happiness has made it possible to understand few subtle determinants of happiness in our life. It has also transcended into the field of public policy wherein happiness is taken as the goal of development and it is pursued as an aggregate concept.

Particularly, COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the issue of mental health at the center stage. Symptoms of stress, anxiety, negativity, and loss of general wellbeing have started surfacing. It has also taken its toll in many ways, including the incidence of suicide. The moot questions for us is — Why some people are more vulnerable to stress and negativity while others not? How can we secure wellbeing for ourselves and our near and dear? What all can we learn from the research and practice on happiness and wellbeing?

The answer to all the above questions is a big Yes, we can and we should learn from the science of happiness and improve the quality of our lives.

The Chemicals have solutions!

Dopamine as a rewarding chemical regulates our pleasure. We get dopamine from things we generally like doing and they form part of our habit as well. Say for example, junk food. We crave for it once we are habitual of it. Each time we feel like eating, some or the other fast food would come to our mind. This happens because we start getting lots of dopamine from eating junk food. So is the case of certain type of music, looking at mobile repeatedly with the expectation of getting message or new notification. People need to see mobile as the first thing after getting up in the morning. We really need ‘dopamine detox’ to get away from this mind frame. Our brain has ‘neuroplasticity’ and it has become too much sliced and fragmented with loads of quick reels on the small screen in our hands. Once wired to certain pattern, the excessive dopamine would not let us think otherwise. We need to re-wire our brain through a different experience and exposure. The lust of pleasure is too immersive and it requires re-orientation of mind.

Pleasure is not happiness. Pleasure is dopamine while happiness is serotonin and endorphin. A long walk through green meadows, a night in forest, colourful flowers at workplace and at home, and a laughter with close friends may provide those extra bits of serotonin and endorphin needed to detox our mind. Endorphin is a healer and a natural pain reliever. It soothes up our feelings and set is right.

Major part of serotonin is released in our gut and it controls our mind and mood. A special care of gut is a pre-condition of getting plenty of serotonin and hence happiness. What we eat matters. A regular walk as part of our habit does help.

Possession vs Experience

We need to move from possession to experience approach in life for enhancing happiness. When we buy a new car, it gives immense pleasure. However, after a year or two the marginal pleasure derived from the car starts reducing due to – one, reduced utility with higher repeated use and two, inter-personal comparison starts the more you look at the big and latest model being purchased by your neighbor. Our percentile position in the neighborhood income distribution plays an important role in our happiness. Each time our possession enhances pleasure, each time it entails the possibility of eloping our happiness. Spend some of those preciously earned money on vacation. Click pics with family and friends. Make videos of your memories. It has been observed that a paid family vacation granted to employees enhances happiness in measures more than a monetary incentives.

Affective vs Evaluative Happiness

How you are today, is not the same question as how are you these days. The longer the period of evaluation, greater will be the focus on experience. Affective happiness connotes to ‘mood swing’ and mood swing is not happiness. Happiness is evaluative in nature, a subtle sense of feeling of satisfaction with life. It is the protoplasm of life’s overall wellbeing. Problem is that we search happiness in shorter and immediate factors and possession while what we aspire for is a sense of life-satisfaction over a period of life lived where experience counts.

Thinking vs Action

Our thinking works in a very interesting ways. It tells more stories on sad aspects rather than happy aspects. There is cognitive bias in our thought process, which propels us to be concerned about wrong happenings, uncertainty, sad occurrences and attuned to unpleasant thing, anyone must have said about us. We remember bad things spoken about us more than good things said. Nevertheless, what we aspire is happiness and positive things in life. We cannot be happy by merely understanding and aspiring happiness. We can be happy by working on it and taking actions for happiness. It is not so much about positive thinking but more about positive actions. One single resolution we can take in 2022 is to put few positive actions to make us happy. 

If we have to list five things to be embraced and put in action in the year 2022, which can enhance our happiness, the list can be as follows:

  1. Rediscover how to play
  2. Engage in creative endeavor
  3. Bring back your hobby which you left behind long back
  4. Learn new things
  5. Take a long walk with friends, better through a green field

The story of happiness will continue. Look for the next blog, Part 2. Until then, wish you Happiness!

Author: Dr Prabhat Pankaj

Dr. Prabhat Pankaj is a postgraduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics. He is a teacher by choice and started his career 30 years ago in 1991 from Arunachal University. He has been teaching Economics at postgraduate and undergraduate levels for about 30 years, in Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 7 years in Bhutan. Dr. Pankaj has also obtained his Executive Education in "Management and Leadership in Higher Education" at Harvard University, Boston, USA. Furthermore, He has written for the Times of India and other popular publications. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur.

56 thoughts

  1. I have been reading your research, Sir.The language is lucid. The way you write and the way you create the message, that is matchless.

    Like

  2. This article made my day. When we seek happiness as the outcome of something outside it may have a very short life. But being immersed in happiness by taking actions like taking care of your health, spending time with loved ones, laughing often on small things in life in our hands.

    I was able to relate the narrative explained in ‘Possession and Experience’ greatly. What you accumulate may not give you the happiness daily, but if you are able to generate frequent positive experiences out of it, then you are likely to be on the right path.
    Let’s all make happiness our friend.

    Like

  3. By mentioning the chemicals responsible for our happiness, this article makes it simple for all of us. Author brings great credibility in the areas of research pertaining to “Happiness” and a living example of what he preaches. Looking forward to read the Part-2!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A good reading on happiness, which has to come to assume importance in our lives. Economic growth or prosperity does not necessarily mean society is happy. Prof. Prabhat Pankaj’s article is well researched and good to read. Let us design education and economic policies aimed to make people happy also. Coexistence rather than just competition is also a way to be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Sir for your kind words, it means a lot especially when it come from an academician of repute like you. Feeling blessed! Also fully agree with you that this is time for the educational institution to apply the framework of positive education and happiness.

      Like

  5. Beautiful insights from a perennially positive and happy soul. Thank you, Dr. Pankaj, for these vital, but often ignored, blessings that make a difference to our lives.
    And, indeed, copied and pasted or forwarded messages or greetings smack of a sterile need to complete a ritual or duty devoid of feelings that accompany a personal note.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy new year with specific expressions like “I am grateful to you for…..” will revitalize these messages and make the day and year for both the sender and recipient. Maybe that’s a good place to start? As always, communicated with intensity and good intent Prof Prabhat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anand ji .. to my understanding of happiness, a lot has been added you .. your association has been very enriching for me, academically and otherwise. Looking forward to write more with you.

      Like

  7. Great article sir 👏 it really gives an insight on consciously staying happy through experiential pleasure over materialistic pleasures. It gives a direction to a thought process to people searching for the same in external materialistic pleasures and also gives direction to ensure at last that my happiness is evaluative and not affective .Thank you for blessing the feed with this piece for great start of the week .👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Indeed happiness comes from within,article on Happiness and healthy lifestyle written by Dr Prabhat Pankaj is quite inspiring.I hope more people read this article and change their attitude of looking at life more positively so that they become happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a splendid article Sir on Happiness and that too at the perfect time. You are right Sir, we generally take the wish ‘Happy New Year’ as granted but never work towards it. We expect we will get happy by some means. I liked this statement of yours “Problem is that we search happiness in shorter and immediate factors and possession while what we aspire for is a sense of life-satisfaction over a period of life lived where experience counts.”

    Very true Sir. Thanks for your wonderful analysis. It shows your experience and also indicates that you have applied these theories in your own life. I am keen to take a resolution ‘To walk among the trees as often as possible and rediscover my happiness’

    Liked by 1 person

  10. While I necessarily may not agree with the thought process that forwarding greetings and posts is a sterile need to complete a ritual, but the article definitely probes into the factors which give deeper happiness as against instant gratification!
    Work life balance, giving paid vacation to staff as against monetary benefits, finding out new ways to solve a problem are great takeaways for those in the corporate sector to spread happiness.
    Looking forward to part 2 of Dr Pankaj’s article!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Dr Pankaj Sir

    The way you have expressed happiness reflects a very high understanding of yours in the subject and your passion. I absolutely enjoyed it reading. Specially the lines “Pleasure is dopamine while happiness is serotonin and endorphin” is the crux of the story .

    Regards
    Saurabh

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Indeed one has to move from only thinking to action to experience happiness. ” We cannot be happy by merely understanding and aspiring happiness. We can be happy by working on it and taking actions for happiness. It is not so much about positive thinking but more about positive actions”. Absolutely True.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “Quite insightful and well researched” a trademark of Dr. Prabhat Pankaj. What I gained from this sermon is positive action is more important than positive thinking. Hope to get more knowledge from you in future.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Well researched content with updated insights Pankaj Sir ….allow me to share few pieces from here ( with your due reference) in my sessions .

    This can be very enriching and enlightening for my audience and friends 😊

    Keep sharing Sir

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well, you have really given the healing touch, Professor!

    ‘Dopamine detox’, is interesting to note plus healing with more endorphins and serotonin gives food for thought.

    Really the need of the hour with the pandemic hovering over us.

    Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Here not words, but most I felt were thrilling vibes, great vibes. Thank you, Dr Pankaj-ji!
    e-greetings are cost effective, and super speedy, I do know.
    I respect the change with flow of time.
    However, when my son sends Happy Birthday from Dallas or New year greetings to me just from few hundred miles away, I appreciate it but surely miss that hug and loving get-together.

    We all seek ultimate in joy. Most joyous vacation, tasteful delicacies top in town. But when it comes to exchanging loving care, we go just skin deep. I loved clearly defined DOSE for happiness chemistry, sir. Most rewarding was tangible FIVE action items for happiness enhancement in 2022. I am on it…
    Let us worry less about consuming competitively- Driving that Lamborghini, Owning a penthouse in Manhattan or Vacation in Monaco. Remove tunnel vison in our quest for happiness. Go see green meadows, rolling hills, witness the ultimate art in sunrise-sunset, feel breeze kissing our faces, mingle, laugh and hug loved ones and friends (Observe all Covid protocols)… that’s where immense beauty and endless love reside and you don’t need a credit card for such happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sir for your intense and elaborative narration. Much appreciate your kind words. Yes, indeed what you said is absolutely true. Happiness is not depriving ourselves from all the worldly pleasure but to try and convert pleasure into happiness by adding substance to it … regards

      Like

  17. Nice write up sir. Successful people take their happiness seriously. They do not dwell on the negative and they fill their life with the positive. Really these kind of writings provide impetus for the positive vibes in us. Keep writing n giving us joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dear Sir,

    I have been reading your articles for increment in knowledge since long. Thanks.

    I have never seen such beautiful explanation of happiness that to explained in few words.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A wonderful write-up that enhances the need to reflect..to pause, gather and move towards securing well-being and happiness of one’s self and our loved ones..with the blend of Physical and Social Sciences!! Thanks for sharing. Part II awaited.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Beautiful article sir…it is especially useful when you are dealing with very sick people and even in guiding confused and stressed teenagers …

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sir, Your writing is beautiful. It is detailed, informative, profound and deep… “Pleasure is not happiness” and their comparison with dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters was incredible .. What a great writing skill you have! I’ve just became your big fan. I really look forward to your post.
    My best wishes n regards

    Liked by 1 person

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