When trying to understand the concept of happiness many literature is available, as we live in the second wave of new age spirituality. The consumerism is extended on such level, that everything we experience is measured by possession. Possession cannot make us happier, but we are getting happier because we have more opportunity to experience a vague number of happy moments.
My hypothesis is that happiness is symbiotic relationship between health and stress management (Bandler, 2010). Health and well-being is a process. Traditional scientific point of view is that health is an ethical value, while illness is deviation from some clearly defined norm (Szasz, 1960). From this context we can extract, that experts (psychologists, biologists, physicists, sociologists, philosophers…) see the emerging life as Catholic paradox, that with our birth we have to fix our original sin. This religious variable is so deeply integrated in many, or most affluent cultures, that is difficult to distinguish on a religious level. Middle east countries although they live more or less Islamic religion, the consumerism is not avoided. In this context, the illness or disease is the point of reference, suggesting that health is abstract concept of ethical value. That means that happiness, as it is dependent by health variable is directly influenced by it. This is biological aspect of this hypothesis. Psychosocial is expressed in stress management. Stress is direct consequence of human biology, while the social status and self-perception through emotional response of environmental influence is interdependent variable. Alternative hypothesis will prove that happiness is biologically measurable, therefore it cannot be fixed constant, but it will seek the amount of happiness we experience just as illness is measurable biologically.
Happiness is heritable to a significant extent, and it fluctuates around a fix set of point (Myers, 2000, Inglehart, 2008). This means that happiness is genetically influenced, but not dependent as fixed variable. If free choice (Inglehart, 2008) means we can experience the same situation from more positive point of view, this reports only a subjective point of well-being (SWB). In democracy the formula for happiness is the sum of free choice and control over one’s life (Inglehart, 2008). I would argue this statement, as in social/political systems capitalism drives basic needs of consumer. Human being has become a number, who has to satisfy social needs of environment, only then he can belong. As some studies show that gender, age and income does not play a big role influencing happiness of individual (Myers, 2000), I see the interpretation of happiness as emotional concept, not only subjective interpretation of existence on individual or collective level. In this case, I would start my research from individual biological context, understanding how does neurology manifest happiness in relation to sociopsychological aspect of individual. If human behavior is learned, I would like to understand, if is possible to reduce negative effects of more freedom in democratic systems. Affluent cultures produce a lot of anxiety and other negative emotional state in individuals, and a lot of intolerance as new rights minority gains, directly influences majority. In plain words, if my free choice affects the quality of life of another individual in negative context, is this meaningful to accept as positive aspect of sociological impact?
As Shagufta proposes, happiness is pretty vague category, and before trying to understand how does it manifest and how is interpreted on individual or collective level, we should make an epistemic frame. Is happiness merely conquering our goals or is it something more than chemical compound in the brain chemistry. In history, many philosophers and scientists tried to interpret happiness through religious spectacles, where putting individual’s destiny in the hand of ‘God’. As science provides new information about mechanics of emotions, we can analyse happiness as emotion and its structure. In mainstream scientifically way, emotions have functional and adaptive significance. They protect us, help us survive the dangers of environment, but their primary function is to adapt to situation and to strive towards homeostasis and equilibrium (n.d.).
Different areas of brain activity are involved when emotional response to stimuli is on. When trying to understand ‘emotional brain’, Richardson (2012) in his work argues that emotions are central to the the functions of the brain and to the life of the mind. He chuckle’s human emotion to emotional states, emotional traits, personality and temperament. This acknowledgement suggests that happiness is structured emotional state, which can be biologically identified as joy, pleasure, satisfaction and contentment (Shagufta, n.d.). Using the psychological knowledge of human behaviour, it should be possible to understand the structure of happiness, consequently understand triggers of happiness. A feeling that last more than a few moments is called mood (Richards, 2012). Feeling that lasts for a longer period, for example, that last for years are called emotional trait, which can very likely to to emerge as emotional state. The cognitive model of emotion is therefore the sum of states, traits, and moods. So-called emotional styles are fundamental building blocks of human emotions.
Russell argue that happiness depends partly on external stimuli, as it does on the internal. He does not engage yet the biological point of view of emotion. Therefore, the historical perception of happiness was merely conceptual and philosophical. Positive psychology (Shagufta, n.d.) explains human behaviour through positive aspects of life. Happiness should be looked through spectacles of positive psychology, as until recently scientific approach was not used to understand this condition. This is my premise, when I argue Szasz (1960) argument, that health is only ethical category, while illness or disorder is clearly defined. As emotion is dependent on both, external and internal stimuli, the general concept of stimulus relevance is to be incorporated while studying human emotion.
As Henson and Begley (2012) studied spiritual context of awaking using psychology and neuroscience, to understand positive emotions and feelings is crucial to put it the context of neurology. I stated that, modern social systems as capitalism produces more negative emotional or mental disorders. Statistics shows that market liberalism and selfish capitalism produces more mental disorders than other economies (James, 2007). The privatisation of collective goods, the evaluation of business success, minimal regulation of financial services under the guise of ‘free market’, labour market, and the conviction that consumption and market choices can meet every human need are pools that generates negative feelings, negative self-concept and dependant relationship towards external stimuli. For example, the modern ‘selfies’ are a product of digital revolution, trying to monetise individual’s narcissistic component (Drexler, 2013). Posting selfies can be at first empowering, but the negative consequences are yet to be observed. This psychosocial phenomena is product of consumerism, so called selfish-capitalism, which stimulates individual traits to be shared with his environment to gain financial or other benefit, such social approval. The standard beauty ideal is therefore distorted, as at the same time reinforcement of idea that beauty as form is more important than content. The main direction of research would therefore be categorisation of happiness on the biological level, research of psychosocial context of consumer behaviour on neurological level, and the interconnectedness of this three variables. Selfish capitalism theory provides falsifiable explanation of cross.nation prevalence of mental disorders, providing information about contemporary psychosocial and economic trend, and their relationship with structures of governance (James, 2007).
- Szasz, Thomas S. (1960) “The myth of mental illness.” American Psychologist 15.2: 113.
- Laureate Education, (2014) Does Getting Rich Make Us Happier? Part 1 [Video, Online], (accessed: 05/14/14)
- Laureate Education, (2014) Does Getting Rich Make Us Happier? Part 2 [Video, Online], (accessed: 05/14/14)
- Inglehart, R., Foa, R., Peterson, C., & Welzel, C. (2008). Development, freedom, and rising happiness: A global perspective (1981–2007). Perspectives of Psychological Science, 3(4), 264–285.
- Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55(1), 56–57.
- Bandler, R., & Thomson, G. (2011). The secrets of being happy: The technology of health, hope and harmony. S.l.: I.M. Press.
1. Shagufta, B., Shaista, J. & Anequa B. A. (n.d.). Happiness: A Psycho-Philosophical Appraisal. Dialogue, IX(3). Retrieved April 22, 2015, from University of Liverpool – Library.
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Davidson, R., & Begley, S. (2012). The emotional life of your brain: How its unique patterns affect the way you think, feel, and live–and how you can change them. New York: Hudson Street Press.
Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2006, January 1). The Neurology of Awakening: Using the New Brain Research to Deepen Your Practice. Retrieved April 22, 2015, from http://www.wisebrain.org/Neuro_Dharma.pdf
James, O. (2007, January 1). Selfish capitalism and mental illness. Retrieved April 22, 2015, from http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-20/edition-7/selfish-capitalism-and-mental-illness
Drexler, P. (2013, September 16). What Your Selfies Say About You. Retrieved April 22, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201309/what-your-selfies-say-about-you