Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 17.11.19
Happiness, many say, is a state of mind. You can be happy at one moment, unhappy the next. What makes one happy, may not make the other so.
Many people equate happiness with satisfaction. While the two are related, they are still very different. Satisfaction is a more rational, intellectual, thought based process while happiness is more emotional. But paradoxically, over a period of time it is happiness that makes us more satisfied than satisfaction at a given point of time. Similarly pleasure and happiness, though related has different constructs. Pleasure can be short lived and may lead to unhappiness. Pleasure can be transient, while happiness has a ring of permanence.
The process and concept of happiness has been studied from sociological, psychological, theological, spiritual perspective; also from medical angle. It is interesting to note that though we covet happiness, many people are actually scared to be happy, lest it brings something bad on them. This is because many of us have a strong negativity bias. Our minds focus more on anything that is bad than on the good. This trait may have anthropological basis dating back to the ‘cave dwelling and hunting for livelihood’ times, when being cautious and negative was more pertinent that positivity. With changing time and situation- basis of that trait is losing ground.
In psychology, happiness is being studied intensely for the last 40 years or so. It is called ‘positive psychology’. Traditional psychology looks at everything that can go wrong with our minds – psychosis, neurosis, phobias, depression, etc. – and attempts to find out the causes and how these conditions can be cured. But in the last four decades, some psychologists have started asking the opposite questions: why are we happy, what are the constructs of happiness, can somebody work his/her way to happiness. Research by the positive psychologists has revealed that “since happiness is ultimately about people’s emotional state, it is important to recognize that emotions change constantly and that no person can be happy all the time. However, one can work his/her way to happiness by a. creating more and higher emotional peaks from good experiences; b. reducing the number of depth of troughs caused by bad experiences; c. raising one’s set-point- how happy one feels in absence of external stimuli.
Studies show that positive emotions have large cognitive effects that make one more creative, better able to learn and more resilient in the face of challenges and set-backs. A person’s emotional state over time also affects his/her mental and physical health. Happy people experience less stress, fewer depressions and lower rates of cardiac disease. Even good mood is helpful. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer found out that if people are in a good mood on a given day, they are more likely to have creative ideas that day, as well as the next day.
One school of psychologists believes that some people are genetically wired to be happy. Some are not. It is a trait. The other school believes that one can learn to be happy. It is a skill that can be acquired. So much so that several known universities across the world are offering courses on happiness that teaches one how to be happy. For example University of California is offering an eight week mooc (massive open online course). For details surf www.edx.org
Leading German science journalist Stefan Clain has written a book titled The Science of Happiness: How our Brains make us Happy and what we can do to get happier. He ranges widely across the latest frontiers of neuroscience and neuropsychology to explain how happiness is fostered in our brains and what biological purpose it serves (and, importantly, how we can control our negative feelings and emotions). In addition, he explains the neurophysiology of our passions (the elementary rules of which are hardwired into our brains), the power of consciousness, and how we can use it.
Recent research on happiness from psychological and neuro-science domain,focuses mostly on functional neuroanatomy of pleasure. Interestingly, ancient spiritual script of several religions have extensively dwelt on happiness. Sanskrit texts have two words for happiness: anand (more oriented towards pleasure) and such (more oriented towards bliss). Interestingly both modern science and ancient spiritual texts have some strikingly common points:
- Happiness does not lie in amassing wealth or materials or even in its complete absence. Research by Diener has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life.
- Our happiness is deeply connected with everyone around us. One of the biggest mistakes we can make about happiness is to see it as an individual pursuit, something that each of us must create for ourselves. Humans are an inherently social species and our happiness depends hugely on the happiness of those around us. Several researches have proved this beyond any doubt that we actually derive more happiness from doing nice things for others. Neuroscientists have conclusive proof that empathy has a biological basis, our happiness is deeply connected with everyone around us. This resonates with the ancient Hindu spiritual saying: Basudheva kutumbakam (the world is my family)
- Gratitude makes us happy.
- Social isolation/rejection causes pain. Good social relationship is a critical factor in happiness.
- We do not have to work very hard to be happy. Small, simple actions can make us happy.
Gandhi and Radio
The first and only time Gandhi visited the Broadcasting house, Delhi was on 12 November, 1947, the Diwali Day. He arrived at the Broadcasting House accompanied by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. A report on this event published in the issue of’ ‘The Indian Listener’ of 22 February, 1948, after Gandhi’s death, read: “A special studio was fitted with the ‘takhposh’ (low wooden settee) which was daily used by him for his prayer meeting addresses at Birla House, Appropriately, the prayer meeting atmosphere was created in the studio.
Gandhi was at first shy of the radio and it was after much persuasion that he agreed to broadcast from the studios of AIR, but the moment he reached the studio he owned this impersonal instrument as his own and said: “This is a miraculous power. I see ‘shakti’, the miraculous power of God”. He spoke for 20 minutes and his voice was exceptionally clear. His message was followed by recorded music of Vande Mataram”.
To commemorate Gandhi’s maiden visit to AIR studio and to highlight the objective of Akashvani, this day- 12 November is being observed as Public Service Broadcasting Day.
After a morning walk, a group of doctors was standing at a road-side restaurant enjoying a cup of tea. Then they saw a man limping towards them.
One doctor said he has Arthritis in his Left Knee
The second said he has Plantar Faciitis
The third said, just an Ankle Sprain
…The fourth said, see that man cannot lift his knee, he looks to have Lower Motor Neurons
But to me he seems a Hemiplegia Scissors Gait, said the fifth.
Before the sixth could proclaim his diagnosis, the man reached the group and asked,
”Is there a cobbler nearby who can repair my slipper?”
This is exactly how the Experts talk on Social Media & Television these days..!!
Tailpiece 1: Conversation in heaven
Syrian: I died because ISIS bombed my house!
American: I died because of a hurricane!!!
Delhiite: Main to pranayam kar raha tha (I was doing pranayam at home)
(Courtesy: Social Media)
The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2019 will be published as a book. Should you want a copy with introductory discounted price, write to him at: [email protected]