According to Darwin’s theory of evolution and “the survival of the fittest,” the strongest survive to pass on their genes to the next generation. This is why even today our brains give us a rewarding hit of joy when we have sex (babies help a species survive) and devour high-calorie foods—today’s hedonistic delight once meant the difference between life and starvation.
It’s also why we feel good when we help others, says Dr. James Doty, the director of Project Compassion and a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford.
“Kindness is our genetic imperative that has been there for millions of years,” he says. “When you look at humans and animals, science shows that it is the kindest and most cooperative who survive long term. The cruel and ruthless might get a short-term gain, but cruelty and ruthlessness are not good solutions for a species to survive.”
What is it that makes us happy? We’re told that money that doesn’t buy it, or success, or even love. Can happiness be created, or must it be discovered? Does the path to a happy life require certain ingredients—self-discovery, confidence, a loving group of family and friends, spiritual guidance, the opportunity to fulfill one’s dreams—or can anyone be truly “happy?”
One thing I have learned in my weekly men's group is how fragile we are. Lawyer, felon, editor-in-chief, our lives go up and down. We are healthy and not, wealthy and not. Yet we share an understanding that we are often wise together when each of us alone is not. We go around the circle sharing our stories, working through our stuff, and invariably, each man's work is also someone else's, or everyone's. We come to unburden ourselves, I suppose. But in the end, we're seeking something unusual, even magical. We go into a space beyond the stories, where the energy gets thick and feels like pure joy. I no longer believe that this joy can be accurately located with a brain scan. It's not just in my head. It also exists where I feel it -- in my heart.
When it comes to the health of our bodies or it comes to the health of our relationships, many of us are hopeless optimists. We ignore the warning signs that something isn’t right, figuring it will just go away. We embrace the “why fix it if it isn’t broken” approach, rather than prevention, and we wait until we are in dire pain—physically or emotionally—before seeking help. Just like health is often much more difficult to fix if the ailment has gone too far, relationships are much more difficult to repair when years and years of anger and resentment have built up.
According to the ancient philosophy of the Vedanta, there are two types of happiness. The first comes from things turning out the way we’d like them to, i.e. getting what we want. We say, “I’m happy because . . . because I have family and friends, because I got a promotion, because I have money and security.” This kind of happiness is inherently fleeting because it depends on external reasons that can be taken away from us at any time.
Welcome to our weekly editors’ round-up, featuring the week’s news, inspiration, and big ideas for body, mind, and spirit. This week: How one simple chore can lead to increased happiness, the reason behind disappearing bees, why dirt in your diet is actually a good thing, plus, sculpture meets the sea...
Not only do your happy feelings spread through your social network, your happiness can be increased by people you’ve never even met, reports a study from Harvard Medical School.
Why can't people hold onto feelings of euphoria? Where does happiness go? A brain surgeon explains.
If you’ve ever wondered and searched with the greater population of the world for the true meaning of happiness, you’ve probably heard, at some point, that it’s some form of seva, or service to others.