Guest Articles >> Enlightenment

The Origins of Happiness

Joy Paley

If you could put happiness into a bottle and slap a price tag on it, you'd be richer than Google and Oprah combined. It's natural to want to feel good all the time, but how will you get there when the plight of human existence seems to be to want happiness that is constantly out of reach? Considering where happiness actually comes from will give you a greater understanding of this most-desired emotion, and hopefully, help you get more of it.

Happiness is Genetic
We all have a person in our lives who is seemingly always happy. They're forever smiling, floating through their day, unaware of the feelings of self-doubt and depression that most of us harbor. Being a scientific woman, the first place I went to learn about happiness and the phenomenon of the always-happy-friend were the findings of the academy. What I learned was surprising: in studies with twins who were raised in different households, their feelings of happiness and well-being were correlated at around 50%. That means that from the moment we're conceived, much of our demeanor, including how happy we generally feel, is already set in motion.
I myself am prone to bouts of depression, and I didn't want to hear that I had no power to change that. Learning this fact was also freeing in a way, though; it allowed me to become okay with being a person who is more prone to sadness and feeling down. And ironically, becoming more okay with who I am made me feel happier. Your demeanor, along with your eye color and height, is largely out of your control. Just as my green eyes aren't a reflection of my "goodness" as a human being, neither is the fact that I'm naturally less happy than others.

Happiness is in Your Power
If 50% of your sense of well-being is determined by genetics, where does the other 50% come from? The choices you make. Recognizing this is the first step towards making yourself happier. What's keeping you back? According to research, money, health, marriage, sex, and other life circumstances only contribute to about 10-15% of a person's feeling of well-being, so you can't blame a lack of happiness solely on the hand life has dealt you.
Much of what keeps people from experiencing happiness isn't their external circumstances, but what's inside their head: endlessly negative thoughts. Constantly comparing yourself to others and getting down on yourself about your abilities can lead to an unstoppable cycle of feeling bad. How to escape this? Cognitive therapy is one way; in cognitive therapy, you begin recognizing these negative thoughts and emotional behaviors and make a conscious effort to reprogram your thought patterns. Instead of reactively thinking, "I'll never be a good as X at Y," you remind yourself to instead say, "I am a competent and highly skilled person." While such exercises can seem cheesy at first, they do work on a physiological level to get your brain out of thought patterns that keep you down.

Avoiding the Trap of Desires
An all too human approach to happiness is to think, "If I just had _____, I'd be so much happier," where the blank is a new house, a better spouse, more money, the list goes on. Buddhism is one philosophy that has recognized this constant desire for more as the biggest impediment to happiness. The tenets of Buddhism state that desires, though they appear to be finite, are actually never-ending; finally getting what you always wanted just leaves you with a new desire to work towards.
Recognizing this fact, and learning to detach happiness from the acquiring of material, external goods, will certainly increase your sense of well-being. Taking your focus on off the future (what you feel you must obtain in order to be "happy") and focusing on the present is a key component to a greater sense of well-being and true happiness.

About the Author

Joy Paley is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on the subject of medical transcription training for the Guide to Health Education.


The above guest post is published based on the premise that it will be helpful and informative. The opinions made within it are those of the author and not of The links you may find within this post do not necessarily imply our recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them.


Anonymous says:

Exactly. People have it in their minds that being enlightened is some mycsital and elusive thing that you have to dedicate your life to discover, when that’s not the case. For some people it may take longer than others, but once you realize what videos like these are saying they make 100% total sense. My analogy is that we are the movie screen in which the movie of life is playing. Don’t identify with the content, just stay as the screen watching it all go down in a detached way.

sunny says:

Thanks for the comment. Indeed, if one can watch the screen of ones perception without being attached to it too much, the depths of the soul will reveal itself.

monkb says:

Hi, sunny. Love what you said. On wikipedia they say happiness is a emotional state of with a lot of positive or pleasant emotions. I think there's more to it than just emotions. I would rather say happiness is a state of bliss and absolute peace void of emotions.

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