We are constantly bombarded with
messages about what makes a good
life. Advertisers tell us it comes from
owning and consuming their products.
The media associate it with wealth,
beauty or fame. And politicians claim that nothing
matters more than growing the economy.
Thus we are conditioned from the childhood to
believe that pleasurable experiences make us
happy and are in fact the source of our happiness.
So we hunt them out, moving from one pleasurably
stimulating moment to another and even more
intense. We live for these highlights, punctuate our
lives with them. A great deal of time and energy is
spent trying to maximise pleasure in the pursuit of
happiness, and avoiding its opposite – pain and the
Do any of these things really bring lasting
Over the last 50 years, Britain has become richer.
Despite this, evidence from population surveys, in
which people were asked to rate their own
happiness or mental wellbeing; shows that mental
wellbeing has not improved. This suggests that
many of the things we often do to improve our
happiness and mental wellbeing, such as more
possessions, more money to spend or expensive
holidays on their own do not lead to lasting
improvement in the way we feel about ourselves
and our lives.
Chaired by former minister for mental health,
Paul Burstow MP, the Centre Forum Mental Health
Commission published its report on the July 2014.
After the study for 12 months on the state of
wellbeing in England, a group of leading mental
health experts came to the conclusion that – The
‘pursuit of happiness’ must become an explicit and
measurable goal of government, if the £105 billion
annual cost of mental illness in England is to be
Scientists have found that although our genes
and circumstances matter, a huge proportion of the
variations in happiness between us come from our
choices and activities. Although we may not be
able to change our inherited characteristics or the
circumstances in which we find ourselves, we still
have the power to change our happiness by
changing the way we approach our lives.
The feeling we call “happiness” comes from four
special brain chemicals: dopamine, endorphin,
oxytocin and serotonin. These “happy chemicals”
spurt when our brain sees something good for our
survival. Then they turn off, so they’re ready to
spurt again when something good crosses our path.
Our brain rewards us with good feelings when we
do something good for our survival. Happy
chemicals did not evolve to be on all the time. They
evolved to promote our survival.
It may not seem that way because the mammal brain defines survival based on life experiences
from childhood, even though children can’t
understand survival realistically. It cares as much
for the survival of our genes as it does for our body.
Each happy chemical triggers a different good
feeling. Dopamine produces the joy of finding what
we seek– the “Eureka! I got it!” feeling. Endorphin
produces the oblivion that masks pain– often called
“euphoria.” Oxytocin produces the feeling of being
safe with others – now called “bonding”, and
Serotonin produces the feeling of being respected
by others –“pride.”
If we study the animal kingdom we realise that
a hungry lion is happy when he sees prey, which is
not philosophical happiness. His happy chemicals
cause a state of arousal that releases energy for the
hunt. So a lion is thrilled when he sees a gazelle
close at hand. His dopamine surges, which revs up
his motor to pounce.
A thirsty elephant is happy when he finds water.
The good feeling of quenching his thirst triggers
dopamine. This experience helps him find water
again in the future. The next time he sees any sign
of a water hole his brain triggers happy chemicals.
The good feeling tells him;“here is what you need.”
Thus, without intent, happy chemicals promote
survival. But happy chemicals don’t flow
constantly. The lion only gets happy chemicals
when he finds more prey, and the elephant only
spurts when he meets a survival need. In nature,
there is no free happy chemical. Good feelings
evolved because they get us to keep doing things
that promote survival of the body as well as the
Thus the key question is What triggers happy
chemicals in the human brain? Is it only the
survival or something beyond it?
In the journey of life our experiences, our
feelings keep mirroring us that we have forgotten
our true nature at the cost of survival. But we
over rule our feelings, our emotions. We do not
appreciate them, we do not nurture them. We
ignore them and keep moving forward in the
pursuit of IQ driven experiences. All our social
systems and processes train and judge us in the IQ
based skills. It seems there is a missing link in the
performance metric of life. The more we keep
looking for this missing link in the material world,
the more we feel empty within. We feel unable to
move forward on the track of life and look for a
quiet corner to reflect on our performance.
Just at that quiet moment we experience a feeling
very different from the past. It’s peaceful, it’s
joyful; it’s blissful. Perhaps this is the experience
we were looking for; we say to ourselves.
Now we are bit puzzled!
What is it? Who is it? Where did it come from?
Someone from the within asks
Is it the core, the essence, the being? Is it the
true identity beyond the IQ driven existence?
Happy survival motives
Dopamine: Keep seeking rewards
Endrophin: Ignore physical pain
Oxytocin: Build social alliances
Serotonin: Get respect from others
In the busy schedule of our daily life we lack a
corner to spend few quite moments to reflect within
to rediscover our true self.
We all need a quiet corner in the pursuit of
happiness & wellbeing.
Welcome to the Happiness Corner!
In future we shall be spending time to reflect on
our true identity and reprogram the belief system
of happiness. Till then sharpen the happiness skills
Connect – Connect to people
Be active – Find an activity that you enjoy
Keep learning – Learn new skills to develop
Give to others – Even the smallest act counts,
whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word.
Be Aware – Be more aware of the present
moment, including your feelings and thoughts,
your body and the world around you.
“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to
desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when
it is inside”
The great Indian sage of 20th century,
Dr Samita Bhattacharjee is a Business
Excellence Specialist in Tata Steel Europe.
She has done her PhD in Theoretical Physics
from the Indian Institute of Kanpur and Post
Doctoral Research from the Theoretical
Condensed Matter Physics Group at the
Cavendish Labs, University of Cambridge, UK.
Her key passion is the Integration of Science &
Spiritual Wisdom for Excellence & Happiness.
She enjoys writing articles, organising discussion
forums, giving talk & presentation
on the above subject.
The profile picture of Dr. Samita Bhattacharjee
by Sankhanilay Roy Chouwdhury