Happiness research, over the last few years, has found that we each have a “happiness set point,” which is a combination of “nature and nurture;” that is the genes we inherited and the environment we grew up in.
The good news, especially for those of us who are predisposed to seeing the “glass half-empty instead of half-full,” is that the happiness set point is not a point set in stone and there are ways to reset our set point.
New discoveries have shown, both your brain and your genetics continue to change and evolve throughout your life, which opens the door for us to change the brain’s happiness set point.
There are a number of methods which have been shown to work, some with varying degrees of success, including drugs, cognitive therapy and meditation.
I will focus on the benefits of meditation and leave drugs and cognitive therapy behind, at least for now.
The Benefit of Happiness Meditation
One of the reasons I chose to focus on meditation is unlike drugs it has no negative side-effects. Meditation, while it can be done in large groups, is an individual and unique experience that can be practiced anywhere at any time.
The scientific benefits of meditation have been well documented over the last few decades with research continuing to point to the positive ways that meditation alters brain chemistry.
Meditation has been proven to be a powerful tool which, when practiced regularly, will improve immune response, ease sleep disorders, enhance pain management, provide effective stress management, promote emotional wellbeing and improve cognitive functioning.
Our higher-brain, the prefrontal cortex, lights up during meditation releasing neurotransmitters, which includes such brain opiates as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Each of which has been connected to the experience of increased happiness.
For example, dopamine is an antidepressant and oxytocin, which increases during sexual arousal, is thought of as the “pleasure hormone.”
The True Power of Meditation
However, the greatest benefit meditation brings to the overall happiness is something that can’t be measured, at least not by standard scientific methods, and that is an inner state of wellbeing and peace.
The true power of meditation is that it will awaken you to your true identity which lies at the core of your being; it is your original nature and your connection to pure consciousness that is beyond the ego, intellect and your mind.
This is the wellspring of all happiness, even the happiness that we attribute to events, circumstances, people or things. Simply put we are the source and creators of our own happiness, because we chose happiness in response to any stimulus. While on the surface the sugar rush we feel as we purchase a new car, the excitement over a budding relationship or exhilaration of a promotion at work may seem to come from an event “out there,” deeper introspection, will reveal that the source of our happiness always begins from within. This is the clarity that meditation provides, a path to the source.
Meditation allows us to rediscover the innate happiness and wellbeing that is our birthright, a happiness that is independent of anything outside of ourselves…a happiness that, Sharon Salzberg co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, describes as “Real Happiness.”
I’m including a video By Deepak Chopra in which he answers the question along with offering advice on how to become happier.