Happiness Engineering

Happiness is a transient feeling though we wish it to be a permanent one. “Happiness is experienced both as fleeting sensations and emotions, and consciously appreciated as a permanent disposition of the mind.” Natural selection suggests that the lure of happiness works best when we are under the illusion that the bliss will persist. We like to be in a state with least disturbances. Often our steady states are disturbed due to various factors, both external and internal. The unsteady systems try to return to the steady state; sooner the better. We, the humans, like to quickly return to relatively stable levels of happiness. We think ‘designed happiness’, if fed to the system, can sustain happiness for long, but that generally doesn’t happen.

“Our brains are designed to carve but never really to achieve lasting happiness.” Each person has a certain ‘happiness set point’. That is why some people are naturally happy and some are naturally unhappy. Some people are happy, regardless of the less-than ideal circumstances in which they are in, while some people are unhappy even when they seem to have it all. The happiness set points are determined by a person’s temperament. It is said that happiness set points can be relatively stable throughout the course of an individual’s life, but the life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing set points may change over time. Psychologists also say that the amount of fluctuation a person does around their set point is largely dependent on that individual’s ability to adapt.

Bertrand Russell said that men of science are the happiest. It is because men of science remain busy with their work and thus have little time to intrude into regions where they have no function to perform. Scientists have yet another advantage, he observed. When general public don’t understand the theory of relativity they blame their own lack of knowledge. But when the public can’t understand a picture or a poem, they conclude that it is a bad picture or a bad poem. It is also good to remind ourselves that activities like reasoning, discovering and inventing can be sources of pleasure. In the absence of these activities one may feel pain. Sustainable happiness results from what we do and not from what we have.