© 2016 ARMIN A. ZADEH

Love and Happiness

July 10, 2015 by Armin A. Zadeh

Most people would agree that attaining happiness is an important goal. But what is happiness? Generally, happiness in life refers not to just transient episodes of joy but rather to how fully our expectations of life have been met. Happiness depends on the individual’s mindset and our perception of self-worth. Some people are very content, while others are miserable despite similar conditions: some see the glass as half full, others as half empty. How we identify our expectations from life, therefore, is critical for achieving fulfillment.

Is our perception of happiness influenced by our genes? Recent genetic research involving several hundred thousand individuals in many countries indeed found genes associated with greater life satisfaction and other genes linked to depression or neuroticism.This, of course, does not mean that our happiness depends entirely on our genes. As with many genetic predispositions, it means that different people may find it innately easier or harder to be happy, but our emotional outlook is strongly influenced by our environment and our own effort. A naturally gifted sprinter may seem a better candidate to win a race than someone with less favorable body characteristics, but the latter may compensate with more training and greater effort.

In The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell explores patterns of unhappiness and examples of people who achieved happiness in life. Russell identifies as sources of unhappiness attitudes and endeavors that reflect conflicts between the self and the world, such as envy and a thirst for power or reputation, as well as indifference to the external world. Conversely, he views integration with the world as the principal way to achieve happiness in life.