“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with ceaseless restlessness.” A profound statement on happiness made by one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century! Albert Einstein was touring Japan when he got the news of winning Nobel Prize in Physics. Overwhelmed by the sudden name and fame, he penned down his musings on a piece of hotel stationary which later came to be known as Einstein’s Theory of Happiness.
Here was the man who was engaged in arduous scientific pursuits all through his life, yet he felt at the pinnacle of his stardom that calm and modest life brings more happiness. Restlessness in pursuit of success is physically exhausting and emotionally damaging. The implication is that success is dazzling but comes at a price.
Relationship between Success and Happiness
I wonder if Einstein’s sagacious advice is a blueprint of happiness. If success is so stressful, why do people hanker after success? Does success not make us happy? It does. Appreciation, recognition, riches, name and fame associated with success contribute to happiness. Success gives confidence, and a sense of well-being. However; it is the wild-goose chase for success that takes a toll on happiness. In fact, stress, tension, and anxiety are by-products of the mad race to succeed. Success is addictive, hence there is constant restiveness to achieve more and more which is damaging.
Most of us aspire to be successful in life. We tend to believe that we will automatically become happier through success but happiness doesn’t come merely by achieving a goal. Happiness, unlike success, is not to be achieved but to be cultivated. Happiness is a positive emotion, a state of mind, an attitude to be developed.
The key to happiness lies in doing what we love. Joy is to be found along the way and not just at the end of the road. We must learn to enjoy the journey towards the goal and also rejoice success. We work hard to reach a goal in anticipation of happiness. But most of us miss our share of happiness, not because we never found it, but because we didn’t stop to enjoy it. Peasosall Smith said, “There are two things to aim in life, first to get what you want; after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of the mankind achieves the second”. Success becomes meaningless if we miss out on the joy of success. While we set the next goal, it is important to savour and cherish the fruit of lobour.
Delving deeper into the relationship between success and happiness, success is not a guarantee for happiness but enjoying what we do is likely to make us happy as well as successful. To quote Alen Cohen, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” Happiness more often leads to success rather than the other way round. There is greater probability of positive outcomes with a positive frame of mind. If we are happy, we are more likely to achieve success.
Dose for Happiness
If success doesn’t give us happiness, what does? There are people who are rich, fit, and successful possessing everything material that is apparently required for a good living; but still may be unhappy. What is the recipe for happiness? In addition to the host of external factors influencing happiness, one of the important determinants is the release of some hormones- small chemicals that drive the positive emotions. The Brain Chemicals- Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphin- abbreviated as ‘D.O.S.E’ play a vital role in our physical, mental and emotional well-being. In fact, human happiness is incomplete without the continuous release and interplay of these four primary hormones in the body. It is important to understand the concept of these hormones to enjoy a healthier and happier life.
Manifestations of success -achievements, name and fame, riches, material possessions release Dopamine, the ‘Feel-good hormone’ or ‘Motivation hormone’ in our brain which contributes to our happiness. However, the effect of Dopamine is short-lived and temporary. Success does bring happiness but is not permanent. Successful outcomes can give temporary boost to happiness levels, but they do not last forever. The fact is material pleasures and possessions, money, power, and a luxurious lifestyle are not enough to keep a person in a state of perpetual happiness.
For lasting happiness we need Oxytocin, also known as ‘Love hormone’ or ‘Cuddle hormone’. Unlike Dopamine, which is largely responsible for instant gratification, Oxytocin gives lasting feeling of calmness and happiness. Gratitude, love, affection, physical touch, positive social interactions raise Oxytocin levels in the body. Even sharing meals, keeping a pet, working together as a team, having a meaningful conversation with someone we trust, doing what we love release the love hormone. Oxytocin is considered to be the best bet in search of happiness.
Endorphins called ‘Runner’s high’ or ‘Pain killer’ are stress buster hormones that are released when we exercise, run or do work-outs. During workouts our body releases Endorphins to compensate for the pain of physical exertion –this makes us happy and stress-free. Laughter and music are also stress busters.
Why do billionaires turn to social work and charity? The rich and successful have apparently everything that they think would make them happy yet happiness may elude them leaving them empty and dissatisfied. They seek happiness and satisfaction through Serotonin. The hormone is released when we act for the benefit of others, do charity, connect with people on a deep human level and take up bigger causes. Meditation, being with nature and also Sun exposure release these mood stabilizers.
The fact is, a mere success is not sufficient to make us happy. In the recipe for happiness, success is one of the ingredients which raises adrenaline level, gives a temporary high, but has a tendency to quickly slide back to a person’s baseline. In fact, mind needs constant nourishment to be happy, requires daily dose of happy hormones which are released through our positive thoughts, feelings and actions. Seeds of happiness lie within which stem from small everyday lifestyle choices and attitude.
We ought to take simple steps on a daily basis to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being as these have a strong bearing on our happiness. Doing what we love, taking up activities that keep us motivated, doing physical exercises which act as stress-busters are crucial to our happiness quotient. Also, close relationships with family and friends are important contributor to happiness. The key to inner happiness lies in love, affection, gratitude and also doing acts of kindness and charity that bring a smile on the face of others. A smile is contagious and so is happiness.
To stay happy, let us remember to have our daily dose of D.O.S.E.!!
(Published in August 2022 issue of Woman’s era magazine)