The Science Of Happiness
India Today|October 04, 2021
Four experts outline the psychological and physiological dimensions of the happy state of being

Q.How would you define happiness?


Happiness is often seen as a state of mind without worries or negative emotions. Strictly speaking, it is one of the many emotional states of mind, that include sadness, anxiety, fear, etc. Over time, with the increasing occurrence of negative states of mind such as sadness and distress, the use of the term happiness, in public discourse, has become broad-based and all-encompassing to denote an overall positive state of mind. However, it is important to understand the contextualization of the use of the term happiness to avoid the error of seeing it literally. It would be fairly abnormal for anyone to be constantly happy, especially without a basis. The desirable goal should be to achieve a state of mind with more positive than negative elements. There are historical and cultural aspects to this evolving concept of happiness. For example, in the western world, individuals are encouraged to aspire for and work towards being happy. However, there are concerns about whether people who were well provided for are happy. Conversely, many eastern cultures encourage persons towards satisfaction or contentment, with usefulness or meaningfulness in existence.


Till date, we do not have a universal definition of happiness. Theoretically, there are different explanations. The hedonic and eudemonic perspectives, for instance, offer one way of conceptualizing it. In the hedonic perspective, happiness is equated with pleasure, comfort, enjoyment, etc. The eudemonic perspective equates happiness with a meaningful life, it is a theory of self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations, environmental mastery, and autonomy. In some eastern models, happiness/ well-being is associated with peace of mind and inner harmony. Similarly, we also have Indian perspectives on happiness such as sat-chit-Anand (truth consciousness-bliss) which lead to Anand may—a state of mind. Besides theoretical perspectives, another way of conceptualizing it is to understand the views of the general public. Our research shows that there are different components to people’s view of happiness, be it positive emotions (joy, inner peace etc.), life satisfaction, healthy family ties, work and accomplishment, or leisure engagement.

One cannot be constantly happy, especially without basis. The goal must be to achieve a state of mind with more positive than negative elements DR NIMESH DESAI


Happiness is a general term for a wide range of psychological phenomena. It is, in part, the experience of pleasant feelings such as joy. It is not solely, feelings, however. Happiness also includes a favorable outlook (optimism) and a sense that life is going relatively well (satisfaction). People from various cultures place differing weights on one or another aspect of happiness. Some cultures prize feelings of peace, while others might prize exuberance or enthusiasm. It is not that one group has a monopoly on the truth, there are benefits to each distinct cultural leaning.


There is no universal definition for happiness, but one can think of it as an emotional state most people desire, a state where they feel positive and relaxed. Western culture, particularly American culture, sees the pursuit of happiness as the most important goal of life; in the east, including in ancient Indian culture, the goal was not happiness but Moksha, a state where the cycle of suffering stops. As the philosopher, John Stuart Mill observed, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” Ironically, as societies embrace the American ideal and start to pursue individual happiness, the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide increase. The consumerist culture is fuelled by the quest for happiness. Happiness is often confused with pleasure, which, from an evolutionary and biological perspective, is felt when an activity or substance causes the brain to release neurochemicals such as dopamine. But science and lived experience tell us that pleasure doesn’t last. The novelty wears off, the brain does not produce the same surge of dopamine, and the person is compelled to seek new experiences. Pleasure by its very nature is fleeting, while happiness is a more subtle and lasting state of mind. Those who seek pleasure find only momentary joy, before feeling dissatisfaction again.

Q.What key factors contribute to, or affect, our happiness?


Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine


Coming Out Of The Chemical Closet

Neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart says most of what the public knows about drugs is both scary and wrong.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2021

Rules for Being the Age You Are

Whether you’re 20 or 120, the author’s surprise-filled guide can help most anyone live happily ever

4 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2021

Take A Shortcut To Happiness

Feel better in a matter of minutes with these all-natural, get-happy quick tricks with guaranteed results

2 mins read
April 2020

Don't Waste Your Suffering

What knocks us down can also lead us back stronger than ever

4 mins read
The Good Life
March 2020

9 Tricks To Improve Your Life

9 tricks to improve your life*

2 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2020

Creating Your Life

As a Therapist, Educator and Positive Living Expert, Diane has dedicated her career to helping people turn their lives around and is now on a mission to help them develop a sustainable positive attitude that can actually turn one into an optimist, literally.

2 mins read
Diversity Rules Magazine
January 2020

Follow The Path Of Gratitude

"In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."_Dietrich Bonhoeffer

3 mins read
Transformation Magazine
December 2019

The Joy Of Letters

I wish that joy could fill every moment of Jessie’s life, but children, like their parents, must overcome diffiulties. Two major challenges Jessie has faced in her young life come to mind.

3 mins read
Carolina Parent
December 2019

Be Your Best Yet! Start Fresh In 2020

Your “someday” is here. It’s time to make your vision of a happier, healthier future a reality.

10+ mins read
Arthritis Today
Winter 2019-2020

*This* Is How To Figure Out - The Real You

We all love new beginnings, but a head-to-toe transformation starting jan. 1 won’t help you discover who you really are. Forget the quest for an all-new you—this year is all about the *true* you. Starting now...

5 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
December 2019/January 2020