Happiness, where are you?

Happiness, where are you?

The search for happiness is more than a luxurious leisure activity; it keeps our engine running. Especially in times like these, when happiness seems elusive, the search is all the more important.

What makes us feel happy can be very different: ice cream, a word of praise, the sunrise or the birth of a child. All sorts of things have the potential to make us happy. However, happiness is a disguise artist, so we often overlook it.

Whoever finds it is right to feel fortunate – in the truest sense of the word. “Happiness is an extremely strong, positive emotion. A perfect, lasting state of intense satisfaction,” according to a psychological definition.

What may sound like philosophical prose can actually be measured. Happiness can be observed in the brain with the help of MRI, according to German neurologist Christof Kessler.

 “We have a special center in the brain, the so-called mesolimbic system, also called the happiness center. When we experience something impressive, like a good report card or the birth of a child, this center is activated, and dopamine floods the brain.” Dopamine, also known as the happiness hormone, is responsible for the overpowering feeling of happiness, says Kessler.

Infographic: What does happiness mean to you?

Intoxicated by happiness

Those who know these moments of happiness know how wonderful the sensation is; it must not stop, we feel, and if it has to stop, then please let it come back quickly. This is exactly where the evolutionary sense of this emotion lies: “The feeling of happiness is connected with the desire to repeat the whole thing,” says Kessler.

Successful behavior is thus rewarded with a rush of happiness, and the intoxicated person is motivated to repeat the heroic deed. Kessler says this has been of decisive importance for the development of humanity.

“Unfortunately, drugs also stimulate the happiness system,” admits Kessler. Heroin, tobacco or alcohol make us believe in short-term happiness and this is one of the reasons why we become addicted so quickly. The hunt for happiness can therefore also lead into a trap…

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