Basic joys. What is joy?
Before going into the scientific part of happiness, below is my interpretation of basic joys via a poem 👇🏼.
White chocolate mocha, softly sitting on my tongue.
Sip. I engulf it in, slowly. Trying to make every second last.
The sound of a Diet Coke can pop-ping open.
Pink sweaters. Colored muffins. Netflix shows and hot chocolate.
Mean girls. Corny music. Tight jeans and a beanie.
It is not an insult if it just brings you joy.
Can we stop bashing people for what they like?
Life is already smacking us all in the face now.
So, if you want a Starbucks drink get it.
If you want to watch a soap opera, watch it.
If you want to go vegan. Drink your soy milk.
Do you want biceps? Lift your weights.
TikTok is for dumb people. So, be dumb.
Instagram is fake. So, be fake.
Makeup is hiding insecurities. So, be a “clown”.
Maybe , just maybe. Everyone gets a pass this year.
Stop being worried about being basic.
We are all basic.
Basic in different ways.
Is joy the end goal?
Presumably, joy is the end goal. The Valhalla, heaven, or paradise of everyday life.
Do we ever reach it? Which feelings bring us the most joy?
These are all awfully philosophical questions. Today, I am not feeling wise. More importantly, I am not a philosopher. I think enough amazing literature and questions exist on the matter, that I just wouldn’t do it justice.
Instead, I am here to show you the proven experiences that bring us joy, as rated by neuroscientists and psychologists. Really, I am simple. I just want to be happy.
Not so basic. Do all people want to be happy?
Not quite. Not all cultures value happiness as a life goal. A 2014 study went as far as saying- certain cultures have an aversion to happiness.
Notably, many people have negative views towards the pursuit of happiness. Specifically, Eastern cultures value happiness less than Western cultures.
Surprisingly, the study revealed that people were afraid of being happy because they believed that bad things happen to happy people. To elaborate, death and suffering follows periods of being happy.
That is very interesting to me because I also sometimes catch myself saying:
Oh – things are going too well. Something’s got to give.
So, really it is self-preservation that makes us fear happiness.
More interestingly, the same study showed how some people believe that pursuing happiness is bad for you and others. In other words, individual pursuit of happiness can cause negative outcomes to people around us.
That does not mean people hate being happy. I think what was meant by this is that the community or common good is more important than individual happiness.
At least, that is what I think.
Perhaps, we think we don’t deserve happiness.
Happiness according to brain scientists: Stay basic (sort of 😛 )
Brain talk sometimes feels too brainy for me. Time I kind of understand the concept of that. For measuring emotions- looking at both negative and positive emotions at the same time helps.
Especially, looking at the time linked to activities or events.
Happiness as Aristotle put it is hedonic, meaning it is characterized by pleasant or unpleasant behaviors. Ironically, the brain part most linked to pleasure is right above our eyeballs, where we can’t see it. We never know what happiness is even when it smacks us in our faces.
Ok, back to the facts. Our ventral prefrontal cortex (above our eyeballs in the front of our brain), is most activated when we feel pleasure.
Short-term pleasure or momentary pleasure is linked to hedonia, understood as highly pleasurable experiences. Whereas long term well-being or happiness can be labelled as eudaemonia– living a meaningful life. You can think of it as how we cognitively process the meaning of life and its pleasures.
Basic pleasures found in our brain include : sexual pleasure and food. See, our brain was trained to be basic. At least, at some level. That is not all that we are made of though. We also can reach higher-order pleasures- like altruism, money, and music.
Fundamental pleasures or needs is just another word for basic. In other words, stopping ourselves from being basic, goes against the nature of our brain.
Other things our brain function is related to:
Generosity and altruistic behavior encourage well-being, which to some researchers is the basis of happiness.
Think of it like a green light that shines every time we feel pleasure.
Reward helps shed light on hedonic processes or short-term pleasures. Conversely, altruism and other long-term pleasures can also be linked to sensory pleasure.
The regulation, experience, and interpretation of positive stimuli is what some define as happiness.
Top ranked enjoyable experiences: TV shows
Disclaimer: Take this all in with a grain of salt. Experiences are subjective. They couldn’t possibly capture all humans’ opinions about experiences.
Ok, back to my fad article now.
Here, enjoyable experiences are subcategorized according to our brain recording short-term and long-term pleasures.
Boom. The most enjoyable activity is watching tv shows. Not movies- tv shows. No wonder Netflix is so popular (and rich).
Maybe it is because tv shows are short- so they easily entertain us. At the same time, continuing from one episode to another hooks us in. Whereas people noted social activities as the highlight of their entire day or week. So, in the moment watching a tv show brings joy quicker. But over time social activities win.
Introvert, Extrovert, Ambivert : Staying in or out?
I guess we can end the debate about introverts vs. extroverts. Who wins staying home or going out? We all love tv shows at home. Sadly, ambiverts are always left behind- or forgotten, like the middle child of personalities. I know exactly how they feel.
Too many times we confuse introverts as only wanting to be in the house vs. extroverts always wanting to be out. At a basic level, all personality types enjoy a lot of the same things. Watching tv shows. Social contact. The only difference is extroverts feel more energized in a group vs. introverts who while, enjoying social events, might need to recharge on their own or wind down. Whereas ambiverts need a bit of both.
Recreational activities : Basic design
Recreational activities can range from outdoor activities to farming on FarmVille (i.e., on Facebook). Both bring joy. The continued pull to stay playing, like a tv show is addictive. Mainly, games are ranked as more enjoyable based on game design and playability.
Maybe, we can apply this design to our everyday life. Why don’t we design or organize our lives smartly? Noticeably, we are not a computer game or a Sims character, we don’t get points for living. But we can add things to our daily routine like:
Designing time for fun
Not everyone has the luxury to implement this. People need to focus first on survival. It is harder to find time for yourself when you are just surviving.
However, there is always a way to design fun through a tv show, a conversation, or my personal favorite, a solo dance party.
Just one minute of dance a day can do wonders. Or one minute of reading, knitting, writing, whatever you fancy.
Concluding thoughts on happiness
In conclusion, all we need is the time to find joy. Lend a helping hand to someone who does not have the luxury of time. Happiness or well-being involves a balance of our simple and short-term happiness as well as long-term activities, like helping others.
It is a balancing act between basic feelings and social positive activities. Ok, now it is time for me to leave and do basic things. I have one more episode of Snowpiercer to watch and a vanilla latte to drink. I will continue being basic. Will you?
Did you know? The international day for happiness passed just a week ago, on March 20, 2021. What did you do that brought you joy since then?
Check out more psychology related content on this site, like information on seasonal depression.
What made you smile today?