feeling called ‘Happiness’

I read this line recently by comedian Louis CK – “everything is amazing right now but nobody is happy”

Uber, Ola, Facebook, Amazon – all experiences that we have had in the recent few years. The first few times I used Uber, I was amazed by the technology. It was simply superb that a driver would be at your doorstep in a matter of minutes by the click of a few buttons. And then very quickly, I was getting upset that I had to wait for a few minutes more than anticipated before being magically whisked away at a reasonable price.

Our happiness is not based on what we are experiencing. It is based more on the difference between experience and expectation. Experience is built on reality, expectation in our mind. Reality is difficult to change but your expectations can be influenced. They say happiness is a dopey feeling. Well, it is because our brain releases dopamine when we feel happy. And this chemical is released in either small dosages or big – depending on the signals sent from the part of brain called nucleus accumbens. We get addicted to the dopamine and when it isn’t released in our brain, we become frustrated, disappointed.

The other day, a friend of mine asked me what makes you happy? On some days, it is the small things. Like the days when things don’t seem to be falling in place, a call from my husband makes me happy. While on other days, when I am creating something new or I am part of an exciting project, it is a dopey feeling to see your program come alive. It’s all about expectations.

Fortunately, research now proves that our pre-frontal cortex can help modulate the release of dopamine in our brain.

A study by a couple of American researchers assigned young adults to keep a daily journal of things they were grateful for (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). They assigned other groups to journal about things that annoyed them, or reasons why they were better off than others. The adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increase in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups.

It is very easy for the brain to get accustomed to good things. Think back to your very first job and how exciting your first pay-check was. Then think about how unexciting your last pay-check was. We habituate to all the good things around us, and don’t release dopamine. We start to take things for granted. Because of our high expectations, we miss out on some of the magic in life.

When we started our training programs way back in 2007, we had no such insights. Its only when we started mapping out stakeholder expectations that we started winning over hearts and minds. We put in extra effort to ensure that we exceed expectations of stakeholders and participants in all our assessments and training programs. And that’s the reason why over 98% of the more than 45,000 participants (impacted by us) say that they were happy with our work.

Because while everything truly is amazing, happiness sometimes takes a little effort.

My best wishes for the start of the festive season in India. Here’s hoping that you experience dopamine and happiness this festive season and do remember to spread the word around.

Warm regards,

Smita Dinesh