‘The Ultimate Happiness prescription’ by the wonderful Deepak Chopra is an insightful and inspiring read and one that I highly recommend. He talks about one of the leading theories of happiness, what causes suffering and the seven keys to enlightenment and contentment.
H = S + C + V
Happiness = Set Point + Conditions of living + Voluntary Activities
Researchers have found that 40% of happiness depends on your ‘Set Point’ which refers to your genes and your upbringing (Nature and Nurture). Children’s brains have neurons that mirror the brains of adults around them, so if a child is surrounded by unhappy adults, the nervous system will be programmed for unhappiness even before he has any cause for unhappiness himself.
The good news is that neither your brain nor your genes are fixed structures, they are constantly changing and evolving. Research has shown that the brains set point can be changed through:
- Drugs (not ideal as it’s a short term with potential side effects)
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Living conditions only account for 7% to 12% of happiness.
Almost 50% of the happiness formula depends on Voluntary Activities which are the things we choose to do every day. According to researchers, making other people happy proves to be a fast track to happiness and its effect is long lasting. Turning to creative expression to make yourself happy can also generate positive results that last a lifetime.
According to the Vedic and Buddhist traditions of ancient India, 5 main causes were linked to suffering and the unhappiness it causes:
- Not knowing your true identity
- Clinging to the idea of permanence in a world that is inherently impermanent
- Fear of change
- Identifying with the socially induced hallucination called the ego
- Fear of death
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to wrestle with five causes of suffering. They are all contained in the first: ignorance of your own identity. Once you experience who you really are, all suffering will come to an end.
He then talks about the 7 keys to enlightenment
- Be aware of your body
- Find true self esteem
- Detoxify your life
- Give up being right
- Focus on the present
- See the world in yourself
- Live for enlightenment
The key message of the book to me is that some of us are lucky to come from a great nature and nurture set point but if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you cannot change it. Living conditions are only a small contributor to happiness and what really matters is how you choose to live your life, turning to your creative expression and how important it is to not get mindlessly wrapped up in the delusion of the ego!
~ Avril McDonald
Avril McDonald specialises in transforming meaningful ideas into reality and aspires to having a positive sustainable impact on our world. She’s the founder of Feel Brave Ltd, a company that creates beautiful characters and stories to help kids manage tough emotions and feel brave – because we all have to be a little brave sometimes.
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