Happiness: mindfulness and happiness therapy

Happiness – can it be trained?
Happiness has two meanings in German, namely to have happiness and to feel happiness. This article is about feeling and feeling as well as about the possibility to train happiness.

Table of Contents

  • to be lucky
  • Feel happiness
  • Be happy
  • What does neurobiology say?
  • The flow feeling
  • Happiness in diversity
  • Happiness therapies
  • Mindfulness
  • Does prosperity make you happy?
  • Relationship and partnership
  • Happiness and comparison
  • The tyranny of wellbeing
  • Happiness and luck

to be lucky

This happiness corresponds to an accident or a metaphysical force. It is an event that we do not want to influence: we are sitting in a cafe where a bomb hits, immediately killing our table neighbor, and we are not injured.

Can a feeling of happiness be trained? Image: drubig-photo – fotolia

The origin of the word refers to the external character. Gap in Middle High German meant that an event ended well. The people affected did not make their own contribution to this.

Feel happiness

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to stop worrying about things that are beyond our control.” Epicurus of Samos

The feeling of happiness, on the other hand, denotes a state in which we feel comfortable. It is explicitly not about objective circumstances, but about our subjective perception. This feeling can be short-lived, for example after passing an exam, when we sit down with friends at the lake or get on well with our partner.

On the other hand, being happy corresponds to a permanent state in which we feel comfortable with our life and experience a particularly large number of happy moments.

The British distinguish between luck and happiness. Luck corresponds to having happiness, happiness to subjective feeling.

Be happy

There is no magic formula for permanent happiness. People who say they are happy, but are characterized by certain qualities: they find meaning in their lives, they feel comfortable in their community; they have a strong sense of self-worth and live largely self-determined. You are more or less pure with yourself and find the balance between action and relaxation; they integrate past experiences with the desire for something new.

Sociologist Gerhard Schulze differentiated between happiness as the freedom from suffering and lack and happiness as the beautiful life. The freedom from lack is the prerequisite for a good life. The ancient philosopher Epicurus put it: “If you want to make a person happy, do not add anything to his wealth, but take away some of his wishes.”

The best way to achieve a beautiful experience is to stop chasing things that you cannot achieve.

What does neurobiology say?

On the one hand, happiness is considered metaphysical, on the other hand, it deals with philosophy and education, sociology, psychology and politics. But neurobiology also contributes a lot to happiness research.

It may seem strange to explain a “mystical feeling” like happiness through sober natural science, but now we know a lot about how our brain controls emotions – positive and negative.

The limbic system and the cerebral cortex behind the forehead are primarily responsible for this. The switching points in the brain function as a “reward system”.

They release messenger substances, in the technical jargon neurotransmitters, including those that trigger feelings of happiness. This applies in particular to dopamine, the body’s own opioids and cannanbinoids. Our messenger metabolism therefore produces exactly the drugs that consumers consume through the consumption of morphine, marijuana and hashish.

Happiness is also a biological effect. Image: Raw pixel food – fotolia

Neither the body’s own drugs nor added substances have anything to do with long-term happiness. An “overdose” has similar consequences. The brain provides a short-term reward in the form of well-being, but afterwards the affected people feel rapidly bad.

The brain pathways get used to the material, the feeling of wellbeing disappears, but the addiction to the material remains. We know this from junkies, but it is less known that extreme athletes also have similar problems. When “sports addicts” can no longer complete their training, they also suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

We can activate the messenger substances in cans if we indulge in things that inspire us: painting, listening to beautiful music, hiking in nature or having good conversations with others.

Brain research sees endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin as happiness substances. The brain releases these substances, for example, during eating, during sex or sport, but also during periods of rest.

The philosopher Stefan Klein says: “We see ourselves as spiritual beings, feel inspired by hopes, thoughts, desires, not by chemistry. If we fall in love or proudly look at our children, can we really believe that this joy of being is nothing more than the flow of some chemicals in our heads? ”

But even the neurobiologists do not claim that we are only slaves to our messenger substances. Social ties, own interests and the environment play a significant role, not least in which situations the brain produces these messenger substances.

However, neurobiology explains why feelings of happiness seem so “mythical” to us and why the conscious goal of feeling happiness does not work in the vernacular either. According to this, the body produces the emotions, and these precede the conscious feelings in the cerebral cortex. That means: We feel happy before we are aware that we feel happiness. The nervous system works involuntarily, and therefore it does not work if we consciously force ourselves to be happy.

The flow feeling

All people know a feeling of flow. Thoughts, feelings and ideas merge, we implement things that lie dormant in us and feel very comfortable. Everything appears right in these moments.

We have the feeling that we are overcoming our everyday limits. Flow can be described as a feeling of happiness and can be brought about consciously. It is also a result of hard work.

A scientist who is overwhelmed by a new discovery, an artist who paints nights with a picture that is getting better and better, a philosopher who penetrates areas of knowledge that he was previously unaware of – they are all in the happy state of flowing .

The happiness researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term flow for a work in which a person is completely absorbed. Flow is not just satisfaction, which is sometimes mistaken for happiness, but arises in the area of ​​tension between being overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

Whoever gets into this state does something, as much as he can in a specific area. He has to challenge himself, the goal must not be easy to achieve, but at the same time not so high that he cannot achieve it.

In the state of total concentration, he gets into the state of flow, which can go into a trance as shamans go through. Consciousness is now smoothly implementing information and breaking through boundaries that previously paralyzed the creative flow.

This feeling of happiness does not detach itself from the action of the person concerned. Csíkszentmihályi writes: “Any loss of concentration erases the experience. But as it continues, consciousness works smoothly; the activities follow each other seamlessly. ”

Those affected grow beyond themselves: “If you are not concerned with yourself, you have the opportunity to broaden the idea of ​​what you are. Losing self-esteem can lead to self-transcendence, a feeling that the limits of being can be expanded. ”

Happiness in diversity

Satisfaction means not asking more than you have. Such an attitude is a guarantee that you will experience few moments of happiness. If we always do the same, there is no reason for our brain to produce messenger substances.

Our senses react to contrasts. Surprises create feelings of happiness, but best when new experiences are linked to familiar things: experiencing the unknown triggers the contradiction between curiosity and fear for everyone.

Those who cannot get out of their daily routine may call themselves satisfied, but the feeling of happiness falls by the wayside. Whoever jumps into cold water constantly collects exciting moments that he also feels as a state of happiness, but he also exposes himself to constant stress. The mixture probably ensures that the moments of happiness increase.

Happiness therapies

Can happiness be trained? In fact, there are various happiness therapies that try to do just that. They are intended to increase and increase feelings of happiness.

Caution is advised: If such therapies as the popular “positive thinking” hide the context of life, the social situation and the spectrum of feelings, in which fear, anger and hatred are not misstates, but just as elementary as feelings of happiness, then they harm them Affected.

Whoever “trains” moments of happiness subjectively, without changing his objective living conditions, denies reality. In an emergency, he talks himself into a miserable job, no longer cares about his rent “because everything will be fine” and separates himself from critical people who could slow him down on his way to the biographical catastrophe.

Unhealthy “feelings of happiness” are well known to bipolar people who run around the area euphorically for days with the firm belief that they will unhinge the world and then land on the hard floor of depression like a heroin addict when the intoxication subsides.

Michael W. Fordyce founded happiness therapy that has nothing to do with esoteric repressing of reality. Anyone looking for the “quick kick” will consider Fordyce’s program dry and put it aside. Conversely, he shares with the gurus of positive thinking the idea that “negative feelings” must be eliminated.

However, he developed very practical approaches that can at least be a prerequisite for feeling more moments of happiness and becoming happier in the long run.

The cornerstones are:

1) Activity and employment

2) Deepen social relationships with other people

3) Systematics in everyday life and planned actions

4) Curb worries about things that could happen

5) At the same time, however, reduce the demands and expectations

6) Orientate to the present, not to events that could only happen as a possibility and also not to what cannot be changed.

7) To accept yourself

8) Be the way you are.

9) Establish close relationships, few close relationships are better than many acquaintances

A “happiness plan”

Happiness cannot be planned, but we can create the conditions to make it possible

1) We introduce at least one activity into everyday life that brings us friends

2) We invite guests and maintain old friendships.

3) We think about where we feel happy in our job and what can be changed. We focus on the positive points and start the changes.

4) We keep a care diary and reflect on what might be the reason. We share these concerns with others.

5) We check our goals, wishes and hopes, find out which ones can be realized and concentrate on them.

6) We are making concrete plans for the next weeks, months and years.

7) We think through events in our lives and find out which of them was positive.

8) We are making this week as positive as possible

9) We accept the sides of our personality that we find negative.

10) We participate in associations and organizations that correspond to our interests. We get to know new people and smile at those we meet.

11) We express feelings openly.

12) We seek professional help for serious mental health problems.

13) We spend more time with the people who are important to us. We address problems in our relationships and try to solve them.

14) We think intensely about what happiness means to us and aim for it as a goal to which we subordinate others. If we realize that more wealth does not make us happy, if we forget to live, then wealth is not the goal.

The New Zealand psychologist Lichter, Hay and Kamann distinguish between beliefs that hinder our happiness and those that promote it.

Happiness therefore hampers ideas like

1) The acceptance and rejection of others are responsible for my feelings.

2) My personality cannot be changed.

3) I’m guilty of whatever.

4) The future worries me (for no objective reason)

5) Other people are constantly doing everything wrong, so I have to get upset.

Happiness, on the other hand, promotes attitudes like

1) My feelings belong with and concern only me

2) I feel good in myself.

3) Don’t worry about new experiences.

4) Failures don’t mean punishing myself.

5) I decide what I like, not conventions.

6) I act based on my feelings and attitudes.

7) I enjoy the present.


The happiness therapies presented go hand in hand with a state of mindfulness. I look closely at what is going on around me. Just letting yourself go is not a way to develop more happiness – this requires sharper perception.


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