I’ve pondered over the meaning of happiness for the longest time.
One approach I’ve taken is that happiness is closely tied to the secretion of dopamine in the brain. According to the brilliant minds of Wikipedia, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and motivation, allowing humans to thrive.
But does maximizing the amount of dopamine produced lead to a happy life? If this were true, then injecting people with drugs from birth until death so that they’re constantly brimming with dopamine would solving all of our problems. But the reality is that our brains are not designed so matter-of-factly. The total amount of dopamine produced from a constant amount of drugs decreases over time, driving us towards a certain state of lethargic ruin.
I was once afraid of losing the people I loved, knowing that all humans are destined to die. At one point in life, I even considered loving fewer people to avoid the pain of losing them. If death is inevitable, maybe loving less will reduce the absolute amount of pain. But I soon realized that adversities such as goodbyes, misfortunes, setbacks, and failures are all just the flip sides of the coin we know as happiness. Our brains are designed to maximize happiness in the long run, which means that dopamine levels are not constantly at their peak levels. The ups and downs of dopamine levels allow for the possibility of experiencing joy after suffering. It’s our brains’ way of maximizing happiness in the long run.
I’ve been able to build up my tolerance towards adversity through this knowledge. Now, whenever I encounter adversity, I’m able to look beyond the pain and look forward to the happiness it makes room for. By viewing pain and suffering as preparatory periods for future happiness, I believe we can all lead more fulfilling lives.
Happiness and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. The two will follow after each other as surely as night follows day. I daresay that perceiving pain and suffering as opportunities to prepare for the happiness to come can lead to a more fulfilling life.