The human brain is biochemically designed to recognize and respond to a wide range of stimuli, so it is natural to feel ecstatic, melancholic, desperate, hopeful, tragic, mirthful, and so on. The literature that revolves around “Happiness” and assigns “Happiness” as a major determinant of mental wellbeing or quality life or whatever is misleading. In a sense, YES, happiness is overrated! It is equally important that we can open up and have discourses about disgust, confusion, and betrayals, and it is perfectly okay to come across such emotions or mental states during our encounters with several stimuli, be it the death of kin or a dream job offer.
There comes also the social structures that prepare us to celebrate, mourn, unite, attack, and survive in unison. So it is imprudent to tag an emotion— our favorite ‘Happiness’— as the sole reason for our mental wellbeing when we are designed to adhere to a wide array of events. And there come our discrepancies which make us individuals: a person might be over-excited to have a new pet while another might be stressed for some “rational” reasons. So how does a person respond to stimuli? As research points, we have both genetic and environmental(our community, language, religion…) factors in play to shape our perceptions.
Besides all these aspects, Neuroscience also reveals that our brain can’t categorize imagination and reality as different events. For instance, you lay on your bed, thinking of a breakup (which I don’t hope so :D) and all consequences after it. Your brain releases the same hormones as if the event is happening in reality. Your blood pressure surges, heartbeat increases, you feel dizzy…
The same effects as if in reality, so it will be beneficial to value our health before we anticipate and cuddle with imagination. It is to say we train our brain to respond: we activate neural pathways. One person might experience a massive surge in dopamine after writing an article. He tends to activate, stimulate that dopamine-ridden pathway such that his mind operates in the dopamine of a stark difference compared to another irregular writer.
This is ‘set point’: our normal state of reaction(response) which can fluctuate. A dopamine-driven writer will feel an urge to write 15 pages a day while another regular writer might feel genius after poorly written five pages. Such are our discrepancies. Over time, we can shift our setpoints. Our childhood games don’t excite us the same now which means our set points are in flux, and we will be better off being watchful of them.
It’s okay to feel betrayed, I repeat, but we don’t want to shift our set point drastically in a way we find trust issues with every single people and become a sociopath. It’s okay to feel sad, but one must ensure he is not enabling his mind to respond to similar future events 50 times stronger, triggering panic attacks while the sadness could have subsided after a phone call to his wife or a drink with his friends. Just to reiterate: Happiness is not the holy grail of mental wellbeing, and while it’s perfectly normal to feel any type of emotions, we must be cautious whether we are suffering in imagination or forming new set points that will affect our well-being and nature in imminent or distant future.
— Nischal, Kathmandu
* This is a submitted post *