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Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Happiness is Part of Humanity

May 28, 2024

This is a guest post by WWSG exclusive speaker, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Happiness is an idea that has been woven into the fabric of humanity, going back to ancient civilizations.

Although we’ve grappled with it for millennia, the concept of happiness and how to attain it remains pretty elusive. Some might see it as having a sense of general well-being. For others, it might be feeling a spark of unadulterated joy. Yet others might find happiness chasing a dream and reaching it. It might be some combination of these – or something else entirely.

A challenging question is, what are the best ways to pursue happiness? Are we born with a stable, set level, or is it something we can cultivate, increase and strengthen? If it’s the latter, how can we successfully go about it?

The tricky part is, humans as a species may not excel at happiness. This may surprise you, but happiness is not necessarily something that we are genetically primed to attain. We have to really work at it.

The fact that we haven’t evolved to prioritize happiness may be why, despite being a generally happy person, I am also “constructively dissatisfied.” It’s a term I came up with on the fly while talking to cognitive scientist Dr. Laurie Santos for the first episode of our new podcast season.

And here, I’m making a distinction between happiness and satisfaction. I’m still happy overall, but I think if I ever became satisfied, that might erode my happiness. In my mind, satisfaction leads to complacency, which leads to stagnation. So I seemingly have one of those personalities that needs – maybe even thrives on – dissatisfaction; being satisfied or complacent dampens my energy and enthusiasm.

“It strikes me that you’ve kind of gotten something out of the journey, gotten something out of that struggle,” Santos told me.

But she also warned about going overboard. “We can push ourselves and engage in challenges; those can be some of the happiest, most flow-inducing moments of our lives,” she said. “But we need to make sure we’re doing that in balance.”

She said that if we lose sleep, ignore friendships and make ourselves miserable, “maybe think about pushing yourself in a different way.”

Even though we may all define happiness in different ways or even have different set points of happiness, according to Santos, your own happiness might be more in our control than you ever thought.

Santos believes that with some diligent and intentional practice, you can start to turn up your thermostat of happiness.

It’s a worthy pursuit and a journey that I hope you’ll join me for this season of the “Chasing Life” podcast.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and a dedicated global journalist who is passionate about inspiring Americans to lead healthier, more active lives. To host him for a speaking engagement, contact Worldwide Speakers Group.

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