It's been said the meaning of life is happiness, and the key to being happy is living a fulfilling life. So which is it? This existential question has been studied through the lens of poetry, literature, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, medical science and more for centuries. The experience of happiness all starts with the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. The hippocampus facilitates the transfer of the neurotransmitter serotonin—a natural hormone found in tryptophan (a chemical in turkey)—which in turn regulates important functions like appetite, sexuality, mood and learning. However, serotonin levels can be increased through exposure to external factors like an uptick in sunlight and spending time with animal companions. In fact, according to a 2011 study, the perfect temperature to stimulate happiness in the brain is a mild 57.02 degrees Fahrenheit, less than a sweltering afternoon under the sun as you might expect.
So if what we know about happiness's scientific basis is true, then what did the Dali Lama mean when he said, "Happiness is not made. It comes from our own actions."? It's clear that happiness is a subjective feeling which requires work in order to achieve—but as it turns out, there's a significant scientific explanation for the joyful emotions that shape our lives. Watch this playlist to learn more about the origins of happiness and what you can do to lead a more content life.