Depression and lack of meaning – are two of the great problems of the present world. Although the answer given by Christianity to these challenges has been disregarded recently, biology comes to reinforce what the Fathers of the Church have always said – communion with God and others is the path to true happiness.
The life of contemporary people should be the best ever. No other generation before us had the standard of comfort that we enjoy today: cars that take us safely, and quickly wherever we want; mobile phones to instantly communicate with anyone on the planet; Internet-connected computers that make old-fashioned scholars look like stupid, and examples can continue. Likewise, we have high quality medical services, an understanding of the human body that is at least amazing, and health systems that eradicated diseases that wiped out generations of ancestors. In addition, food is no longer a problem! If we had to put our life in danger to feed our families, now all we have to do is go to the nearest supermarket. Everything is very easy, comfortable and more accessible. So we cannot ask ourselves: why are we, more and more, unhappy? Why is depression the most widespread disease in our society? What did our ancestors have and we lost?
It may be that the answer is more handy than we would have expected and connected, as many times recently, with the breaking of the natural order which God, in His infinite wisdom, has established. Do you remember the boring lessons of biology where you were in classes because you had to? It seems that the effort at that time was not in vain (Excuse me, teacher!). Biology brings a new perspective on our existence far different from the Latin names and the endless rows of substances in the bodies of living beings. Believe it or not, those lessons talked about what we lack today – about happiness and all the feelings that make our life worth living. We were talking about life in a way that is useful to us, to ordinary people. But, I had to watch one of Simon Sinek’s speeches to come to this conclusion.
In his presentation, Simon tells us about happiness and how it is produced at the biological level. The conclusion he comes to is that all the feelings that can be associated with the well-being are produced by four categories of substances that control our existence and which make us behave in the way we do it: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. And of all these, the most important substance is oxytocin.
It is the hormone responsible for the feeling of love, friendship, trust, and for everything that makes our social life worth living. Basically, it is the biological essence of everything that makes us human. And the interesting part is just beginning: it costs almost nothing to produce this hormone that gives us so much satisfaction. The first way we can determine our bodies to produce this substance is through touch. Hence, hugging has such an important role in our lives. Lovers always stay one in each other’s arms (At least at the beginning of the relationship!). Then, large amounts of oxytocin are released that “help” us to see only unicorns and rainbows. It’s about love with all its pleasant complications! But, somehow, this simple, inexpensive and so beneficial gesture goes to be forgotten, and the relationship fades away.
But there is another situation that even better illustrates the effects of oxytocin. Let us remember that when we were children, we were very happy when we were hugged. We felt loved, protected, valued, felt that anything bad happened could not reach us in the arms of our parents. That is why, in the New Testament, the relationship between parents and children is the one that best illustrates the bond between God and men. Christ speaks of the Divinity as “the heavenly Father,” about “our Father,” in the resemblance of the relationship between the first and second Persons of the Holy Trinity, between the Father and the Son.
Another important way to get oxytocin, is through mercy, through disinterested generosity. But there is also an essential difference here. Not necessarily the money, but the time and personal effort that we put in the service of others are those that have the greatest impact on us as well as on those we try to help. Why? Because true generosity involves sacrifice. Money can be recovered, but time and effort given to someone, never. One more thing, to give effort and money to someone is to put some of you in that act, it means a deeper personal connection.
It is also very interesting that both the generous person and the recipient receive a dose of oxytocin. The same gesture makes both of them feel better! And if we are witnessing such an act, we also get a dose of oxytocin. Therefore, God created us to repeat those behaviors that are to our benefit. That is why salvation is not achieved individually, but through co-operation, through synergy. Man was not made to be solitary, but to exist in communion with others. Fathers of the Church speak of heaven as about eternal communion with God and other people who have demonstrated in earthly life that they desire that. Moreover, as communion becomes stronger, we want it to deepen and continue. We want it to last forever.
We are created in the image of God, of the Holy Trinity in whose bosom there is, from eternity, communion. The essential detail here is the number three who symbolize the perfect communion. God, the infinite Love, is a Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, I cannot speak of my love for God if I do not love my brother (Holy Epistle of Apostle John, chapter 4, verses 20-21) so, it is about God, me and him. In the family, one cannot speak of a total love between husband and wife without the third person, the child.
However, happiness is not a simple moment in our lives. It is a process. You cannot make a simple gesture and say, “That’s it! I found happiness! “. It takes time to form that trusting bond. That is why love at first sight is overrated from my point of view. I agree with attraction at first sight, but love involves much more than that. It involves personal effort and time. That’s why the generous person tends to become more and more generous, because its sensation is authentic, and its happiness is true. While the person who does this only “to look good” will not continue this process of helping others. He will show some acts of generosity and no more than that. On the contrary, he will ask for something in return. Remember politicians or our bosses who tell us how much they appreciate us and spend time with us just only in their time of need. The result? They are not credible, and the time spent with them is not the most delightful experience! They are not generous, they are only interested, and we feel these things. Because God created us in this way.
Nobody thought we could learn so much about happiness from a biology lesson. But we can not ignore the evidence when we live and feel it. We are beings created for communion, and that means also to share our gifts. God knew what he was doing! That’s why no one in the world received all the gifts. Not even the saints. Some have more, others fewer, but none have them all. Because there is no need for that. If we all share what we have, we can all enjoy all the gifts. This is communion! And if we do that, we will not only have an easier life, but we will feel even better because we have helped those around us. Oxytocin is the guarantee of this!
Stop meditating at this! Be happy! Let us be the first to give and we will receive! That’s what God does, because He loved us first (First Epistle of Apostle John, chapter 4, verse 19)! Consequently, when you want to tell someone something, go to her/him and talk. If you cannot, speak on the phone! Do not send emails or messages! These are great tools for sharing information, but not to create and maintain relationships.
Also, when you have time, help! Go to an asylum for the elderly, to the children who are alone, and if you cannot do something practical, tangible for them, just talk with them. Hug them! That’s what they need most! You will feel good, fulfilled, and happy! Don’t forget to continue! Happiness is a state that is created in time, but once installed, is self-sustaining. Because this was God’s plan with the world before the beginning of time!