What really brings us happiness?

What really brings us happiness?

(OPRAH.com) — It was a dreary afternoon not long ago, one of those days when the sunlight is wan and somehow sooty, flattening everything into a halfhearted pencil sketch. Sitting at my desk, I quit staring at my cuticles long enough to open a YouTube link from a friend — a newsclip about Jason McElwain.

Connecting with other people can lift your spirits.

You might remember Jason, the autistic high school student from Rochester, New York, who scored 20 points in four minutes during his one-and-only stint in a game with his school’s basketball team. In the clip, the coach gets choked up retelling Jason’s story; tears sprang to my eyes, too.

As I watched the elated home crowd rushing the court after Jason’s final three-pointer, I felt borne aloft on a wave of happy pandemonium.

I started forwarding the video, hoping my friends would feel what I felt: awe, surprised delight, teary joy.

Within a few minutes, the replies started coming in:


“Oh no, I’m crying at work!”

“I’m Facebooking this now. Amazing.”

“Wow — just what I needed. Thanks!”

And then I wondered: Does this feeling come in prescription form?

Especially in our current moment of doom and gloom, stories like Jason McElwain’s seem like just what the doctor ordered. When forces beyond our control have upended what we thought we knew for sure (about our savings, our homes, our country, our future) and a drizzle of apprehension settles over us, we hunger for uplift.

We want a nudge toward happiness, a little magic to open the pressure valve of everyday life — the sublime thrill of transcendence to be found in a Mendelssohn symphony or a Turner landscape, in a perfect kiss or perfect morning jog, in time spent with our families and friends. And then we want to hit Forward on that feeling: because the more we share it, the stronger it grows.

But a yen for uplift isn’t just a sentimental reflex (grumps and pessimists, stick with us!). The physiology that makes McElwain-brand exhilaration possible is also the bedrock of our instincts for compassion, caretaking, and connection. The capacity for uplift is part of what makes us essentially, euphorically human.

To read more from this happiness story – click here