You don't need to be a scientist to understand happiness. But recalling the building blocks of the scientific method may help you live a happier life. Occam's razor, which most people know as the law of parsimony, states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the simplest explanation should be selected.
Let me offer you two competing hypotheses regarding happiness. The first one states that happiness is very difficult to attain. It takes extreme dedication to your career, excellent financial management, and a few antidepressants. Sprinkle in a few green smoothies, new yoga mats, meditation apps, and several self-help books, and you might struggle to scratch the surface of bliss.
The second hypothesis indicates that happiness is easy to attain. It argues that anyone can be happy right now, because happiness is not an object--it's a state of being. Meaning that you don't need anything to feel joy, you simply need to stop searching for something outside of yourself and instead focus on cultivating the inner peace that fosters real happiness.
Which of these two hypotheses is more parsimonious? This is a simple question and an easy answer. Unfortunately, our world makes each hypothesis more complex and convoluted than I presented.
In the real world, the first hypothesis--the one that says you need objects and external things to grasp a small taste of happiness--is advertised as the only way to feel happy. We're sent messages at a young age that it's the nice material things you own or the foreign vacations you enjoy that bring you happiness. Advertisements send messages that you'll be a happier person if you just buy another product you don't need to impress people you don't like. And what makes real happiness more difficult to discover is the second hypothesis.
The second hypothesis--the one that says you need to let go of your search for happiness and instead, create an internal environment that connects you to the state of being that is happiness itself--seems impossible in modern times. With so many responsibilities, goals, ambitions, and stress, the contemporary human rarely has time to focus on doing the self-work required to access the happiness available to them in each moment. And that's the problem!
The only way to discover happiness right now is to understand the game that's being played and change your strategy. Happiness is a state of being--something that is always already present--not an object that can be purchased and attained. And that means that most people, in their natural state and appropriately nurturing environment, are happy.
The factors that create unhappiness are self-made. Your social conditioning, excessive focus on work and productivity, engagement in unnecessary social comparisons, unrealistic expectations, and buying into clever marketing campaigns--all of the things that don't really matter--those are the things that create unhappiness. And that type of unhappiness cannot be removed or fixed by buying a new car or even getting a nice promotion.
The truth is, you are unhappy because your attention is fixated on self-involved matters and worldly pursuits that create, at best, temporary and superficial pleasure. There's an adage that states, "you become what you meditate on." When your attention drifts from its natural state of happiness to focusing on yourself, objects, problems, troubles, fears, sorrow, anger, obsessions, and desires, a fleeting moment of relief or pleasure becomes a consolation prize--a temporary escape from an unfulfilling reality.
Happiness is not to be attained from those things or from simply cutting yourself off from the world. The only way to find the happiness that is accessible in each moment is to locate the happiness in your body and experience. Meditate on that feeling of happiness. If it is difficult for you to find, then observe the mechanism of your unhappiness. Over time, the feeling of being present will magnify, allowing you to feel more connected to the happiness available in each moment.
No matter how sophisticated it becomes, the methodology of science will not provide you a short cut to happiness. There is no easy fix: you either practice happiness or unhappiness. Choose wisely.