The Holy Grail of emotions, happiness is everywhere — and yet so hard to see.

Everything from a pleasant sunny afternoon to a once-in-a-lifetime winning lottery ticket could sit under the umbrella of happiness. The problem is, wanting to be happy without knowing what that means, is a recipe for unhappiness.

In the first episode of this new series, Shift’s Zac Erickson, Andrea McTague and Sarah poke around under the blanket of happiness to demystify it from a physiological, psychological and evolutionary perspective. As they do so, they ask two questions that will recur throughout this upcoming series: What is happiness for you as an individual and what is happiness for humans in general?

Achieving Happiness

As a precondition to achieving happiness, all humans must meet some basic needs.

A lot of what makes humans happy comes from our evolutionary past: movement, nature and novelty, along with a sense of connectedness — the things our ancestors would have needed to stay alive.

But once we get past survival, everyone’s bliss is going to look a little different. Because humans are a comparative species, we can frame happiness as a generic goal. But it’s not a series of societal checkboxes; it’s deeply personal, depending on individual values, personality traits and their alignment.

There’s no shortcut to happiness (spoiler alert)

but we can use our understanding of our traits, our values, and our limiting beliefs to make choices in our everyday life that allows us to savour the moment. By reframing our thinking, we can ensure that our emotions are tied to the present reality — not wallowing in the past or agonizing about the future.

Listen to find out why the comparison is the thief of joy, how life is like a garden, and why saying you “should” go to the gym is a sign you probably shouldn’t.