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The power of the primal happiness principle

By John Ince

Because happiness is a feeling there is obviously no better way to learn about it than to actually connect with your emotional world.

But the primal happiness principle also provides an objective way to appraise your happiness.  You determine how many of the primal nutrients your life regularly provides and how many are absent.  

In the same way that this allows you to roughly gauge your own happiness level, you can do the same with other people, like your loved ones.  

For example, you can look at your partner’s lifestyle and see what nutrients might be missing there.  The same with your children, or parents or close friends.

Why do this?

For a couple of reasons.  First, it will help you understand them.  

Knowing the deep roots of human happiness will help you see more of their internal landscape, as it will your own. Just that insight will enhance your relationships.

Second, it can help you improve their lives. If you know that specific experiences are key to a deep level of happiness, you can covertly or overtly help others get them.

The primal principle also provides insight into groups of people, even whole nations.

For example, it helps explain why hunter gatherer nomads, who lack virtually everything regarded as essential in a modern lifestyle are often described as “really happy” by those who study them.

Why? Because the nomads are extremely wealthy in primal nutrients.  Human happiness genes want precisely the experiences that are normal in that culture.

Modern societies, and groups within societies, vary in the amount of primal nutrients they deliver to their population. The more nutrients, the happier the folks will be.

The countries with the highest levels of happiness, like Denmark, provide their citizens with significantly more primal nutrients than countries with much lower happiness levels, like China or Bulgaria.

Why are some countries are relatively rich in the nutrients and some countries poor? Even though the primal principle is not well known anywhere, the happiest countries come to recognize that some experiences are key to happiness and deliberately cultivate them.

For example, social equality is highly conducive to happiness (as I will discuss in a later post).  Egalitarianism was essential for the survival of our ancient ancestors and our genes evolved to prefer that type of relationship.

But even not knowing the evolutionary story, some cultures have discovered that social equality delivers more joy than social stratification. That is one reason why egalitarian Denmark is a happier place than hierarchical China or the stratified United States.

The greater the awareness of the primal principle, and  of primal nutrients that are not as obvious as social equality, the happier the nation will become.

Consider an example of how that could occur in an important domain of life: housing.  Every nation with an expanding population must constantly produce new dwellings. Today most new neighborhoods all over the world are built with little consideration of primal nutrients such as physical movement, nature contact or natural light.

Take North America for instance. The suburban low-density model of development prevails: large (2000+ sq ft) detached homes with yards and multiple garages to house the cars required to drive to services, parks and schools which are far away.  

This model promotes driving rather than walking or biking. You might think that backyards would a great source of nature contact, but surveys indicate that most homeowners spend little time there. Low rise buildings tend to be dark, often sitting below vegetation that blocks natural light; also, being so close to the street, occupants usually drape their windows to afford privacy.

In contrast, a neighborhood of the same size (in space and people) of a traditional suburb but designed with the nutrients of happiness in mind, would look very different.

High-rises would replace low rises. Services would cluster at street level in a few tall buildings and this would foster greater neighborhood sociality. Parks would occupy the land freed up. Nature would be right out the door. More visual privacy because everyone would look into the parkland rather than the street and not have to shutter their windows.

But of course a neighborhood rich in such primal nutrients would only attract folks who valued those features.  

In fact most North Americans today value the attributes of the suburb: the anonymity,  the large expanse of indoor space where the occupants can mostly live in their own room alone with their screen,  the easy access to a car. As you shall discover,  these are mostly happiness traps.

As more people become aware of the importance of primal nutrients, they will favor neighborhoods designed with the nutrients in mind. Planners and developers will then build such communities.  It's a slow process but all over the world there are signs it has already started. 

The impact on housing is just one example of how the primal principle will ultimately affect our culture.

While I am mainly interested in how primal happiness can improve the lives of individuals like you and me, I thinks its societal impact  is also important  and I will occasionally explore that subject in this blog.