Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles By using the term spontaneous happiness I want to call attention to the fact that we can open ourselves to the possibility of happiness by doing various things, and then when that occurs we should be grateful for it. But I'm rather suspicious of pursuing happiness as a goal. The word happiness comes from an old Norse root that means "luck" or "fortune," which suggests that people traditionally have associated happiness with external fortune. I don't think that's a good place to look for it. And, in fact, if I asked most people what would make them happy, most people think it's getting something that they now don't have, you know, a new car, a better job, a lover. And my sense is that that's not what we should be striving for. First of all, when you get it, the feeling that you're looking for often is very short lived. I think instead we should be working for contentment, and contentment, to me, is an inner sense of fulfillment that's relatively independent of external circumstances. Now, interestingly, there are very consistent reports -- and many of you may be able to connect this with your own experience -- that people who go to other areas of the world that are much less affluent than ours, where people have much less, are very struck by the fact that people are more content. And there seems to be a very clear correlation between material affluence and deteriorating contentment. It's just a fascinating observation: the more people have, the less content they seem to be. And I also would emphasize that I think our moods are supposed to vary. You know, we're not supposed to be up here all the time. Everything in our experience varies, and I think it is good to be accepting of these natural cycles in mood. That doesn't mean -- obviously you don't want to go so far down that you don't remember what it's like back up here and you don't want to get stuck in the bottom. But I think it is natural to cycle through this. Also, I've come across some other very interesting research from the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology, which attempts to explain our mental states in evolutionary terms, that sees value in depression and even suggests that natural selection may have chosen a depressive trait in human beings. And the reasoning of these evolutionary psychologists is this: the essence of depression is a very strong inward focus and a tendency to chew over and over the same thought pattern, you know, which leads... if it's negative, it makes you sad, it makes you fearful and so forth. That's called depressive rumination in psychology, and it's seen as being a pathological trait. But the evolutionary psychologists suggest that that's exactly the mental strategy that favors problem solving and creativity and that people who do this are, you know, either you're faced with a really difficult problem, you sort of can't stop thinking about it, you chew it over and over until you either decide there's no solution and give up, or you find the solution. And so it may be that evolution favored this kind of trait in us. And that may also help explain why we see such a strong correlation between depression and creativity. You know, I could spend the whole time talking to you here about the incredibly famous and successful artists, writers, composers, people in all fields who have been seriously affected by depression, you know, many of whom have turned to alcohol or drugs to treat that, some of whom have committed suicide. But that cries out for explanation. Why is there such a strong association between depression and creativity? And the answer may be somewhere in here that, you know, tolerating a certain amount of depression or being comfortable with, you know, low moods from time to time -- there may be value in that.