You feel serenity when you are at ease and have no immediate desires, other than to relax and enjoy the moment. For example, after finishing an intense day at work and sitting back with a good book; when sitting relaxed in your recliner chair, watching your children play with each other; or after the organization you are affiliated to had just finished a large and challenging project, allowing everyone to take it a bit easier and spend time on enjoyable projects.
To feel serenity, you need to recognize that things are as good as they can be (‘my situation is mostly in line with how I want things’). The achieved goals can range from small (things are organized well on my desk) to large (world peace), although some people are never contented, no matter how much they have. Serenity arises when there are no immediate significant threats or opportunities to deal with – or if there are, you decide not to engage with them at the moment (‘tomorrow is another day’). Other factors that can help bring about the emotion are quiet and peaceful surroundings, soft sounds, or music. We can experience higher levels of serenity if it follows a stressful or otherwise unfulfilled state of being, which makes us feel that we deserve the peace and quiet. For example, we may feel serene after a hectic day at work. It is unclear, however, whether this emotion can be experienced continuously for long periods of time (i.e., as long as there are no urgent things to attend to), or is there a certain ‘saturation point’ when people get bored or restless for lack of excitement.
From the evolutionary perspective, serenity functions as a reward for satisfying one’s basic needs (food, shelter). It also helps you savor and integrate recent successes1, as well as create positive memory markers on how you did things to achieve success. And it serves as a ‘breather’ between challenging moments in life, allowing you to recuperate from the stresses and strains of life2.
Subjectively, serenity feels pleasant and involves a sense that all is well with the world. One of its key effects is to clear your mind, relax, and savor the moment, the positive situation, and/or past achievements. It motivates you to take a break from contending with the vicissitudes of life, and ‘digest’ recent information about the process of reward acquisition3. Because it turns your attention inward to recent experiences rather than outward to new information in the environment, it could reduce persuasive message scrutiny and increase reliance on heuristics4.