What is Happiness?
I'm sure everyone will agree that it is hard to feel great if you're not happy. But what exactly is happiness? Although most people would agree generally on what it is, it does have a slightly different meaning for different people. Nevertheless, we all have a pretty good idea what makes us happy.
Let's look at some of the things. You probably think that money would be near the top of the list, but strangely (according to several recent studies), once our basic needs are satisfied, additional money does little to increase our happiness. What about beauty or good looks? Do they make us happy, if we're lucky enough to have them? Again, according to several studies, they don't do much; in fact, some of the most beautiful women in the world have led rather miserable lives. What about high intelligence? Again the answer is no. What about youth? Everybody looks back on their youth as carefree days when they looked good and had few worries, but again, studies show that younger people are no happier than older people; in fact, they seem to be slightly less happy. Furthermore, they are more prone to dark moods.
According to most studies, two of the major things that make people happy are friendships and relationships with family. Children and grandchildren, in particular, are high on the list.
So it's not the things that we usually associate with happiness the brings us the most happiness. Surprisingly, it's the simple things. This brings us to the question: What characterizes happiness? In other words, what traits does a happy person have that an unhappy person doesn't have? It's not hard to list most of them. The following are some of the more obvious ones.
4)Has high esteem
5)Has close friends and a good marriage
6)Loves his or her work
7)Enjoys hobbies and recreation
There maybe some I missed, but I think this is a fairly complete list. And it is, of course, possible that some people with several of these traits are not very happy. We'll look at the reason for this later.
Another way we can look at happiness is to break it down. According to the experts it has three major components:
The first might not mean what you think it does. It doesn't mean living for pleasure, rather it means taking pleasure in the small things in life. Or to use a well-known expression, it means "stopping and smelling the roses every so often." It means enjoying the beautiful scene in the distance, enjoying the taste of fresh strawberries or reminiscing about a very enjoyable vacation. The second of the above three,namely, engagement is something we'll talk about later. The best term to describe it is "flow," which is the feeling of complete immersion or engagement in an activity. It can be work, a hobby, or a recreation. If you are engaged, you are completely absorbed in it, and thoroughly happy. Finally, "meaning" refers to using your personal strengths to serve a larger purpose or end. Giving of your time or money are the key things here. Helping other people always makes you feel good.
But how can you be happy all the time when there are so many things around that make you unhappy? No one, of course, is happy all the time, and -- needless to say -- there are a lot of things that make us unhappy. Arguments and disagreements are certainly near the top of the list, and everybody has them. There are, of course, other things such as illness, tragedy, and various mishaps that leave us very unhappy. And they're hard to avoid.
One of the reasons why happiness and unhappiness are so unpredictable is because they are mainly in our head. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make up their mind to be." To a large degree, happiness is a habit, and good habits have to be developed and cultivated. To develop a good habit, or skill, you have to work at it, you have to practise it,and the same goes for happiness. It may sound a little strange, but in reality you're only happy if you think you're happy. So your mind obviously plays a very important role.
One of the main problems in relation to happiness for most people is that it is contingent on something. "I'll be happy when I have ..." But in reality, soon after you get what you want, you're back to your old state. You have to be happy right now. It can't be contingent on anything. If you want to be happy you have to make up your mind to be happy,and one of the best ways of doing this is to count your "blessings" rather than the negative things in your life.