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What is happiness?

Our whole life is revolving around the word happiness and we try to catch it, earn it, feel it and hold it for a lifetime. It’s a universal goal for every person from the evolution of mankind and will remain till human existence. Our thoughts, actions, day-night work, each and every day of life are focused on this one ultimate goal. Do we really understand happiness? What is happiness? From where it comes and to where it goes? Is happiness source is inside us or outside? It’s a never-ending thirst for life.

When you think have felled happy in life? Is that the moment when you come first in class, race or competition when you got your degree when you find your soul mate when your child took birth when you bought a new car, home etc….. when?  Do you feel still the same when memorizing those moments, if not then why? Is happiness is temporary which is subjected to change with time and space? Let’s dive into the ocean of happiness and tries to find out what lies in it.

Story of happiness

The word “Happiness” is embedded in all culture, civilization, language etc. in various forms or terminology. When this term was actually coined is still unknown but we have some literature-based evidence that shows its entry into the dictionary. 

In one case it comes from the old Norse term “happ”  means “luck” or “chance” while the old English word “hæpic”  means  “equal” while the greek term Eudaimonia also refer to as happiness, flourishing and blessedness.

Historians working on the philosophy of happiness are not so much in numbers. The History of Happiness in western culture is only about 250 years old.  Philosophers, leaders, scholars, novelists etc have defined happiness in their terms relating to various aspects of human life. Let’s see what some of the greatest philosophers  have said:

  • “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path” — Gautama Buddha 
  • “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness” — Bertrand Russell 
  • “Happiness is the feeling that power increases — that resistance is being overcome” — Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less” — Socrates
  • “The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily” — Plato
  • “Happiness depends upon ourselves” — Aristotle
  • “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large” — Confucius
  • “The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not” — Seneca
  • “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present” — Lao Tzu
  • “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced” — Soren Kierkegaard
  • “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder” — Henry David Thoreau

After reading these definitions from topmost influencing persons, what do you understand by happiness? Is your definition is same or different from these? One thing is to see that almost everyone focusing either inside themselves, limiting their desire or rooting happiness toward so-called mind or brain. But what about wealth, power and position?

Most of these philosophers were from the primordial age. Let see what modern science and philosophers have to say about happiness, whether happiness terminology has changed with time or not?

Modern approach of happiness

  • “Happiness means your life energies are exuberant” –Jaggi Vasudev
  • “Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don’t know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves.”  Slavoj Žižek
  • “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them” — John Stuart Mill
  • “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”- Sonja Lyubomirsky; in her book “The How of Happiness”
  • “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”- Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values“- Ayn Rand
  • “Happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment”- positive psychology
  • “The feeling of being pleased or happy (feeling, showing, or causing pleasure or satisfaction)”- Cambridge dictionary 
  • “A state of well-being and contentment; A pleasurable or satisfying experience”- Merriam-Webster dictionary 
  • “The state of pleasurable contentment of mind; deep pleasure in or contentment with one’s circumstances”- Oxford dictionary 

One of two philosophical works of literature on happiness uses it with will-being or flourishing while the other is analogous to ‘depression’ or ‘tranquillity’. So from ancient to modern time, technology developed, people culture changed, living habits changed, places get developed from rural to smart city but the meaning almost remains the same. Pathways to happiness are different for people but the goal is universal. Our happiness is triggered by numerous sources that make chemical changes in our body releasing pleasant hormones. We can distinguish the source of happiness in two categories i.e. either from inside or outside. Before we get into sources, let’s see what modern researchers have to get after they have pinned happiness at top of the chart.

Modern Sciences on happiness

Even modern scientific studies have also provided numerous facts and figures showing the benefit of happiness in human life and correlation to human biology as:-

  • Harvard study of almost 80 years says the loving relationship has a positive impact on our well-being and says “Good genes are nice but joy is better”.
  • Lykken and Telleken found that 50% of well-being is determined by our genes, 40% by our action and 10% by the circumstances in which we live when studied twins.
  • Psychotherapist Susan Zinn estimated 40% of our happiness ability is dependent on genes.
  • When studied 737 Finnish students of 12 years old, the result shows that happier student has less desire and strong relationship global, school-related happiness and social relationship.
  • We feel happier when we spent money on others rather than ourselves as proven in Harvard study.
  • Happier people are more productive in a job as well as maintain a good relationship and vice-versa.
  • Happiness is related to positive outcomes in the industry as of better customer satisfaction, performance, profit, better working environment etc.
  • Spiritual people are happier than those who are not as a survey by Gallup and the Pew organization state.
  • Surrounding yourself with happier people will increase your future happiness possibilities as a study by the University of California in 2008.

Health benefit of happiness

Research shows happiness is directly proportional to health. It has a vast impact on mental and physical health as finds so far:

  • Happiness maintains heart rate and blood pressure in a suitable range.
  • Researchers believe that happier people experience lower pain especially connected to chronic conditions like arthritis (Fredrickson, 2004, Berges, Seale & Ostir, 2014).
  • Happiness shields us from disease and common disability.
  • Happiness increases people live by around 14% or 7.5 to years.
  • Happy people are mostly far away from stress and release less stress hormone.
  • Happiness boosts our immune system and also protects us from germs.
  • Happiness is contagious! When we spend time around happy people, we’re likely to get a boost of happiness as well (Florentine, 2016; Newman, 2015).

Sources of happiness

Depending upon sources of happiness, If you closely monitor the definition of happiness, two theories will flow out:

  • Spiritual Theory: it means the source is inside you or you are a source of happiness. It excludes you from the materialistic world. You as a source don’t mean the importance of your physical appearances like your body colour, voice, height, physical strength etc. It means you as a conscious person have filled yourself or attained a mind state that is not dependent on external factors. For example, see the life of Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Mahavir, Swami Vivekananda etc who have nothing in terms of materialistic thing but joy in their face, peace in mind and what a life. Many yogis in India having zero net worth but lived or living with a blissful mind state of ecstasy.  
  • Materialistic theory: says something that happing or happened outside, triggers emotions in you which make you happy. Like you bought a car, a house, a diamond set, a private jet etc, win a competition, lottery; get graduation degree and so on. External factors are numerous and it depends on person to person what makes him/her happy. Like we all have seen in class that some student getting 98/100 are not happy because of losing 2 marks while other students are enjoying getting just passing marks.

So, two kinds of sources of happiness is there either internal or external. Internal relates to spiritual theory making or developing oneself as a source while external factors relate to materialistic theory in which event happing outside gives a pleasant sense.

Happiness is continuous or temporary?

How much have you developed yourself tells the happiness status of life. More focused on the external world means happiness is short-lived i.e. check yourself that the thing you bought, achieved or gained in your life-giving you the same pleasure right now. Your parents must have gifted you a bicycle in your childhood and at that time you were felt like you have got the most important thing in life but today your home is filled with stuff that you really don’t need and give you no pleasure at all.

So how happiness can be continuous? After all, that’s what we want. Do we have a living example of such persons? The answer is yes. Many are there, mostly not in the limelight but spreading happiness like a contiguous disease. Look around you may also find someone living like a flower with a fragrance of emotions in it. Are they god gifted or they have understood the essence of life?

Its simple understanding you by yourself is the only technique and it requires no external tools, techniques and equipment. Are you willing to explore yourself and live a blissful life? It’s a journey that will reveal you to yourself and bring out your true value. You may have problems in your family, social and professional life but the foremost thing is you. Are you important to yourself? Then get set ready. Stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “What is happiness?”

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