When we talk about the subject of happiness, we always find ourselves remembering a rather short, yet quite meaningful tweet. As you can see, there are two people in the photo and one of them is holding a jar that says “happiness”. The other person asks: “Where did you find that? I've been searching for it everywhere”, and the person with the jar responds: “I created it myself.”
If you’ve already come across this tweet/image, you may find it repetitive, cliche, or uninteresting, but we believe this is one of the most realistic and concise explanations of what happiness is.
To help you better understand the concept of happiness and show you how to create your very own “jar”, we created a course on happiness and prepared this rather lengthy article for you.
Ready to learn about the necessary happiness ingredients? Let’s get started!
What Is Happiness?
an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction.
When most people talk about happiness, they might be talking about how they feel in the present moment, or they might be referring to a more general sense of how they feel about life overall.
In essence, happiness encompases the act of feeling pleasant emotions and maintaining a joyful state of mind. And while there’s nothing wrong with this definition, we always want to bring you more. We basically want to challenge you to consider other perspectives as well.
That’s why we’re including yet another definition (a more metaphorical one, yet also one which includes a much more real-life approach). Here it is:
Happiness is being able to ride the wave of every emotion that life throws at you, knowing that you can come out the other side just a little better than what you were before because you have the skills (focus, courage, curiosity), the resources (a positive mindset), and the support structure (a community) to make that happen.
This definition requires us to perceive happiness as a feeling which needs greater adaptability. It also asks us to re-evaluate our need to constantly be happy and feel good. That, we believe, is what makes the definition much more realistic, because let’s face it - nobody is happy 24/7, and that makes us.. well.. perfectly normal.
Finally, happiness is all about feeling in a specific manner, and not so much about defining, explaining, and theorizing about it. Of course, we’ll cover both, but it’s worth understanding that somewhere along the way we come up with our own definition of happiness, which is much more about how we feel rather than how we define our emotions.
The Interconnectedness Between Happiness and Sadness
In his book Everyday Osho: 365 Daily Meditations for the Here and Now (2002), Osho Rajneesh wrote:
Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That's its balance.
Indeed, it seems happiness and sadness are much more intrinsically linked than what many initially believe. Kind of like love and hate. Good and bad.
So, not only do we need both aspects to explain a specific notion, we need both to fully comprehend and feel the concept at hand. In other words, we can’t explain or feel love without adding a bit of hate to it. We can neither describe nor experience happiness without the sadness element.
It’s like two sides of the same coin. Just consider the definition of sadness below.
Sadness has been defined as emotional pain “linked with feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, helplessness and sorrow. An individual experiencing sadness may become quiet or lethargic, and withdraw themselves from others. [...] Sadness is one of the "six basic emotions" [...] along with happiness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust”.
Sadness is one of the “six basic emotions..along with [the rest of the feelings]”. So, emotions are meant to co-exist.
Now, what makes this problematic is the fact that we’ve been taught that one is better than the other. Hence, happiness is better than sadness; love is much more meaningful than hate, and so on.
And while happiness and love are truly much more rewarding emotions to be felt than, let’s say sadness and hate - they’re oftentimes as needed.
You can only measure your happiness levels by comprehending how deeply sad you can feel. Paradoxically enough, a lot of people fear sadness that they end up depriving themselves of feeling various emotions.
All emotions are normal and equally valuable because they tell us something very important - where our overall state of being is at. We were created to feel numerous emotions, and that doesn’t exclude the more negative ones. In fact, the more we allow ourselves to feel the “bad” emotions, the more we’ll be capable of cherishing the “good” ones.
Trying to push negative emotions like sadness away means building an emotional wall and restricting your happiness. On the other hand, allowing yourself to feel a wide range of emotions is a sign of an emotionally intelligent person.
- said to coexist with other feelings;
- a feeling;
- the state of feeling/being happy;
- positive and pleasant vibes;
- high spirits;
- good for our health (both physical and mental);
- sometimes affected by cultural factors, so the way it can be interpreted may differ from society to society
- constant - we go through periods of feeling unhappy, then happy again, and and the cycle continues;
- forgetting bad emotions exist too;
- always meant to be understood - it just comes from within, and doesn’t have an exact reason or source at all times;
- Always smiling 24/7 (sometimes we can express our happiness in a much more subtle way);
- about having an expensive car, the latest iPhone, a 6-figure business, being powerful, and so on (it’s meant to include much deeper things which aren’t materialistic to start with*);
- a final destination - it’s more of a way to live your life.
*That said, we do understand that each person has their own way of perceiving happiness, and that sometimes such things do bring joy and satisfaction in our lives. Ultimately, what we mean is that happiness is much more than ticking a series of boxes such as a nice job, a fast car, and so on…
The History of Happiness
When we talk about the historical development of happiness, we talk about the existence of different philosophies of happiness. Namely, happiness is being treated distinctly within various periods. Hence, certain philosophers and thinkers describe happiness as being synonymous with luck, whereas others perceive it as a state of mind one needs to work for consciously.
Whichever group you resonate with, one thing is for sure - each era comes with thoughts about happiness that will activate your critical thinking skills.
Plato, an Atheian philosopher, outlined a lot of his requirements for happiness in his work “The Republic”. In it, he wrote that people who are moral are the ones who might be really happy. Hence, one needs to comprehend the concept of justice. Plato concluded that the person who abuses their power succumbs to their appetites, whereas the individual who doesn’t remains in control of themselves. Therefore, that person is happy.
Plato wrote: “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. This is the man of moderation, the man of manly character and of wisdom.”
Aristotle, a Greek scholar, talked about eudaimonia, or “the condition of human flourishing or of living well”. The word is often translated as “happiness”, but “happiness” doesn’t do it justice. Eudaimonia transcends the concept of happiness. It’s an inherent state of bliss, and one that each person should strive to attain. Aristotle also believed that virtue is necessary in order for people to truly feel happy. To achieve virtue, one should ask themselves “How should I be, rather than asking “What should I do”.
St. Augustine of Hippo, an early Christinan philosopher and theologian, believed that all human actions tend to revolve around love, and that the main problem people struggle with is misplacing love. He believed that God was the source of all happiness, and wrote that “the happy life is joy based on the truth. This is joy grounded in you, O God, who are the truth”.
Boethius, a philosopher, discussed how happiness can be obtained in spite of one’s changing fortune, while keeping your focus on God and considering the overall nature of happiness.
He believed that happiness is gained through gaining the perfect good, and that perfect good is, in fact, God himself.
Avicenna, a jurist and a polymath, was one of the most eminent thinkers in the Islamic Golden Age. He believed that true happiness was pure, and free from any worldly interest.
Maimonides, a Jewish astronomer and a philosopher, claimed that happiness was intellectual.
Al-Ghazali, a Muslim jurist, mystic, phisolopher, and a theologian, claimed that happiness consists of four parts: knowledge of God, self-knowlege, knowledge of the world as it truly is, as well as the knowledge of the next world as it truly is.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a theologian and a philosopher, stated that happiness can be gained through nurturing your moral and intellectual values, which in turn allows us to comprehend the nature of happiness. It also motivates us to search for it in a much more consistent manner. Also, he claimed that the ultimate happiness comes from a so-called “supernatural union with God”. He wrote: “God is happiness by His Essence: for He is happy not by acquisition or participation of something else, but by His Essence.”
This means that a man’s happiness doesn’t depend upon any status, wealth, pleasure, or materialistic goods.
Early Modern Times
Michel de Montaigne, a French philosopher, wrote that happiness is a biased state of mind and the level of satisfaction varies from person to person. He also adds that each person should be allowed to attain that happiness without any interference from society.
Jeremy Bentham, a British jurist, social reformer, and a philosopher, claimed that happiness was the experience of pleasure, and therefore, lack of any pain.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, perceived happiness as a wish that needs to be satisfied, and this, then, gives birth to yet another wish. He also connected happiness with the passing of time - namely, he suggested that we were happier when time moved faster, but sadder when time slowed down.
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, a Polish philosopher, historian of art, historian of philosophy, ethicist, and esthetician, regarded happiness as “a fundamental ethical category.”
Herbert Marcuse, a German-American sociologist, political theorist, and a philosopher, suggested that if the pursuit of happiness stops being an external one, it can become the object of “spiritual contemplation”. He also claims that the belief that “happiness can be bought” is a false one, and as such a really damaging one.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, and a neurologist, found the answer to happiness in the following aspects: discovering the value of suffering, realizing the responsibility to something greater than oneself, and having the focus on meaning.
Robert Nozick, an American philosopher and a professor at Harvard University, is well-known for his thought experiment directly linked to the concept of happiness.
The thought experiment revolves around a person being given the choice to enter a machine which would provide that person with ever-lasting hedonism and pleasure. This machine is often referred to as the “Experience Machine”. The machine is said to produce sensations who mimic real-life experiences, and it works by providing its participants any experience they wish for.
There’s a lot of contemporary research regarding happiness. Happiness research is on the lookout for positive and negative effects, life satisfaction levels, overall quality of life, and so on. It’s especially embraced by psychologists and sociologists, but economists as well. This is made very evident by introducing concepts such as happiness economics (which we deal with a bit later on in the article).
Some of the most influential people on the subject in modern times are:
- Richard Layard, a British labour economist, who suggested that mental illness is the main source of unhappiness;
- Ed Diener, an American psychologist, who stressed the importance of working on one’s social skills, building close bonds, and finding proper support in order to be truly happy;
- Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli economist and psychologist, with his research focusing on hedonistic psychology; he also said that “we’re happy in the company of people we like, especially friends”;
- Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Russian-born American professor at the University of California, who claimed that happiness is 50% genetically determined (and this is based on twin studies), 10% is circumstantial, and 40% depends on self-control.
Why Is Happiness Important?
This question may seem obsolete - after all, why do we need to explain the importance of happiness?
Simply said, being happy feels good.
It’s a feeling that makes us peaceful, content, and joyous. When we feel happy we don’t need anything else. The present moment seems to be the perfect moment.
That said, there are very relevant explanations and support claims as to why happiness matters in our lives.
First of all, happy people are said to be much more successful than those who thrive in their misery and self-pity. They’re much better at reaching their goals and fulfilling their dreams too.
Happy people live much longer and are said to be healthier.
They’re also better at building relationships with others and communicating their needs. They form long-lasting friendships and make better partners.
Finally, happy people feel much calmer through their daily lives, and even when life throws them a curveball they’re able to respond in a much better and more mature way.
How To Develop Happiness?
How do we become happy?
How do we cultivate our already existing happiness?
How do we help others feel more joyful?
How do we…
How do we…
How do we…?
Unfortunately, there’s no recipe for happiness. If there was, maybe everyone in the world would be much happier than they currently are. However, keeping our options open allows us to decide how high we are able to reach without having to live up to certain predetermined criteria.
Our advice for you is to take some time and think about the things that already made you happy in the past. Of course, a lot of those things will be different (let’s say you think about the things that made you happy when you were 7, and now you’re 37), but we do have a general idea of what matters in our lives.
Try to stay with that feeling. Contemplate about why you like that. Ask yourself what more you can do/bring/make in your life to feel like that more often.
Appreciate what you already have, but don’t stop dreaming. Imagine what else you’d like to achieve. Feel into it.
In essence, pave your own way to happiness, but remind yourself that happiness is a bumpy road, and yet it’s the road all of us need to learn to take.
Examples of Happiness in Everyday Life
Can our jobs be the main source of our happiness?
Do our salaries provide us with the happiness we need?
Is our work performance responsible for our life satisfaction?
Should our colleagues make sure we’re pleased with the time we spend at our job?
Considering that in your lifetime you will work over 90,000 hours, these questions shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, who wants to spend that many hours in sheer misery? We sure don’t!
Of course, we don’t claim that professional success, happiness and work, and chasing business goals is the ultimate source of euphoria, but being happy with what you do will definitely not do any harm. On the contrary, it may only help us feel better about ourselves.
However, defining career happiness and the link between feeling happy and feeling satisfied at work isn’t always a piece of cake. That’s probably why a so-called career happiness definition has been developed. Here it is:
CAREER HAPPINESS = (Freedom + challenge + balance – stress) x meaning
The “definition” is meant to be more or less a guideline - it’s by no means a one-size-fits-all thing.
Now, the biggest issue that people have when it comes to being happy at work is that they believe it’s out of their control. They believe their employer holds something against them, their peers are jealous of them, their salary doesn’t do them justice, the working conditions could be way better, and so on.
And while all these issues can definitely cause discomfort and dissatisfaction, they’re not meant to make you feel unworthy, unhappy, and/or miserable. They’re meant to remind you that although you may not change all the circumstances and working conditions - you can choose how you adjust and adapt to them. And that’s key when it comes to looking after your mental health and preserving your happiness.
Finally, happiness also lies in being realistic and facing the “now moment”. A lot of people can’t seem to run away from thoughts such as “When I make six figures”, “When I get the promotion”, “When I change the company”, “When I start my own business”, usually followed by “then I’ll be happy”. This imaginary, limbo state of being rarely brought anyone true happiness.
We’re not suggesting there’s something wrong with dreaming and/or making future plans, though. We’re merely implying that happiness is an ongoing thing, and not something that we reach only when something happens in our lives.
How to approach this?
If you’re the employer:
- How does it feel to be an employer? In other words, how does it feel to have your own business?
- Can you describe some of the people (that is, some of the employees) you work with?
- Do you need to do a lot of paperwork?
- Do you work overtime?
- What do you think you may do after you retire?
- Keeping in mind your current lifestyle, how much money would you need in order to retire?
- What matters more: doing a job that brings you a lot of money, or doing a job you enjoy?
- As an employer, you probably have to attend a lot of meetings. Have you ever had any negative experiences when you attended such meetings? If you have, what happened? What made the moment so unpleasant?
- Do you work on Sundays?
- Do you think you run your company well? How can you be a better employer? What changes can you make?
- Do you think a proper employer-employee relationship is crucial in order to have a healthy working environment? How do you, as an employer, invest in this relationship? What do you do? Do you initiate contact with your employees? Do you sometimes try to “force” closeness?
- What time do you usually get home from work? Do you have any ritual or a habit which helps you unwind after a hard day?
- Can you keep a healthy life-work balance? What do you struggle with the most?
- How has your previous education helped you do the job you do today? When you think back about your school days, what types of feelings pop up?
- What are the cons of being an employer?
- What are some of the qualities a good employer should have? Make a list. Do you have them? If some of them are missing, how can you obtain them?
- Do you see yourself as a successful employer? Do you think others see you that way too?
- Are our jobs meant to make us happy and fulfilled or provide us with a sense of security (money-wise), and also make us feel like we fit into society?
- Have you ever introduced any dress code in your company? If you have, what was your employees’ initial reaction? Did you go through with the plan?
- Do you see yourself changing jobs in the future? For instance, would you consider being an employee rather than staying in the role of an employer all the time? What should happen to make you do such a thing?
- Do you think your job determines who you are on a more personal level?
- Are you a workaholic? Do you think workaholics are truly ambitious people, or are they unhappy deep down and trying to compensate for the lack of other things in their lives? Elaborate on your answer.
If you’re the employee:
- How important is your job for you? In other words, do you treat it solely as a job, or does it mean much more to you?
- On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest), how much do you like your current job?
- How effectively can you divide the time between your work and family/friends?
- Describe your typical working day. When do you get up? What time do you go to work? What’s the first thing you do once you get there? How many hours do you feel productive? What do you do with the rest of the hours?
- Do you think your work has any negative effects on you? If yes, what are they and how do you handle them?
- Do you ever contemplate changing your job? If you do, what stops you from taking action?
- How important are the following things for you:
- a decent salary?
- a shorter working day?
- flexible working hours?
- friendly peers?
- professional working atmosphere?
- a fair employer?
- Have you ever considered moving far away from home to find a better job? Do you know someone who has done this? What was their experience like? Were they ready to leave the country in order to find a better job? How did they end up feeling about the whole thing?
- How many hours should people be allowed to work overtime during the week? Do you think working overtime makes people feel miserable or do they find a sense of satisfaction in it? Do you think people tend to overwork themselves nowadays?
- Have you ever experienced burnout?
- Do you think in an “ideal world” people would work or nobody would be willing to?
- Do you think people should follow their passions and true calling when it comes to choosing their careers?
- Is there such a thing as a dream job?
- Do you think earning commission or getting bonuses matters much more than a high base salary? Why? Why not?
- What do underpaid employees feel like?
- What’s the worst thing about being unemployed? Is it feeling unproductive, the fact that you’re not earning any money, or perhaps the fear you may not find another job? What do unemployed people feel like?
- At what age would you like to retire? Is that age the same as the widely accepted retirement age in your country?
- When was the last time you got promoted? How did you feel? Do you expect to be promoted again any time soon?
In the Career section, we wrote about our happiness depending on our salary, peers, working conditions, and so on. Well, here the equivalent would be our happiness depending on our grades, our academic performance, the relationship with our educators, and so on.
However, when it comes to education, it’s important to understand that different ages perceive education differently. For instance, a lot of the time, pupils are said to dislike going to school. They also perceive the act of writing homework as something boring and a waste of time. And if this is a pupil’s interpretation of school, then it’s by no means a place that’s connected to happiness.
Let’s consider an older (and more mature for that matter) educatee. Someone who goes to university, for instance. If that person studies what they love, they have a clear vision of why they need that degree, and put in a lot of effort to do well on their exams, then the process of education will definitely be a very pleasant and joyous one for them.
That said, we do want to mention that these two examples are precisely that - examples. Of course, they don’t apply to each and every educatee who belongs in those two categories. It’s absolutely clear that there are university students who act in the opposite way from what we described, and we also understand that there are pupils who are devoted and highly motivated even from a very young age (contrary to our other example).
Now, where does this leave happiness and education? How can they remain connected?
First of all, each educational institution should create room for its educatees to be happy. In essence, happiness should be goal-driven: if I get an A, I can be happy; If my teacher smiles at me today, it means I’ve done a good work; If my peers talk to me today, I can....(fill in the blank).
The same way we’re fighting for freedom of expression, we should fight for freedom of happiness. We should allow happiness to be expressed in numerous ways within different educational contexts. It should come with a set of rules or fixed instructions. Happiness should ultimately be an individual experience.
Finally, according to Nel Noddings,
The best homes and schools are happy places. The adults in these happy places recognize that one aim of education (and of life itself) is happiness. They also recognize that happiness serves as both means and end. Happy children, growing in their understanding of what happiness is, will seize their educational opportunities with delight, and they will contribute to the happiness of others. Clearly, if children are to be happy in schools, their teachers should also be happy. Too often we forget this obvious connection. Finally, basically happy people who retain an uneasy social conscience will contribute to a happier world.
This reminds us that the focus shouldn’t be only on educatees. Educators’ happiness is very much relevant too. And that one also shouldn’t be confined.
How to approach this?
If you’re the educator:
- What’s the best thing about doing the job you do? What makes it so fulfilling? Is it the ongoing communication with the educatees, the opportunity to share your knowledge, or getting to teach material you’re passionate about?
- Think about the last time you got stressed at work. What happened? What made you anxious? Did that event end up running your whole day? How do you cope with such days? In other words, do you have some coping mechanisms or?
- What things upset you while you teach? Is it an educatee who’s: sitting on their phone, not paying attention, talking to their peers, mimicking your movies, and so on? Or is it something entirely different?
- How do you usually handle educatees who are disruptive or defiant?
- What type of classroom management are you fond of? Do you tend to discipline your educatees or do you favor a more neutral approach?
- What kind of impact do you wish to have on your pupils/students? Do you think of yourself as a role model? How can you inspire your educatees further?
- Why did you decide to become an educator? Were there any other careers you were considering? Was it a spontaneous decision, a practical one, or maybe you didn’t even put a lot of thinking into it and simply went with the flow?
- How can educators cultivate a positive relationship with their educatees? Do you think this is something that educators should put more effort into? Will it make both educators and educatees happier?
- Are you always able to tell whether an educatee is having an off day? When you do, do you communicate with that educatee? In other words, do you check to see whether something major happened or they’re just having a “minor crisis”?
- What kind of professional breakthroughs do you want to experience in the future? What kind of teaching goals would make you happy?
- Do you think technology in the classroom makes educatees more irritated and absent, or engaged and devoted? Have you ever noticed a drastic difference using the same piece of technology in two different groups? In essence, did the same approach bring about two completely different results?
- How do you, as an educator, engage in professional development? How do you upgrade your knowledge and skills? What new areas are you interested in exploring next? Do such informal educational endeavors bring about a sense of personal satisfaction and happiness?
If you’re the educatee:
- How do you feel when you think about the education you’ve received/are receiving? Are you grateful, disappointed, or undecided?
- Is having straight As/high GPA a source of happiness?
- Do you think getting a college degree makes you happier? If yes, in what way?
- Do you remember your first school day? How did you feel? Who was there with you? Who did you meet first? Do you remember your first teachers? Did you like your classmates?
- Who was your favorite teacher? What do you remember about them? How did you feel in the presence of this teacher?
- What do you think about wearing school uniforms? Do you think they create a sense of belonging or they lack authenticity? If you used to wear one, did you like it? Were you happy to get up in the morning and put the uniform on, or would you have preferred to pick an outfit on your own? What would have made you happier?
- Was there any bullying at your school? How did your classmates and educators handle it? Can you imagine how people who were bullied at school might have felt? Do you think bullying has some long-term consequences as well?
- What’s your worst school memory? What happened? Who did it involve? Why is that event your worst school memory?
- Why do you think university students feel more stressed, depressed, frustrated, and confused than ever? Do you think it’s due to having unrealistic expectations? Perhaps the educational systems no longer comply with the current students’ needs? How can students regain their happiness back?
- What’s the most important thing that schools/universities should teach educatees (apart from the actual material, of course)?
- What kind of discipline should there be at school? How does it differ from the one at university?
- Albert Einstein said that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”. What did he mean by this? How does education “remain”? Do you agree with him? Why? Why not?
- What motivates students to go to university today? Are they thinking about their job prospects, salary options, or perhaps they feel they can’t find a proper job unless they have any formal education? How might all of these make students feel about their university experience?
- How do educatees feel about traditional testing/assessment methods? Is it unnecessarily stressful or is it simply what it is and there’s no changing it? If you had the chance to be assessed differently (meaning you had educators with alternative testing methods), how would you compare both experiences? Which method made you feel much more at ease with the whole assessment process? And which one made you stressed out, anxious, and frustrated?
Roy T. Bennett once said:
Even if you cannot change all the people around you, you can change the people you choose to be around. Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved.
And if this quote doesn’t say all there is to be said about happiness, then we don’t know which one does. As humans, we’re heavily dependent upon others from the moment we are born. We need to be fed, cuddled, told we’re loved, and brought up properly.
Whether this happens (or not), and how it happens, says a lot about our overall life satisfaction and happiness levels. And as relationships are connected with some of the strongest emotions out there (love, hate, and so on), it’s more than expected that interpersonal relationships will affect our happiness and overall mood.
For instance, children brought up by absent-minded parents or even parents who simply weren’t around may feel unloved and neglected. This, in turn, will have a huge impact on their happiness.
Those children are more than likely to struggle to form long-lasting friendships and solid partmehsips throughout life. This will further influence their mental state and happiness negatively.
In general, when we form positive and long-lasting connections through life, we tend to feel empowered, content, and satisfied. On the other hand, when we find ourselves in toxic relationships that bring out the worst in us, we feel lonely, abandoned, anxious, and/or depressed.
This makes things seem easy - we should all focus on forming positive bonds rather than engage in toxic scenarios, right? And then it will all be flowers and rainbows.
Again, we need to keep in mind that our upbringing plays a big role when it comes to how we approach relationships and communicate with people. We’ll probably behave and react in a similar way to what we’ve been exposed to while we were growing up.
However, not all’s lost for those who haven’t formed strong and healthy connections while growing up. Since we’re always working on self-improvement (either by reading self-help books, consulting therapists, and so on), we can consciously try to make our interpersonal relationships work for us, rather than against us. It may take us a while to get there, depending on the baggage we carry with ourselves, but with time and devotion, we’ll make it.
How to approach this?
- Why are interpersonal relationships so crucial about our personal happiness? What would our lives look like if we were all alone in the world?
- Do you think people rely too much on others to make them happy? For instance, if they’re in a relationship and they believe the other person should make them feel happy, valued, wanted, and so on.
- What person do you connect with the most? What’s so special about this person? Do they feel that way about you too?
- How happy are you compared to your family members, friends, colleagues, and partner?
- What hobby or activity that you engage in with your friends makes you happy?
- What should another person say/do to make you smile?
- What kind of impact do others have on your life? Also, what kind of impact do you have on theirs?
- Do you tend to share your secrets/worries with your friends? How do they respond? Do they typically give a sound piece of advice or? Also, what about their own secrets and worries? Do they talk about them in front of you? Are you comfortable listening to them? If you give them advice, do you end up following it?
- Describe one of your closest friends. What qualities do they have, what type of behavior do they exhibit, what type of mood are they usually in, and so on? And most importantly, why are they your closest friend?
- Do you have trouble making new friends? Do you think happy people rarely struggle to form new bonds?
- Is it a myth that people don’t like to be around miserable people or is there truthfulness to it?
- Have you ever felt that a person lied to you about their emotional state? For example, they told you they are happy and that everything is fine, but you can tell there’s something going on from the look on their face (or maybe someone told you they were dealing with something - such as going through a divorce).
- Have you ever made any friends over the Internet? Do you think people like their true state of being on social media? Why is that so?
- Do you trust in friendships across generations? Do you happen to have any friends from a different generation than you? Do these people perceive happiness differently depending on their age and outlook in life?
- There’s a proverb which goes like this: “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. Do you agree with this? Why? Why not?
- What criteria do you take into account when looking for a partner? Are you open to meeting various kinds of people or you have a specific type?
- What’s the happiest person you’ve ever met? What made you decide to consider this person as the happiest one? What qualities does this person have?
- How important is forgiveness when it comes to one’s personal happiness?
It may sound cliche, but we believe happiness is enjoying the little things in life. After all, leading a happy lifestyle means embracing the little moments we experience on a daily basis such as:
- playing with your kid;
- taking your dog for a walk;
- watering your plants;
- watching your favorite TV show;
- eating your favorite food;
- talking to your best friend after a long and stressful day at work;
- saving money to buy that dress you’ve been eyeing the whole month;
- your crush finally asking you out on a date;
- buying tickets for a concert;
- the moment your feet touch the beach sand for the first time in summer;
- your grandma baking a pie and you getting to eat it while it’s still warm;
- falling asleep in front of the TV and your partner covering you with a blanket;
- having a good night’s sleep;
- laughing your head off;
- lying in bed and listening to the rain drops outside;
- the first winter snow;
- feeding a stray cat/dog;
- seeing a cute puppy wag its tail in front of you;
- renovating your apartment and buying your favorite furniture;
- meeting someone new and you immediately hit it off;
- feeling well and refreshed after coming down with the flu;
- finding a new musician and listening to their songs on repeat and till you start hating them;
- giving a random stranger directions;
- a baby/toddler giving you a big smile and wanting to play with you;
- getting a very warm hug from a special someone;
- learning to finally spend your money in the right manner;
- following your passions in life;
- riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, and so on.
These random examples show us two things:
- Happiness is always within reach;
- There’s ALWAYS a reason (no matter how small or insignificant) to feel joyful.
That said, many believe that happiness is something that simply happens to us from time to time and we don’t really have any control over it. Many also believe that something BIG has to happen in order for us to feel truly happy and fulfilled.
But at the end of the day - it’s all about perspective. The attitude we have about a lot of things in life will probably determine the approach we have toward happiness as well. And while there’s nothing wrong with having a different opinion and/or distinct views, it’s good to stay open as to how we can perceive things in an even better way. In other words, there’s always room for more happiness in our lives no matter how optimistic or already happy we may be.
That said, we also understand that different things make different people happy. For instance, some of the examples we outlined above may make some people, well… miserable. Namely, if you hate snow, you probably won’t be thrilled to see it falling outside; if you dislike crowds, it’s more than likely that going to concerts won’t be your thing; and if you’re not really fond of animals, then the idea of taking a dog for a walk won’t seem exciting at all.
But you get the point. It’s all about finding your list of “random things” that boost your happiness levels. Finally, it’s not even about finding things or finding ways to feel happy. It’s simply about making happiness a personal commitment and a rule to live by. It may not be easy, but it will certainly make us feel better not only about ourselves, but life too.
The term happiness economics denotes a formal academic discipline which studies the relationship between economic issues such as wealth and employment and the individual satisfaction.
It tries to use econometric analysis to find out what factors boost and what factors reduce a person’s well-being. The main tools used are usually indices and surveys which offer insight into what different economics are able to provide their residents with.
Gathering such data is important because it helps governments devise better public policies, understand the citizens’ state of mind, analyze current and potential public holidays, political freedom, public health, cost of living, and so on. That said, happiness is quite a subjective matter, and as such categorizing it and/or measuring it may be difficult to say the least.
However, over the years, a lot of such surveys have been conducted. Namely, according to Statista, the following countries are considered to be the happiest countries in the world for 2020*:
- New Zealand
- United States
*We included only the first 15 countries. To see all the countries, please visit the Statista link.
It’s worth mentioning that happiness economics is a relatively new branch, and as such it needs more upgrading and revising. That doesn’t diminish its purpose or implications, though.
Finally, don’t be afraid to go beyond what others perceive as happiness. Bill Watterson explained it amazingly: “That's the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn't good enough for me! I demand euphoria!”
So, kudos to the euphoria-seekers!
How to approach this?
- Do you consider yourself to be a happy person most of the time?
- If you could describe happiness using a color, which one would you pick? Why? What makes that color so happy-ish?
- What is happiness to you? How would you describe it?
- Do you think happiness is something that lies within each of us or can we find it on the outside - within the realm of external things?
- Does money buy happiness? What’s your take on this?
- Do you agree with the statement that “happiness is a state of the mind”?
- Does having a pet contribute to one’s happiness? If yes, in what way? Do you think for some it can be a responsibility they may not live up to?
- What has been the happiest period of your life so far? Why?
- Do you think all children are happy and carefree?
- Should happiness be perceived as a goal?
- Would you describe the people in your country as happy and satisfied people?
- What’s the most miserable you’ve ever been? Why? What happened? Did a specific person make you feel that way? Was it an event that happened in your life? How did you start feeling better afterward?
- Do you wake up feeling happy and fulfilled each morning?
- Is there anything missing from your life right now that would make you extremely happy? What is it? What’s preventing you from having it?
- Do your happiness levels change through the day/week/month/season?
- What affects your happiness throughout the day?
- How do you understand the following: “happiness is relative”? What’s relative about it?
- How do you feel about taking risks in life? Do you think worrying about the potential consequences that may come out of them has an impact on your happiness? How so?
- What are the top three things you cherish in your life and can’t do without?
- What are some things you’re grateful for?
- Are there any problems in your life you avoid resolving? Why?
- Is there anything keeping you stuck in the past and preventing you from moving forward? Is it a person or an event? And if there is such a thing, are you doing anything to address it?
- If you started ignoring other people’s comments, suggestions, and remarks - how different would your life and decisions be?
- What’s the happiest place in the world? What does it look like?
- Do you have any regrets in life?
- What makes you feel:
Famous Quotes About Happiness
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. 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.”
“Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others...By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.”
“This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”
“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”
“The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”
“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”
“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It's more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the most common types of happiness?
Since happiness is a feeling, many find it difficult to classify, put it into a box, or a separate group. However, some believe there are different types of happiness based on where the feeling comes from, life circumstances, and a wide range of behaviors.
Joy comes from staying in the present moment and being able to appreciate the things you currently have. It’s “a relatively accessible form of happiness”, so to speak. That said, if you think too much into it - it may disappear.
One of the most common ways to become joyful is to take part in activities that we find enjoyable, such as gardening, cooking, listening to music, and so on.
Excitement usually lasts a bit longer than joy, but it’s still a fleeting emotion - it can dissolve quite quickly. That said, it’s usually related to something new and a very palpable change such as getting a new job, getting into a new relationship, and so on.
Some perceive gratitude as a significant form of happiness. We already mentioned that keeping a gratitude journal (or simply being grateful) tends to increase people’s happiness levels.
Plus, it’s a habit that’s easy to cultivate. In other words, it doesn’t require a lot of time, resources, and/or logistics - sometimes simply reflecting upon the things you’re grateful for can do the trick.
A lot of people regard pride as a negative thing, and while being proud in an ego-based manner is never a good thing, there are ways in which pride has a much more positive connotation. For instance, being proud of your own successes (or those of other people) is a great source of happiness and satisfaction.
People are also proud of the family they’ve built, the children they brought up, and everything they put a lot of effort into.
Showing your pride in a healthy way (and not mocking others or perceiving yourself as superior and bragging), can only pave the way for new accomplishments.
People who feel optimistic tend to focus on opportunities and grab the chances life throws at them. They also feel both gratitude and pride - they’re grateful for those opportunities, but also proud of their accomplishments and abilities.
Such people have strong self-esteem, and even if they’re faced with failure they see it as a learning lesson, not as something irreversible.
In simple words, being content means that you’re happy with what you have. People with high contentment levels aren’t disappointed by life’s challenges or setbacks. They simply know how to appreciate what they’ve earned in their lives already.
Sometimes love and happiness are used interchangeably (although we beg to differ). The idea is that love is seen as being the ultimate source of happiness, and happiness itself is the best expression of love. Anyway, both seem to be essential in our lives.
Love shows itself through various relationships in our lives: family, romantic partners, friends, pets, and so on. All of these bonds can be a source of great love. Nurturing these connections can bring a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness.
What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a concept in psychology developed by Abraham Maslow back in 1943. He elaborated on it in his “A Theory of Human Motivation” paper published in the journal Psychological Review.
His hierarchy is a five-tier model depicting human needs. The idea behind the hierarchy is that the needs lower down need to be satisfied before people can move on to the needs higher up.
Here’s how the needs are divided:
- food, water, warmth, rest;
- security, safety;
Belongingness and love needs
- intimate relationships, friends;
- prestige and feeling of accomplishment;
- achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities;
What type of role does mental health play when it comes to our ability to be happy?
According to the Origins of Happiness report, dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, increases a person’s happiness levels by 20%, but eliminating poverty would boost it only by 5%.
Cultivating one’s well being, improving life satisfaction, and reducing any misery one might feel is key to feeling joyous. People with good mental health have:
- passion for life;
- enthusiasm for working, socializing, and dealing with obstacles;
- acceptance for both the good and bad circumstances we may find ourselves in;
- high self-esteem and self-confidence levels;
- fun and enjoy their lives.
Although the concept of mental health varies from person to person (meaning each person deals with their own set of challenges - some more serious than the others), alleviating the symptoms and finding a way to cope with everyday life and stress is a solid step toward change.
By the way, when we refer to mental health issues, we don’t necessarily mean that it has to be a major thing such as PTSD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and so on. Sometimes minor “traumas” or stress accumulated over longer periods of time can be triggers and cause our mental health to slowly start deteriorating.
That said, not all people identify with having any mental health issue. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have any struggles in life, but they don’t feel their mental health is causing them any kind of trouble.
The importance of social media
We’ve all heard it.
“Social media is bad for your mental health”.
“You’re just wasting your time, scrolling all day on your friends’ profiles.”
“Social media is harmful, toxic, and highly addictive”.
“It encourages bad behavior”.
You get the point.
There are tons of research articles highlighting the bad impact that social media has. Recently, there have even been people who used to work for such platforms who openly started sharing what seems to be so problematic about using social media channels.
One such example is The Social Dilemma, a Netflix documentary with a touch of narrative drama, which unveils the hidden aspects about the social media platforms we all know, love, and use on a daily basis.
The documentary also explains how social media not only manipulates us, but also affects our mental health, everyday mood, and decisions.
Namely, do you know that
- According to the 2018 Internal Facebook report, 64% of the users who ended up joining extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms directed them there?
- Based on the 2017 American Journal of Epidemiology, a 5,000 person study suggested that higher social media use brought about decline in overall life satisfaction, as well as physical and mental health?
- According to 2019 information from New York Times, the # of countries that have political disinformation campaigns running on social media have doubled throughout the past two years?
And while these stats may be perfectly legitimate, we also want to offer some light at the end of the tunnel. Namely, we can benefit from social media platforms, but only if we use them wisely and don’t neglect our discernment skills.
According to a 2020 study titled How and Why Social Media Affect Subjective Well-Being: Multi-Site Use and Social Comparison as Predictors of Change Across Time and published by Derrick Wirtz, Amanda Tucker, Chloe Briggs and Alexander M. Schoemann, social media use doesn’t have to be so negative.
Namely, the study suggests that “social networks have the potential to improve our well-being and happiness if we use them to enable direct interactions”. So, basically, instead of randomly liking pages, scrolling through your news feed, and/or seeing what others are up to - if you decide to engage in an actual communication with another user, you’ve gotten yourself a much more positive and valuable social media experience.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Many will tell you to just try and be happy, instead of reading about it and engaging in other people’s suggestions. In essence, they’re implying that each person should rely on their own personal concept of happiness rather than depending upon others’.
That said, we strongly believe other people’s stories can provide a great deal of inspiration. Not only that, but being able to identify with others’ experiences gives us a sense of belonging, completion, and a feeling that “we’re not alone in this”. This is especially true for the not-so-happy-moments in our lives.
This is why we’ve included this high-quality reading list - to help you in your happiness endeavors by allowing other people’s word to further guide you:
- 1. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin E. P. Seligman
- Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life, by Gretchen Rubin
- Flourish (A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being), by Martin E. P. Seligman
- The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, by Shawn Achor
- Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, by Rick Hanson
- The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks, by Dr. Robert A. Emmons
- Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness, by Rick Hanson
- Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, by Scott Barry Kaufman
- The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, by Shawn Achor
- The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything=Have Everything, by Neil Pasricha
- The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt
Finally, do you know that the act of reading itself is said to make you happier?
All in all, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to happiness. Each person has their own understanding of it and their way of living it. That said, each person faces their own set of “happiness challenges” as well, or the lack of it.
Whichever situation you may find yourself in right now, you can always benefit from furthering exploring the notion of happiness. And we can’t think of a better way than inviting you to take a look at our happiness course. You’ll get to:
- finally understand what it means to be happy;
- explore the psychology of happiness;
- learn about physical and mental fitness, the role of sleep and diet, and self-actualization;
- understand why building a positive schema matters, and the significance of grit, gratitude, and mindfulness;
- go deeper with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;
- understand your own keystones and self-efficacy and self-esteem, and so sooo much more happy stuff!
Hunter S. Thompson said: “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
And we wish to ask you, our reader(s), the same - who is the happier man, he who has read our article and left it at that, or he who stayed and joined our course?
You tell us.
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