1. obsolete: good fortune: prosperity
2. a state of well-being and contentment: joy
a pleasurable or satisfying experience
3. felicity, aptness
But what brings about this state of well-being and contentment? How do we measure felicity and satisfaction?
I am certainly no scholar, and this piece is no means a professional research paper based on anything more than my minds' internal workings. It is simply a meandering of thoughts and a collection of contemplations hoping to provoke and insight.
So what is happiness?
Is it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual? Is it brain-related or heartfelt? Is it in relation to how we see ourselves or our perception of how others see us? Or is it nothing more than a cocktail of chemical reactions temporarily distracting ourselves from our normal life-induced state of being?
Is it possible to be happy most - if not all - of the time, or is happiness simply a passing luxury when the universe conspires to grant us temporary relief and elation? Or is it given from and gifted to a higher power? The ever-elusive state of happiness, is a much-debated, much-researched topic and has been (and I'm guessing will be) for many years of existence, way beyond those of our own.
We use the term happiness to describe a range of emotions, surprise; gratitude; fulfillment; satisfaction; joy; contentment and blessed among others. We actually look for happiness in different situations and different states of being. So throughout your day, at work, at home, in social situations, we're searching for this elusive quality in ourselves and others, in our surroundings and experiences. Happiness is something we strive for, consciously or otherwise, and that alone tells us of the importance that being happy - or being perceived to be happy - has on our psyche daily.
Therefore, if happiness is a state of consciousness and awareness, does that mean that one can simply choose to be happy? Is it a choice that comes with a certain level of acceptance and understanding? Are you happy if you feel contentment in only one area of your life, while at the same time you're decidedly unsatisfied with all the others? Does happiness exist in the past or the future or can we only feel happiness in the present? The truth is, happiness is internal to our own desires and needs. What makes one person happy is never going to be the winning formula for anyone else. You can't make someone happy and you can't force your happiness on them, each persons' own happiness is individual and unique to themselves, determined by their own construed understanding of their current wants and needs.
So what stops us from being happy?
At a time when the world is becoming more and more technology driven, and life is becoming increasingly complicated, are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to be happy and find happiness? Are we so bogged down in the daily rat-race and so desensitised to the constant stream of media images that we overlook genuine moments of joy in our own lives, while making comparisons with others, and forgetting to appreciate the small things we experience? Do we see happiness as being so far out of our grasp, that we set the level of expectations too high - out of reach even? Or is it that we relate happiness to material things, status and achievement and without these things the very notion of happiness escapes us? Happiness is an intention, what do you tie this intention to? Did you wake up today intending to be happy? Is that even possible? Have you over-looked a collection of satisfactory moments in your search for a constant state of bliss?
Happiness and Psychology.
Like I said, I am in no way qualified in any area for this to be considered anything other than random musings. But from what I can gather, there seems to be a general consensus in the psychology field that there are three types of happiness.
Firstly, comes pleasure. A short-term high derived from quick and easy exploits, gaining momentary enjoyment. Secondly is passion. This derives of hard work and achievement, when you put your time and effort into something that you really care about and finally get the results you hoped for. And thirdly, is purpose. A feeling of belonging as you feel part of something bigger than yourself. I think it's safe to say that the majority of us have all experienced pleasure and passion at some point in our lives, if not purpose, so therefore we are all capable of happiness and have all experienced it but only in temporary states.
Although we now have a way to recognise happiness, human emotion is not an exact science. There is no formula or recipe, no guidelines or instruction leaflet, happiness cannot be portrayed as a one-size-fits-all state. We are ultimately responsible for our own happiness.
Happiness and Science.
We all know that our feeling and emotions are tied to chemical releases and reactions in our bodies. there is still a lot we don't know about the human body and brain in particular. But thanks to science, we can know the chemical influences that can affect our own happiness. There are four chemicals that can be involved when we feel happy: dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for anticipation and reward-incentive behaviour; oxytocin, the chemical responsible for bonding and physical relationships; serotonin, which is responsible for your mood and contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being; and, endorphins, the chemical responsible for relieving pain and giving feelings of pleasure and euphoria.
So you see, your body is designed to create feelings of happiness in a variety of situations. It genuinely is inside you to feel good and content, you're chemically prepared for such if only we knew how to have open access to these internal reactions.
Happiness and Philosophy.
The theory and pursuit of happiness is as old as humankind. We are not born happy, we choose to be. Life isn't perfect, but there are perfect moments. All it takes is for us to look, recognise and embrace, there are opportunities everywhere, however small, for us to find pleasure in life and it all begins from within us.
For most religions, happiness is the concept of following an ethical path and behaviour. By doing this, and taking pleasure in all things, you will gain enlightenment and enrichment and this will lead you to the path of true, everlasting happiness.
Ancient philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates all attribute happiness to harmonising your soul and finding inner tranquillity, so stop setting yourself such high expectations, stop allowing the outside world to pollute you and your thoughts, stop pressuring yourself at home/work/school and allow your thoughts and words and actions to synchronise for your own good and create your own happiness because the only place you can find it is inside yourself.
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony" - Mahatma Gandhi
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions" - Dalai Lama