Happiness has been a controversial topic for many years now. Some people believe it is an end goal while others take it as the beginning point to greatness. People usually draw happiness from different things. Generally, happiness has to do with an emotional and mental state of welfare that can be characterized through pleasant and positive emotion such as contentment and joy. However, happiness and its sources have been defined differently based on religious, biological, philosophical and psychological grounds. This essay seeks to demystify the puzzle about happiness and how it is attained.
One of the strongest theories used to discuss about happiness is positive psychology that has focused on cognition, personality and mood. Every person has an innate sunny disposition. However, researchers from different backgrounds believe that human beings can learn how to create more meaning and gratification in life. So, what is happiness? Can there be one definite statement used to define it? Well, most people believe that it is the thought of having a good life without suffering, having pleasure, prosperity and joy among other such like things. However, that cannot be enough to define happiness. May be it is just a part of it. People can still be happy even without material wealth. Again, not all rich people are happy. Therefore, happiness is more than what we think. It is not an end goal. Basically, it is something that is continuous and is founded on certain truths that go beyond having pleasure and getting tangible things that we ever wanted.
In the United States, the pursuit of happiness is considered a fundamental right for the Americans and has deeply preoccupied their minds. However, not every person understands what happiness is all about. Can it be studied or were people born with it? Is there a way people can be happier? It is not easy to define happiness because it is very elusive to attain it. People experience moments of happiness and can also say when they don’t feel happy. Positive psychology is a science that focuses on the virtues and strengths that make it possible for people to thrive. Happiness comes with the discovery of individual strengths and reinforcing them in life. It is a psychological wellbeing that brings internal satisfaction and not necessarily with the presence of material things. Happiness is pleasurable but most importantly, it involves engagement and finding meaning in life. People can choose to be happy even when all does not seem to work materially.
Happiness. It is not measurable, profitable, nor tradable. Yet, above all else in the world, it is what people seek. They want to have happiness, and want to know they have a lot of it. But happiness, like air or water, is a hard thing to grasp in one’s hand. It is intangible. So how does one know if they have it? Is it just a feeling? And if someone does not feel happy, how can they go about achieving that feeling?
Happiness is not measured by material wealth. A new car or television, a waterskiing boat or a three-level house does not equate to joyful feelings. They are status symbols, surely, and ones that make others assume a person is happy, but they do not guarantee a happy life. The clichéd phrase, “money can’t buy happiness,” is heard often… because it is true. People who have wealth can be unhappy, just as the poor can be living on cloud nine. Possessions can be gained and lost, and with that comes fear. And fear rarely leads to happiness.
So if it isn’t ‘stuff’ that achieves happiness, then what can? Well, goals can. People need to have a sense of purpose. It is no coincidence that Peanuts creator Charles Schultz died a week after ending his famous comic strip. Without a purpose, he was lost. But people that have a sense of purpose in their life often have a feeling of satisfaction about them. They sense they were put on this planet for a reason. To each person, this purpose can be different. Maybe they were meant to teach. Maybe they were meant to mother. Maybe they were meant to learn. And goals can be small things, like taking an extra moment each day to breathe. But having progress in life, a feeling of forward motion, can make people feel happy.
But taking that forward motion too far can be a bad thing. Success at the expense of everything else, for example, leads to the opposite of happiness. Life requires balance. And people that understand that there is a balance to work and play, strife and joy, are more in tune with the universe and, therefore, better able to achieve happiness. Life with a dose of humor is more pleasant. Comedians, compared to any other profession, live the longest because they understand that laughter adds the spice to life, and makes daily progress worth the minor tribulations.
So people can be happy if they have something to strive for and something to laugh about. But is that it? Can people with goals and a sense of humor still be unhappy? Well, yes. After all, the final key to happiness is the decision to actually be happy. Human nature can see negative energy anywhere. People can fixate on problems instead of solutions. So at the end of the day, “happiness depends upon ourselves.” (Aristotle). As Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Being happy with who you are and what you have, is a decision that has to be consciously made. Goals can help lead to happiness. Finding laughter in life is important. But at the end of the day, a person needs to make a choice about happiness. They need to agree they want it, deserve it, and have it.