What is Happiness?
Happiness can be defined as a state of well-being and contentment.
Some synonyms for happiness are beatitude, blessedness, bliss, gladness, felicity, and joy.
Where did happiness originate? To understand as much as we can about this important feeling, let’s try to uncover how happiness became what it is today.
Etymology of Happiness
In Spanish, Portuguese, as well as in Italian, the root words for happiness originate from the Latin word ‘felix’. ‘Felix’ could also mean ‘fertile’. A Roman goddess named Felicitas represented fertility and luck. It is a striking fact that in every Indo-European language, without exception, going back to ancient Greece, the word for happiness is related to the word for luck. Hap is the Old Norse and Old English root of happiness, which means luck or chance. Is it possibly overlooked that it was considered lucky or having good fortune to be fertile? Or, is all of this mere happenstance?
Psychology of Happiness
Is happiness subjective? Happiness is a feeling, not a personality trait. In positive psychology, happiness is also known as subjective wellbeing (SWB). Happiness is a state, not a trait. It’s not considered a long-lasting, permanent feature or personality trait, it’s a changeable state. Happiness is equated with a feeling of pleasure or contentment. Happiness is not to be confused with joy, ecstasy, bliss, or other more intense feelings.
Happiness vs Pleasure
Happiness, as we described above, is a state characterized by feelings of well-being and contentment. On the other hand, pleasure is more or a momentary or ephemeral experience. It usually refers to the feelings derived from sensations we get from experiences like eating a favorite food, receiving a relaxing massage, hearing someone compliment us, and sexual activities.
Happiness is not considered to be a permanent state, but it is more stable and longer-lasting than pleasure. Happiness generally sticks around for more than a few moments at a time, whereas pleasure can come and go in seconds.
While pleasure can enhance happiness, and happiness can augment feelings of pleasure, the two can also be completely mutually exclusive. For example, you can feel a sense of happiness that has nothing to do with pleasure, or you could feel pleasure but also struggle with guilt because of it, perhaps preventing you from simultaneously feeling happy.
In another example, you can think of pleasure as a sunset, brief and short-lived. Happiness might be the warm temperature of the afternoon and evening.
Happiness vs Meaning
How does the feeling of happiness compare to a deeper meaning of existence? The two are similar and can be related and one may or may not be reliant on the other. From ancient Greek philosophy, there are two types of happiness, hedonia and eudaimonia. Similar to the thought in the previous example, hedonic happiness comes from pleasure. It is most often associated with activities that feel good, fulfill desires, experience enjoyment, and a sense of satisfaction. Conversely, eudaimonic happiness is rooted in seeking virtue and meaning. Important elements of this type of contentment include a feeling that your life has meaning, value, and purpose. For example, sensations of feeling good were related to happiness, but not linked to meaning. And, compassion and helping people in need would be linked to meaning and may be linked to happiness as well.
Recently, psychologists have hypothesized a third element of happiness pertaining to engagement. Under this category are feelings of commitment and participation. This may be interpreted and aligned with the hierarchy of human needs and falls under the umbrella of connection. Where love might lead to happiness, in the absence of love, connection or engagement would fill that need.
Happiness is elusive as a feeling. The term may be vague and not easily defined. If you take time to contemplate, how do you relate to happiness? What aspects of your life bring you happiness?
Peace, Love & Happiness
For chocolate chip cookies, there are many recipes,
For Happiness, there are even more!
In my recipe for Happiness,
The main ingredient is Gratitude, for sure!
“Happiness is a place between too much and too little.”
“Happiness consists more in conveniences of pleasure that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”