What does it mean to be happy

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The concept of happiness has different meanings, and people derive the feeling from various situations depending on their experiences, nature, and unique requirements. Coon defines happiness as a sense of showing pleasure or contentment (15). Haidt further explains that in the field of philosophy, happiness is a term used to describe a good life and not just a mere emotion (5). Moreover, in psychology, experts maintain that happiness is an emotional state of well-being, which is mostly derived from positive emotions that range from contentment to intense joy. In his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom,” Jonathan Haidt explores the concept of happiness through the lenses of psychological science. With the varying opinions about happiness, one cannot declare one definition as more superior or accurate than the other can. Individuals have a unique and contrasting perception towards happiness depending on their goals, personalities, or experiences. Overall, in my perspective, the pursuit of happiness is such that it is a broad concept influenced by factors such as self-fulfillment, social stability, sense of freedom, and love.

Firstly, I believe that the idea of happiness is a feeling derived from self-fulfillment. Besides, this understanding is supported by the work of Jonathan Haidt, who uses the psychological perspective by explaining that happiness can only be found within (Haidt 89). Using references in regards to the lives of Buddhism and Stoicism, American social psychologist explains that only an individual has the power to obtain his or her happiness, which comes from within. However, this perception supports the argument that self-fulfillment is a key driver of satisfaction since it entails personal accomplishments. If an individual can realize his or her deepest desires as well as capacities, it becomes easy to attain a satisfying life that is worthwhile. In my opinion, other factors only influence or catalyze the level of happiness since they are not the actual source, and as Haidt explains, it is imperative for individuals to break their attachment to external things as well as other people (105). In most cases, this incident may occur because people tend to seek approval from others in a bid to make the world to conform to their wishes, which is an effort that becomes baseless. Therefore, asking for a happy life entails attaining self-fulfillment.

Additionally, social ability is another key factor that creates contentment and general happiness (Coon 67). Individual and national stability are considered influential in affecting the level of happiness in a person. Precisely, the lack of social security has become an essential root of unhappiness in the United States since it results in a decline of moral responsibility to the American society. For example, a significant percentage of those who engage in theft do so to attain a certain level of social status. Haidt argues that most people judge their present state or happiness based on whether it is better or worse than their usual situation, and this statement supports his argument (97). According to the author, it is almost impossible for individuals to change their natural or normal state of tranquility. Therefore, gaining social fulfillment helps boost one’s state of happiness. This state means that by learning social stability, individuals feel more contented with life. An essential element of social security involves maintaining a positive relationship with loved ones such as family. Having a conflict in relationships reduces the level of happiness because most people are unable to adapt to interpersonal conflict. Overall, attaining social stability creates a conducive and a bearable environment of an individual whereby one can accomplish other tasks such as work.

Moreover, having a sense of freedom and the ability to make one’s personal choices is an essential element that brings happiness and contentment amongst individuals. According to McReynolds, the lack of freedom of choice has resulted in the existence of war-torn, undemocratic, and corrupt nations such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Rwanda (22). These three countries come at the bottom of the happiness rating scale since their members lack the freedom of expressing their opinions or making their own choices. A sense of liberty over making life choices is quite important as it allows individuals to have agency and control of their own lives. Haidt supports this argument by explaining that external conditions such as lack of scrutiny can significantly determine an individual’s range of happiness (113). Using this assertion, Haidt refutes the psychological theory, which maintains that non-attachment is important and that changing external factors does not boost happiness. This assumption means that other factors such as freedom go hand in hand with joy. Therefore, transforming the environment of a given institution in a bid to enhance the sense of control among its workers or residents is an effective strategy towards increasing their feelings of happiness.

Lastly, another fundamental principle that is vital when it comes to happiness is love. Although most people tend to ignore this factor, love acts as the universal path to peace, happiness, as well as enlightenment. In his chapter six, “Love and Attachments,” Haidt supports this argument by airing the idea that we as individuals all need each other both for close relationships and for physical touch (196). Although some critics can try to refute this assertion, love is an inner need that creates automatic happiness. According to the author, cutting off all forms of attachments is an inappropriate response to an inescapable presence of an individual suffering in life. A feeling of affection is a basic need for both young children and adults. A quote by John Donne states that “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main (McReynolds 34).” Moreover, for children to grow up to be healthy and independent, parents are advised to hold and love them abundantly to give them a secure base where they can conquer the world on their own. Therefore, love is a major concept of happiness since it creates a sense of affection and appreciation.

Overall, it is evident that different individuals have varying opinions about the meaning of happiness. Although everyone’s definition of happiness differs, it does not imply that one person’s definition of happiness is better than other people’s meanings. The most important thing is always to consider our options. In my perspective, happiness is a broad concept influenced by intangible factors, which include love, self-fulfillment, social stability, and a sense of freedom. I believe that obtaining these elements is a key to happiness. However, this assumption does not imply that other’s perceptions towards happiness are wrong or fallacious. Furthermore, various studies show that factors such as wealth and prosperity are the key definition of happiness. Therefore, it is always important to keep eyes on the journey and ask ourselves about the true definition of happiness. Besides, happiness is a state of being that every individual wishes to attain in one way or another.

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  1. Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Thomson Wadsworth, 2015.
  2. Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books, 2006.
  3. McReynolds, Kathy. Enhancing Our Way to Happiness? Aristotle Versus Bacon on the Nature of True Happiness. University Press of America, 2004.
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