Happiness: What exactly is it?

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A number of things people consider important frequently are relegated to being just backdrops of life, including love and especially happiness. They will occur at the proper times because that is the way we are constructed. I recently had a good friend tell me, “I have never been a happy person. That is just the way I am.” Well, each of us determines the way we are.


As Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Let’s explore the questions, “What is it? How does one grab it and maximize it?”


Ask anyone about happiness and they will agree, “I know it when I feel it,” they say, but ask for a definition and they will stammer. And there will be many answers. This is because, like love, happiness cannot be willed, but the situation is comparable to becoming better financially by knowing financial wisdom; happiness is achievable by knowing how to harness it.


Happy is often used when we mean glad, pleased, joyful or content. Satisfied is another word for which happy can be substituted. As in, I’m happy the hailstorm didn’t do more damage. Not really happiness.


Happiness is one of the greatest driving forces of human nature, barely behind self-preservation. It is right up there with unalienable rights of life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. Actually, as we all know, we have a right to pursue happiness, so it is important that we know how.


Happiness means many things to different people, but that vagueness does not make it undefinable. Happiness is a mental status that is created from an emotion generated from living a good life. So, happiness is secondary to other things that we do to promote a “good life.”


The famous German Philosopher Hegel best defined true happiness as a reward you give yourself from attaining a desire. Most of our efforts are aimed at producing happiness when our goals are reached. We want to be liked, productive, successful, and many other positive goals and go to great lengths to achieve those ends.


Don’t be a person who is unhappy over not being happy enough!


Three aspects of subjective wellbeing can be distinguished: evaluative wellbeing (or life satisfaction), hedonic wellbeing (transient feelings of happiness, pleasure), and eudemonic wellbeing (sense of purpose and meaning in life). In essence, the three represent evaluations of past, present, and future statuses.


We can find happiness where it resides, in the positive quality of our thoughts about people and events. Remember that every cloud even rain clouds have silver linings. Look for the silver linings. My Grandmother Nichols was a nurse and was the happiest person I have ever known. I do not recall her ever saying anything bad about anyone even real human rats, or being upset, even when my grandfather died unexpectedly in his early 60s. At his funeral, she said “he was a good man who meant well, even though he cursed like the sailor he was. He is in a much better place now.” She died at 101 years, happy, alert and loved by all.

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