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What is Happiness?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Defining happiness in a few paragraphs or less may seem like an exercise in philosophical futility, but the attempt could bring a person some personal satisfaction, which in turn could generate a sense of happiness. That's how we humans get at the complex emotional state known as true happiness. A number of small positive events or accomplishments accumulate to provide a sense of self-satisfaction and contentment, which we interpret as personal happiness. For most of us, this is a state of mind rather than a specific emotion or response to positive outside forces.

One important element is a sense of self-satisfaction. Whether or not we want to admit it, many of us spend our days in a perpetual state of neediness. We have physical, emotional and spiritual needs which we believe need to be satisfied in order to experience some degree of happiness. When we have that morning cup of coffee, socialize with co-workers, enjoy a delicious lunch or finish an important project, at least one of our daily needs will be met. In one sense, this feeling occurs when our list of needs becomes replaced by a new list of physical, emotional and spiritual fulfillment.

Another important element of happiness is a sense of accomplishment. Consider how many times our ideas and plans fail throughout an average day. These failures tend to create inner tension and anxiety, which in turn creates a sense of unhappiness. But when an idea does come to fruition or a plan does come together, there is often a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment. This feeling can be the reward for persevering through difficult or challenging times and not succumbing to despair. Winning a contest or receiving recognition for a successful project often triggers feelings of happiness.

For some of us, the sensation can be derived from having our material or spiritual needs met. There is an old saying that money can't buy happiness, but in reality it can come very close. For many wage earners, the thought of receiving enough money or other tangible rewards for their efforts can certainly trigger a sense of happiness. Knowing that our immediate needs and even a few personal desires will be met can be very reassuring, which in turn generates feelings of security. In the same sense, many people find happiness after hearing a life-affirming spiritual message or spending time in deep reflection or meditation. It could mean a sense of harmony between mind, body and spirit.

What creates a sense of happiness can vary widely from person to person. Young children with little life experience may find happiness in the form of an ice cream cone or Saturday morning cartoon, while adults may find it by traveling or pursuing outside interests. Some people require a lot of their needs to be met before they experience happiness, while others find it in simplicity. Happiness is said to be the one free thing all people strive for and would give anything to obtain.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGEEK, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By sevenseas — On May 10, 2008

Some foods help us to be more cheerful. For instance, foods that elevate serotonin level, like carbohydrates, or sugars that comfort us when we are stressed out. The trick is to eat healthy to be happy. So when we crave carbs, whole grains should be chosen over refined products.

As for sugar, a little bit goes a long way. Too much of sugary desserts boost the level of sugar in the blood which can create problems.

So a small amount of sweets, only a few bites should be aimed for. Often fruit will satisfy the need for sweets, and ultimately make us feel better, over the sugar loaded snacks or desserts.

By sevenseas — On Mar 10, 2008

Here is a Finnish proverb on happiness: "Happiness is a place between too little and too much."

By Madhava — On Aug 14, 2007

I fully agree with the writer about the explanation given on the Happiness a person achieves.

From my point of view is that there are two or three types of happinesses which we will enjoy.

One is the normal day to day happiness as explained, how we are happy when we receive what we need. In this case this happiness is something you will be asking every moment, as the needs are non ending. That is very temporary achievement.

Then the other happiness is to live a life without needs, only with the necessities.

The the third is the best but difficult if we live in a materialistic world. That is to be away from all attachments. So to achieve this real happiness we must move to an environment free from all attachments..This is real peace, and happiness.

Hope I may be a little correct on this.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to WiseGEEK, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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