Happiness is an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy.
Positive psychology research perspectives
Theoretical frameworkIn his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive psychology, describes happiness as consisting of 'positive emotions' and 'positive activities'.
He further categorizes emotions related to the past, present and future. Positive emotions relating to the past include satisfaction, contentment, pride and serenity. Positive emotions relating to the future include optimism, hope and trust. Positive emotions about the present are divided into two categories: pleasure and gratifications. The bodily and higher pleasures are "pleasures of the moment" and usually involve some external stimulus.
Gratifications involve full engagement, flow, elimination of self-consciousness, and blocking of felt emotions. But when a gratification comes to an end then positive emotions will be felt. Gratifications can be obtained or increased by developing 'signature strengths' and virtues. Authenticity is the derivation of gratification and positive emotions from exercising signature strengths. The good life comes from using 'signature strengths' to obtain abundant gratification in, for example, enjoying work and creative "activities". The most profound sense of happiness is experienced through the 'meaningful life', achieved if one exercises one's unique strengths and virtues in a purpose greater than one's own immediate goals.
Research findingsLooking for the level of happiness as reported by people, and comparing it to various elements in their life reveals the following findings: http://www.psych.umn.edu/courses/fall06/macdonalda/psy4960/Readings/LyubomirskySustain_RGP05.pdf
- About 50% of one's happiness depends on one's genes. This is shown by studying identical twins, and learning that their happiness is 50% correlated even when growing up in different houses.
- 10-15% is a result of various measurable variables, such as socioeconomic status, marital status, health, income, and others.
- The rest of the variance does not have a discernible cause. Called "unexplained variance", it may actually be attributed to statistical "noise".
Other psychology perspectivesMichael Argyle developed The Oxford Happiness Inventory as a broad measure of psychological well-being. This measures happiness as an aggregate of self-esteem, sense of purpose, social interest and kindness, sense of humor and aesthetic appreciation. This has been criticized for lacking a theoretical model of happiness and because it is felt that certain aspects overlap. Some studies suggest that happiness can be measured effectively.
In economicsCommonly market health measures such as GDP and GNP have been used as a measure of successful policy. However, although on average richer nations tend to be happier than poorer nations, beyond an average GDP/capita of about $15,000 a year, studies indicate the average income in a nation makes little difference to the average happiness of the people in the nation. It has been argued that happiness measures could be used not as a replacement for more traditional measures but as a supplement.
Biological approachThough it may be impossible to objectively measure happiness, physiological correlates to happiness can be measured through a variety of techniques. For instance, psychophysiologist R.J. Davidson has developed reliable fMRI and EEG tests that correlate to subjective levels of happiness. Stefan Klein in his book "The Science of Happiness" links the dynamics of neurobiological systems (ie. dopaminergic, opiate) to the concepts and findings of Positive Psychology and Social Psychology.
The evolutionary perspective offers an alternative approach to understand what happiness or quality of life is about. Briefly, the questions to be answered are: What features are included in the brain that allows humans to distinguish between positive and negative states of mind, and why did evolution add these features? Answering these questions points towards an understanding of what happiness is about; and how to best exploit the capacities of the brain that humans are endowed with. The perspective is presented in detail by the evolutionary biologist Bjørn Grinde in his book “Darwinian Happiness”, as well as in a more formal way.
The Satisfaction with Life Index is an attempt to show the average self-reported happiness (subjective life satisfaction) in different nations. This is an example of recent trend to use direct measures of happiness, such as surveys asking people how happy they are, as an alternative to traditional measures of policy success to GDP or GNP. There are also several other examples of measures that includes self-reported happiness as one variable. Happy Life Years, a concept brought by Dutch sociologist Veenhoven, combines self-reported happiness with life expectancy. The Happy Planet Index combines it with life expectancy and ecological footprint. Gross national happiness is a concept introduced by the King of Bhutan as an alternative to GDP but there is as yet no exact definition.
Set point theoryThe happiness set point is a notion proposed by Lykken and Tellegen that we all have a baseline level of happiness that we return to. Although good and bad events may shift us from this baseline temporarily, we cannot permanently increase or decrease our happiness levels in the long-term. Others have since challenged this pessimistic view, some drawing on neuroplasticity as evidence that our happiness level is not set in stone.
Everyday correlatesResearch in the US has found that citizens who identify themselves as "conservative" are more likely to report being "happy" or "very happy" than those who consider themselves to be "liberal." On both sides of the political spectrum, extremists report being happier than moderates. Parents are more likely to report being happy than non-parents, and religious belief also appears to be positively correlated with happiness. Happiness is also correlated with the ability to rationalize or explain social and economic inequalities.
Religious involvementThere is now extensive research suggesting that religious people are happier and less stressed. Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Centre and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being "very happy" than the least religiously committed people. An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that "high religiousness predicts a rather lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being" and a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of them showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem, and lower levels of hypertension, depression and clinical delinquency. Studies by Keith Ward show that overall religion is a positive contributor to mental health and a meta-analysis of 34 recent studies published between 1990 and 2001 also found that religiosity has a salutary relationship with psychological adjustment, being related to less psychological distress, more life satisfaction, and better self-actualization. Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that "the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse."
In religious and spiritual viewsExplanation of happiness in mystical traditions, especially in advanced spiritual techniques is related to full balance (conjunction, union, "secret marriage") of so called inner energy lines (energy channels of a soul or deepest dimension of the human): nadi (ancient Indian), gimel kavim (Hebrew), pillars, columns, gnostic ophis or caduceus. In balanced state two main lines (left & right, Ida & Pingala) form third line, called Shushumna or lashon hakodesh (hebr.). Speaking technically (full) activity of this third or central line is happiness. Left and right lines include all aspects of normal human life: sleep and awake, body and mind, physical and spiritual and so on. To attain balanced state of these 2 lines is a main task of life - a paradoxical result of all kinds of activities and endeavours combined with full relax or tranquility at the same time.
In Catholicism, the ultimate end of human existence consists in felicity (Latin equiv. to the Gk. eudaimonia), or "blessed happiness", described by the 13th-C. philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas as a Beatific Vision of God's essence in the next life. See Summa Theologiae
As an example, according to Augustine's Confessions, he lived much of his life without God. He sinned much and recognized his sinfulness. As a youth, he sinned for its own sake, and later in the pursuit of a perceived good. When he lost a dear friend to death, it troubled him a lot and he turned to God for answers. He turned to God to find true happiness, and was converted to Christianity. He found that true happiness can only come from a relationship with God, and appreciating God's creation for His sake, and not its own.
Happiness forms a central theme of Buddhist teachings. For ultimate freedom from suffering, the Eightfold Path leads its practitioner to Nirvana, a state of everlasting peace. In this teaching, ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. More mundane forms of happiness, such as acquiring wealth and maintaining good friendships, are also recognized as worthy goals for lay people (see sukha). Buddhism also encourages the generation of lovingkindness and compassion, the desire for the happiness and welfare of all beings (see brahmavihara).http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/guided.html
One of the core concepts in Buddhism is that of Dharma, also a central concept in Hinduism. Dharma is about expressing and acting according to your core nature. This eliminates potential causes of 'disharmony' in the mind and leads to happiness.
References & Notes
- Władysław Tatarkiewicz, Analysis of Happiness, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.
- Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness, Knopf, 2006
- Barbara Ann Kipfer, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, Workman, 1990/2007 ISBN 978-0761147213
- Stefan Klein, The Science of Happiness, Marlowe 2006, ISBN 1-56924-328-X
- Richard Layard, Happiness: Lessons From A New Science, Penguin, 2005.
- David G. Myers, Ph. D The Pursuit of Happiness: Who is Happy-- and Why, William Morrow and Co., 1992, ISBN 0-688-10550-5
- Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph. D Authentic Happiness, Free Press 2002, ISBN 0-7432-2298-9
- Saint Augustine, "Confessions",Oxford World's Classics 1998 ISBN 0-19-283372-3
- Psychological Wellbeing, Hills, P., & Argyle, M. (2002). The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire: a compact scale for the measurement of psychological well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 1073–1082.
- Arthur C. Brooks, "Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America--and How We Can Get More of It," Basic Books (2008) ISBN 978-0-465-00278-8
- Happiness quotes
- History of Happiness - concise survey of influential theories
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry "Pleasure" - ancient and modern philosophers' and neuroscientists' approaches to happiness
- The World Database of Happiness - a register of scientific research on the subjective appreciation of life
gladness in Arabic: سعادة
gladness in Bulgarian: Щастие
gladness in Catalan: Felicitat
gladness in Danish: Lykke
gladness in German: Glück
gladness in Spanish: Felicidad
gladness in Esperanto: Ĝojo
gladness in French: Bonheur
gladness in Galician: Felicidade
gladness in Korean: 행복
gladness in Croatian: Sreća
gladness in Icelandic: Hamingja
gladness in Italian: Felicità
gladness in Hebrew: שמחה
gladness in Georgian: ბედნიერება
gladness in Lithuanian: Laimė
gladness in Macedonian: Среќа
gladness in Malay (macrolanguage): Kebahagiaan
gladness in Dutch: Geluk (emotie)
gladness in Japanese: 幸福
gladness in Norwegian: Lykke
gladness in Norwegian Nynorsk: Lukke
gladness in Polish: Szczęście
gladness in Portuguese: Felicidade
gladness in Quechua: Kusikuy
gladness in Russian: Счастье
gladness in Simple English: Happiness
gladness in Slovak: Šťastie (pocit)
gladness in Serbian: Срећа
gladness in Finnish: Onnellisuus
gladness in Turkish: Mutluluk
gladness in Yiddish: פרייליכקייט
gladness in Contenese: 開心
gladness in Chinese: 快樂
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