* This article is the first (of two) on the subject of happiness. You can read the second part here. Psst… I think you’ll like the second one more.
The first one looks to define happiness by taking in a deeper psychological approach rather than a common philosophical one. We aim to answer the strange question “What is happiness?” And we look at how studies measure happiness.
Through the second article we’ll look at the history of happiness and address a really important question to get a greater understanding of happiness, “Are we getting happier as the human race evolves?”
What is Happiness?
Happiness, aimed to be defined in a psychological manner, still has quite a lot of definitions, described by varied people. I think that happiness is a really important subject to be further studied on and it is especially significant to remove the common misconceptions happiness has to it’s account, which instead prohibits a person from being happy. Happiness is not pleasure. Pleasure can be happiness to a small extent, but never the other way round. Many think about happiness as a feeling, like anger or joy which is temporary and changes from environmental influences. But I don’t think happiness can be a feeling. Happiness is being. And because there’s no universal meaning of happiness, I say, “I think”. We could look at happiness from a better perspective. Even though we say “I want to be happy”, many look and aim to just “feel happy”. And that is why happiness doesn’t work out for so many people. So often people say, “I’ll be happy, when …” and that’s not how happiness works. You’ll feel a temporary sense of joyful pleasure “when …” you do something, but that will fade out inevitably at a much, much faster rate than it took for you to reach to that place. You can be happy at the same time of feeling something else. A feeling is a sense of the body influenced by our objective or cognitive environment and is one that is temporary and exposed to change as the influence of environment changes. And being, well, it’s being.
Someone wise on Quora answered, “Pleasure is something which feeds the body, while happiness is something which feeds the soul.”
The happiness definition I find best put is:
Happiness is the relative measure of subjective wellbeing of an individual as a whole.
Objective realities don’t count to happiness. Another candid way of putting this is that money ≠ happiness. And as you’ll see in part two of this article that years of evolution and greater access and technology are not something that really impacted happiness the way we think they would have. So happiness is subjective. And relative. And it’s not something such as a short-term pleasure, rather a series of events and mindfulness that lead to happiness being described as a whole. This may not be the “correct” definition of happiness, it may be far from it. But it does give a sense of the meaning of happiness to someone who is hearing the word “happiness” for the first time.
At present, even after the “hype” on happiness, we really don’t know a way to “measure” happiness. First of, all measurements need a standard unit of measurement. What kind of unit can we imagine happiness having?
Most studies today have a “mood check” to determine people’s happiness levels. They have short surveys using multiple-item scales. There are questions like “On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your life? (1 being lowest)” and “I can find good even in the most disagreeable people. And you have four options: Most of the time / Often / Sometimes / Rarely / Almost never”
These kinds are questions are given to participants and then the psychologists give a “happiness score” to the person who took the survey and helped them with their so-called data. If you’re into this, you can find out your “happiness score” by taking an online survey like this one.
I really don’t think this is the most efficient way to measure happiness, but I guess that’s what we have right now. Maybe we will have better techniques coming in the near future.
Just remember that:
“Happiness is the relative measure of subjective wellbeing of an individual as a whole.”