What Is Happiness And What Does It Mean?

By Nadia Khan|Updated April 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Amy Brown, MSW, LCSW, RPT-S

Happiness sounds like a simple concept, but the more you think about it, the more you realize just how complex it is. You may imagine being happy as always having a smile on your face, but then you realize how unnatural that would feel. What is happiness? Is it just the feeling of contentment, or something more? Humanity has struggled with this question since the dawn of man. In this article, we will look at the definition of happiness, explain to you how you can be happier, and look at other factors that can contribute to happiness. Let's dive in, shall we?

What Is Happiness?

Happiness is a term that is quite vague the more you start to think about it, and there are many ways one measures their happiness. The basic definition is a sense of well-being and contentment with the world. To define what happiness is we have to define the terms that have been associated with happiness.

Well-Being

Well-being is a term you may have heard, but you may not have a complete understanding of what it is. It's basically how comfortable you are with life. Those who have good well-being are happy, healthy and are overall satisfied with the way their life is going. Different people will have different levels of well-being. You can have good well-being but still not be satisfied with everything that life has to offer you.

Flourishing

When one is flourishing, they are experiencing positive feelings all around. Flourishing people will have emotions that are mostly positive. There may be an occasional day where they feel sad or feel another negative emotion, but throughout most of their life, they are positive. Those who are flourishing have positive psychological functions. There may be a occasional mental health concern, but their overall mental capabilities are well. Flourishing also means that your social health is thriving, which means that you have a number of healthy relationships, be it with your friends, family, or spouse/partner. You may get into an argument or two on occasion, but for the most part, your relationship is positive.

Contentment

Being content is being accepted and happy with what one has. One reason why people are so unhappy is due to envy. They want what others have, and will spend their life moping over it or pursuing unrealistic goals to make it happen. Being content simply means that your home, friends, location, and overall life are satisfactory. That does not mean that you can't make goals and try to improve your life, but you're not going to drive yourself to the point of unhappiness in an attempt to make it happen. Perhaps one of the biggest goals in humanity is to have enough to be content. Some people are content with having a lower income, while others are only content if they are rich.

Quality Of Life

Quality of life measures the overall satisfaction with one's life. Some of the factors they look at include:

  • Physical health. How healthy is the person? If they suffer from various physical conditions, their quality of life goes down.
  • Family. What is the relationship with their family? How strong is their family bond?
  • Education. Are they college educated, or did they drop out of high school? Plenty of people have successful lives despite the lack of education and vice versa, so it's just one factor out of many.
  • Employment. What is their job? How much time is invested in that job when compared to their free time? Do they feel productive and challenged with their job?
  • Finances. Do they have enough money for a good quality of life, or do they struggle?
  • Religion. Do their religious beliefs give them fulfillment, or are they oppressive?
  • Environment. Does the person live in an area with higher rates of community violence or crime? Or is it safe and supportive? Many factors play into the part of your environment.

When figuring out one's quality of life, these are just a few factors one has to consider. It also depends on the person. Some people may have a poorer quality of life, but they feel content.

Happiness And Religion

All religions are different, but when you break them down, they do start to share similar themes. One of those themes is the pursuit of happiness.

Let's look at Christianity, for example. Every branch of that religion may be slightly different, but in the end, the goal is the same. They want to please God and be let into the kingdom of heaven, where eternal happiness reigns supreme. Heaven is never described in too much detail, but it's known as a place of eternal happiness. Most people have their idea of what heaven would be like, and that's what makes the religion good for many people.

Buddhism is another religion where happiness is a theme. Its practitioners want to be kind, compassionate, and content with the world around them. They want to reach nirvana, a place free of suffering and eternal happiness. A state of ascended being that is hard to describe. In some ways, it's similar to the idea of heaven.

In Judaism, happiness is another valued philosophy. It's known as Simcha.

Pretty much any religion is going to be about the pursuit of happiness. Even with non-religious beliefs, the goal is to be happy with the randomness of the universe. Everyone wants to be happy.

Optimism Vs. Pessimism

There is a debate between people who see the glass half full, vs. people who see the glass half empty. Should one always be positive and see the bright side of life, or should one lower their expectations for everything and be realistic about the situation?

Obviously, those who think positively, smile often, and try to look on the bright side of things are going to have a better chance at happiness, but this does not apply to every single happy person you see. Sometimes, people are positive to mask the pain that's inside of them, and may not be happy. It's a mask. Also, being too positive can mean that you may ignore your health, thinking the problems will go away even though they could be signs of a serious illness.

Pessimists are prone to more health effects, but they can find contentment sometimes when they lower their expectations. Sometimes, life pleasantly surprises them, and it can increase their overall outlook. Other times, being too pessimistic can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. You think someone isn't going to like you, and your attitude rubs off on them, making your prediction happen.

The goal is to have a balance of both. Think positively and look on the bright side, but be realistic when the situation comes down to it. It's a spectrum, and the goal is to not be on either radical side of it.

Seek Help!

If you're not happy with yourself, there is no shame if you try to consult a counselor or therapist to help you talk through your concerns. They can help you get to the bottom of why you've been feeling unhappy, and you can learn how to take steps to achieve as much happiness as possible, which can improve the quality of your life.

Everyone is going to be unhappy at some point in your life, but if you can never find yourself happy at anything, then you should strive to improve that. Your life is too short for you to be unhappy all the time.

In the end, the goal of humanity is to seek happiness.

What did you learn from all of this? How happy do you think you are? Tell us below in the comments.

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