Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”–Aristotle
By Dave Hood
Many of the great philosophers have attempted to answer the question: What makes people happy?
World religions, such as Christianity, have attempted to explain what makes people happy and how to live a happy life through faith, the belief in God, by reading scripture, by living life according to the moral code, and by the religious doctrine imposed by the church.
The philosophy of Buddhism preaches to its followers how to live a peaceful and blissful life–which ultimately leads to “nirvana.” The Dali Lama has written a bestselling book, “The Art of Happiness”, which explains how to find happiness as you journey’s through life. It begins by embracing Buddhism.
In recent years, psychology has developed a new field of study called positive psychology, which focuses on the science of happiness. Significant research has been conducted in this area, and many excellent books have been written. The eminent psychologist, Martin Seligman, wrote “Authentic Happiness” and “Learned Optimism”, two popular books that explain how we can improve the level of happiness in our lives happiness in our lives.
So how do we make ourselves happy? And if we are already happy, how do we make ourselves happier? In this article, I’ll provide a definition of happiness. I’ll also explain what determines our level of happiness. I’ll also describe the three paths to happiness, as suggested by Seligman. And I’ll identify eight steps you can take to improve your level of happiness in your life.
Definition of Happiness
What is happiness? Ask different people to define happiness, and they will provide you with many different definitions. Many people don’t really know what makes them happy. They just live in a state of automatism with the automatic pilot switch turned on. They cruise along the highway of life never thinking about what makes them happy. They never ask what is the meaning and purpose of their lives. They don’t savour life’s pleasures, they are not socially connected, their lives have no deep meaning.
Most positive psychologists define happiness as “subjective-well being.” Happiness is a subjective state, defined by the individual. It is a personal choice. It includes all the pleasant and positive emotions, such as affection, joy, gratitude, that we experience in a happy state.
Most positive psychologists will also tell you that real happiness is more than just a pleasant emotional state. There is also a cognitive or thinking component to subjective well-being. The happy person is contented with his/her life. The happy person also has meaning and purpose in his/her life. And the happy person thinks they are living the way that is right for them. This is called “life satisfaction.”
So, real happiness is a subjective state in which the person feels pleasant emotions, such as joy or gratitude, and it is a cognitive state in which the person thinks they are living a satisfied life, one with meaning and purpose.
A variety of circumstances and events make us happy: falling in love, earning a promotion or pay increase at work, watching an entertaining baseball game, taking a walk on the beach, winning the lottery.
In part, a person’s well-being is related to their external circumstances. People who are working and have a certain level of material wealth tend to be much happier than the homeless guy living under a bridge. People who are healthy tend to be happier than those suffering from cancer or other disease. But a person’s well-being is also dependent on how the person thinks and feels about their living conditions. For instance, some people are happy living in poverty. Some people who are suffering from debilitating illness or disease are happier than healthy people. Why is this so?
What determines our level of happiness?
Positive psychologists, such as Sonja Lyubomirsky, have determined what...
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