Happiness, and Why it Matters
When we look at ideas like motivation and happiness and joy, they may seem a little… abstract at first glance. These concepts have various definitions and we understand them differently person to person, but because of the field of psychology, we have access to more concrete definitions of these concepts, and thus, a roadmap to achieving them.
As we embark on an understanding of “happiness”—what it is, what it isn’t, and how we find it in healthy and sustainable ways—let’s begin with a basic definition of “happiness.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “happiness” as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” This tells us that
happiness is not a “way of being” but instead, a “state”: something that can come and go, is not fixed, can change. It’s also something that we can feel or show, so it’s internal and external, simultaneously. The final takeaway we get from this definition is that happiness is on the level with pleasure and contentment, rather than more intense feelings like joy or euphoria.
Within the context of psychology, we nickname happiness “subjective well being,” meaning something that really lies in the eye of the beholder, but generally includes a sense of overall well being and satisfaction with one's current life state. This definition, again, focuses on the idea of a moment in time rather than a prolonged experience. However, it is less fleeting than something like pleasure, which is typically understood as a momentary experience.
And through these psychological theories of happiness, we’re able to extract a few specific things that usually lead to happiness:
Having a job, or not
Physical and emotional health
Expression of purpose
But the research shows that, above all else, the most integral part of happiness is our relationships.