About Happiness: What Is It That We All Seek?

About happiness

Happiness: what a beautiful word. Have you ever wondered where it comes from? Have you ever wondered what it means to you? Have you ever wondered why we all look for it? In these lines you may discover your own answers to begin to discover how you are happy.

The concept of happiness

From the founding of civilization until today, many people have reflected on this construct that we call happiness, which is why, as Elsa Punset very aptly writes in happythe study of happiness “more than discovery, It is a reunion” with the reflections and conclusions of other humans before us.

Other humans who were and are thinkers, explorers of different cultures, artists, poets, neuroscientists who study the brain, philosophers who “love knowledge,” sociologists who analyze society, anthropologists who compare cultures, psychologists who, in their “study of the mind”, they try to unravel the mental web that is the logos or the knowledge about human happiness.

Its etymological originTherefore, it also depends on the civilization being observed. On the one hand, it is related to the Greek root Eudaimonia (eudaimonia) which literally means “good fortune.”

If we break down the word into its two elements: eu, which means “good”, and dáimonos, which means “divinity”, The Greeks found the key to happiness in him who carries a good spirit, or who has a good spirit.

The same thing happens in Anglo-Saxon countries, appealing to the concept of “favorable luck”, as in the meaning of Happiness, which comes from Happen: to happen by chance. Or we can also understand it in German, Glück, from Gelingen, which literally means “to have good success”; Let’s notice that in English Luck (or Good luck) is equivalent to the German word Glück. Interesting, right?

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The mental facet of the happy person

From a cognitive point of view, happiness can be described as a series of thoughts about our emotions that produce deep and lasting inner well-being. The same definition of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), we might think, confirms what was mentioned above:

Happiness; from lat. congratulations, -atis. F. State of pleasant spiritual and physical satisfaction. F. Person, situation, object or set of them that contribute to being happy. F. Absence of inconveniences or setbacks.

Currently, this has generated a recurring confusion between the terms eudaimonia and hedonism (hedoné-ἡδονή), since, as positive psychology promulgates, the purpose of human life is happiness, sometimes understood –erroneously- as pleasure, (Cfr Bueno, 2005; Lozano et al., 2016) in Colmenarejo Fernández, R. (2017). And I say wrongly because pleasure is not equal to happiness, but pleasure by definition must always be relegated to a part of our complete happiness. I will develop this idea in my next article.

And perhaps the purpose of human life is not to live happily, but just to live. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to understand pleasure as a means and not as an end? The difference is, then, that while hedonism focuses on immediate pleasure, which we could currently call joy, eudaimonia is the constant fullness of living life, which we could currently call happiness.

Beyond definitions

Happiness is a topic that everyone thinks about but few people study. Although we may never agree on the exact definition of happiness, it is more one of those things that you don’t know how to define, but when you see it you know what it is. And the reality is that each individual, depending on the culture in which he is hopelessly immersed, and his personal experiences, forms a concept about his own happiness throughout his life.

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During my research on the topic, I have realized that the search for happiness is something very relevant in our current society, since it involves many people, and most human beings want to be happy.

At the time of writing these lines, I have a sample of 275 people between the ages of 7 and 108. With 66% women and 34% men, the vast majority of Spanish nationality. 50% live in urban areas and 50% live in rural areas. Current occupation is studying or working, or both.

The key question

The first question I ask someone who wants to know how happy they are is: How are you?

In general, most people say they are “fine.” Okay, people are fine, but being fine doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. And the results show that 9 out of 10 people will tell you that they want to be happy. The remaining person thinks so too, but he won’t tell you.

But what is happiness? Fernández-Berrocal already wrote in his article that “the attempt to answer this question may seem pretentious and it is natural for the reader to think so, because even the one who asks the question has his hand shaking while he writes it.” I think the same thing is happening to me.

But that doesn’t worry me, nor should it worry you. Because what I propose (and perhaps this is the key to the necessary paradigm shift) is ask ourselves how people are happy, instead of asking ourselves again and again what happiness is. In this way, just by changing a passive what for a proactive how, we will begin to understand happiness as a personal decision and not as an object that can – or should – be achieved.

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The message is clear: the study of happiness and everything that it entails is a topic of utmost importance for the human species. If we live happily, we live longer and better. In the end, what you will realize is that, although the reflection on happiness is in the hands of a few, the search for happiness is universal.

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