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Behavioural scientist Paul Dolan is promoting his new book ‘Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life’ which gives a clue to his answer to the question ‘What is happiness?’ Since it is a key concept in religious traditions too I would like to invite your responses to this question and in particular your responses to religious and philosophical answers to this question. Jim
Hmm! I truly feel that happiness comes from within and many religions will be searching for some inner peace which may be “God-given” depending on your viewpoint. I once read a book called “Finding Happiness” by Abbot Christopher Jamieson (who also was involved in the series called “The Monastery”) which reminded us that we need a firm foundation of inner solitude, quiet and resilience to truly be happy in the face of all the world can throw at us. I have also studied “mindfulness” as a non-religious path and find that all of the above come back to the same root – if we are never at peace within ourselves, finding some time for quiet and happy with our own company, then we are unlikely to find it elsewhere.
Thanks for this Alison. I have just come across this Baha’i quote:
“Do not allow negative experiences to make you bitter, they should make you wiser, & with that wisdom you shall find joy.”
I have read that people who define themselves as being happy or unhappy have been analysed over the years to work out the difference between them. Factors such as how rich they are, what size they are, how healthy they are or how many sad events they have experience are taken into account. Statistically speaking ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy’ people do not differ on any of these points and there are no obvious differences in life circumstances. What differs is their perspective and thoughts on a situation and whether they view the glass as half full or empty. This reflects the power our thinking processes can have with regards to the way we see the world and how happy we perceive ourselves to be.
Interesting contribution and thanks for this. I wonder how this translates to what some call ‘faith perspectives’ and whether there is any truth in the claim that having a faith adds significantly to quality of life as well as happiness? Jim
Richard Wiseman passionately argues in his books ’59 seconds’ and ‘Rip it up’ that people become happy by acting ‘as if’ they are happy – he bases a lot of his work on the thoughts of William James the famous pragmatist. This would tie in to the fact that there don’t seem to be any material differences between happy and unhappy people.
I don’t think there is any truth in the claim that religious people are happier than non-religious people though. The happiness countries in the world are also some of the most secular and non-religious eg Norway, Denmark, Iceland. However, I do think that having a well thought through life philosophy is linked to happiness. I consider myself to be an extremely happy atheist and derive much of my happiness from knowing that this is the only life I will ever lead, that nothing ultimately matters at all and that it’s really important to cherish this life as I’ll only be here once and I might as well make the most of it!
Hi, I really enjoyed the previous post which is based within Richard Wisemans’ conception of happiness. Without sounding too pessimistic, I think that ‘happiness’ is very difficult to obtain (or perhaps it is very difficult to know what happiness is) within current society, new needs are constantly placed upon us, therefore I may believe ‘I will be happy if X’ but when I achieve x all of a sudden another need comes along and suddenly ‘I will be happy if Y.’ Freud stated that happiness is episodic and I buy into this, I consider myself ‘happy’ if I consider myself to be ‘content’ and I suppose in some ways that is where my ‘key’ to happiness hides, by placing less strain on ‘false’ needs, placing emphasis on those needs that are dear to my heart and doing what I can to ensure that parts of my life such as friendship and family are thriving.
I couldn’t agree more with your last sentence – it’s critical to know what is at the heart of your being and purpose. Family and friends are critical to my sense of identity and belonging too.
I have read an excellent book called ‘The How of Happiness’ by Dr Sonja Lubirmirsky.
It argues that through research, each individual has a happiness base level – some peoples are low whilst others are high, likened to glass half full/empty. The book is interactive and through questionnaires it guides you to try out a couple of 12 different happiness boosting task that have been tried and tested. Along with being an excellent self help book I am also interested in utilizing areas of this book in class and as homework with pupils to allow them to experience the power of positive thinking, the power of the mind and understand that in part, they have the ability to control their thoughts and actions.
Happiness can be achieved in all different ways from habits, wellbeing and mental positive state. An interesting state of happiness is stemmed from Optimism, Mindfulness and Gratitude. When people can be optimistic about a positive future and mindful of there body and how they are feeling, this all leads to a happy life. When people are grateful for what they have in life all leads to happiness as we have a feeling of fulfilment, we do not need anything else in our life to make us feel complete as a person, people gain a lot of happiness from these three traits. Positive thinking always leads to happiness in one self. Positive thinking leads to a positive outcome.
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/buddha118245.html
The answer to the question of ‘what is happiness?’ firstly depends upon which definition of happiness we are considering. ‘Happiness’ can be understood as a descriptive term of one’s psychology, in the same way that we would use ‘depression’. This is when the term is used to describe a person’s mental state or an experience that they are having. This is how the word ‘happiness’ is most commonly used in contemporary society. If this is the type of happiness being considered in this question, then happiness is simply whatever gives someone good experiences, meaning it is extremely subjective to each individual. For example, while one may gain happiness from playing football, another may gain happiness from eating cake. However, most individual’s strive for a happiness deeper than a fleeting moment of happiness directly associated to their current state of mind.
‘Happiness’ can also be viewed as a value term, explaining the well-being and flourishing of life. This understanding was named ‘eudaimonia’ by Aristotle. It is this second form of happiness which most people wish for. If it is this type of happiness we are discussing, then the answer to ‘what is happiness?’ is much deeper and more complex.
Many ancient philosophers believed that happiness in the second sense is directly related to our purpose in the world as humans. I do not believe this to be the case, as I do not believe that humans have any set, universal purpose. However, many religious people will believe that humans have a purpose, and therefore may be convinced that happiness, in terms of fulfilment, is achieved by reaching your intended purpose.
I believe that there is still no universal, objective answer to ‘what is happiness?’, even when we take the second definition. This is because different people have different values, as well as different pleasures which satisfy the first type of happiness. However, I would argue that happiness in a fulfilment sense involves a sense of contentment, prioritising long-lasting values over material fleeting pleasures.
If my answer here is not particularly clear, it is because I do not believe that there is a clear answer to this question, although interesting nonetheless.
Happiness – it’s time when you have problems which you can solve. For example, i love to studying and getting know something new, but mum felt ill and i have to find job. And i found getting out of a difficult situation – do my homework for me. Its service where i ordering term papers and science assignments when haven’t time to wrote it.
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