Few people ever experience genuine happiness; however, this elusive state is attainable once people know the secret of happiness.
Happiness is an emotional state wherein people feel optimistic, delighted, and at times, even euphoric. Moreover, happiness comes not from mere satisfaction with one’s circumstances but, instead, from a deep inner contentment with both oneself and life.
Although everyone wants to experience happiness, in reality, very few people ever experience this form of life satisfaction. Instead, they experience moments of mild contentment at best and desperately continue to seek the elusive state called “happiness.”
The Elusive Emotion Called Happiness
Humankind has always been in search of happiness, but many people have made the mistake of thinking they could find it either in material possessions, fame, or fortune.
However, these transient, insubstantial “things” have never brought anyone happiness, at least not for any length of time, and in many cases they have even led to great unhappiness.
Memorable Quotes on Happiness
Many great thinkers throughout the years have tried to identify what it takes to make people happy, for example:
- “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding.” ~Proverbs: 3:13
- “We are never so happy, nor so unhappy, as we suppose ourselves to be.” ~La Rochefoucauld
- “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” ~John Stuart Mill
- “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~Abraham Lincoln
- “If you really want to be happy, nobody can stop you.” ~Sister Mary Tricky
- “Happy people don’t plan actions; they plan results.” ~Dennis Worley
- “Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people bring happiness.” ~Rabbi Harold Kushner
The Happiness Hypothesis
Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, developed what he terms “The Happiness Hypothesis;” and in his book of that title, Haidt maintains that happiness and meaning come when people get the right relationship between themselves and work, themselves and other people, and themselves and something larger than themselves, according to HappinessHypothesis.com. He further maintains that people can achieve happiness by following certain prescribed steps.
Diagnose a Setpoint for Happiness
According to Haidt, people inherit a “setpoint for an average happiness level,” and they need to learn this “setpoint” in order to recognize and then overcome challenges to their happiness.
In order to learn their “setpoint,” people can visit AuthenticHappiness.org and take a series of test: the “General Happiness Scale,” the “Satisfaction with Life Scale,” and the “Optimism Test.”
Improve Mental Hygiene
Haidt suggests that people practice meditation for 15 minutes every day for a month because “meditation is the oldest and most widely used mental hygiene technique in the world.”
Take Care of the Body
Haidt also says that people should get more exercise, even if they cannot exercise everyday but only a few days each week.
In addition, they should take two omega-3 fish oil tablets per day since omega-3 fatty acids improve both brain function and mood, plus contain additional benefits for the brain and heart.
According to Haidt, humans “were made for love, friendship, and family,” so when they spend too much time alone, it’s bad for them emotionally and leads to unhappiness.
Therefore, people should work on establishing and maintaining close relationships with other people, including not only immediate family members, but also friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.
Improve Attitude Toward Work
Haidt maintains that work, as Kahlil Gibran says, “is love made visible;” but “most people don’t have the luxury of choosing a job for its spiritual satisfaction.” Therefore, regardless of what type job they have and how unfulfilling it might be, people should take steps to make their job “more lovable.”
Moreover, if their work is not their “calling,” that’s all right as long as people have “some noble purpose” they pursue elsewhere that provides them with spiritual satisfaction.
Improve Connectivity with Others
Haidt says that people are, “in a way, like bees;” therefore, people’s “lives only make full sense as members of a larger hive, or as cells in a larger body.” However, in today’s world, people have “busted out of the hive and flown out on their own,” each free to live as he or she pleases.
People, though, “need to be part of a hive in some way, ideally a hive that has a clearly noble purpose,” for example, “religion, teaching, science, political campaigns,” etc.
Ultimately, however, if people wish to know happiness, they must not only desire it for themselves but also for other people. After all, as George Bernard Shaw once said, humans “have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it” (Seldes). So, what is the secret of happiness? There’s really no secret at all. Happiness is found in making someone else happy.
- Haidt, J. The Happiness Hypothesis, retrieved September 7, 2009 from HappinessHypothesis.com.
- Seldes, G. (1995) The Great Thoughts; New York: Ballantine Books.