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What Is Happiness?

What actually is “happiness”?

This is a source of fascination for many different fields of study. It is not only psychologists that are interested in understanding the root of happiness, but also gerontologists (those studying aging), philosophers, neuroscientists and even economists. So what has this plethora of research actually taught us?

Even the definition of “happiness” is up for debate, depending on the culture, context and usage of it. Most can agree at a high level on two key factors:

  • The emotion and feelings of pleasure, joy and contentment., for example: "what I experience here and now"

  • The quality of life and overall appreciation and gratitude for life

One key field of research on happiness is the field of Positive Psychology, as propagated by Dr Martin Seligman, who identifies three kinds of happiness:

  • Pleasure and Gratification: This relates to how we feel about a particular action, item or circumstance. The feeling of pleasure feels great and therefore is important to us, but its related benefits are relatively short term. A delicious meal, a nice meeting with friends, or listening to our favorite music all produce endorphins and offer us happy moments that can be the highlights of our day.However, these singular moments don’t equate to long-term satisfaction

  • Embodiment of Strengths and Virtues: Being “good” and leading a life of engagement and “flow” helps you feel absorbed in the moment and can lead to a happy life. During “flow”, you are completely absorbed by a task and playing into your strengths. By leaning into these strengths in different aspects of your life (both professional and personal) you can live a more fulfilled and content life

  • Meaning and Purpose: Feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself is a crucial part of feeling fulfilled and that your life has meaning. If you can find your “calling” or be part of a great team that is making a difference, then chances are you will find true happiness

But is happiness itself something we should strive for?

Well happiness and feeling good is actually amazing for our bodies as well as our minds. It lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have negative effects (think heart disease, diabetes etc) on our body if raised in our system for a long time. When researchers have studied happy people, they’ve found that:

  • Happy people are more successful

  • Happy people are better at reaching goals

  • Happy people are healthier

  • Happy people live longer

  • Happy people have better relationships

  • Happy people learn better

Those all sound great, right? So why don’t we all invest time in the pursuit of happiness?

Well it’s seen as something that is “self-indulgent” and doesn’t necessarily lead to improved outcomes. But, as we’ve covered above, this isn’t the case. If you really want to be good at your job, successful in your marriage or the best friend out there, then you should be focusing on your happiness in all senses (not just the pursuit of pleasure).

If you are interested in seeking more joy – then reach out here to find out more about our Happiness Coaching!

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