What is happiness?

Since I starting researching happiness it has become more apparent to me that we all define and rate happiness differently.

A Google search, ‘what is happiness?’ brings up results that show that the answer to this question has stretched the brains of many over time and still defines a single definition.

Wikipedia tells us that:

“Happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being.”


Wikipedia goes on to acknowledge that the definition of happiness is the subject of debate.

By the way, in doing this research I learnt a new word, eudaimonia, don’t ask me how to say it, but it is a Greek word that translates to ‘flourishing’. I like it. But I can’t think of any way I would use it in a sentence other than how I have done so here.

The Oxford Dictionary defines happiness as ‘the state of being happy’. (Um – duh).

OK. So what does that mean? Not all that helpful. Back to the dictionary and this time searching for ‘happy’. Now Oxford gives us a little bit more information, ‘Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.’ This is a better description but it is still quite limited.

No matter how you try to define it, in doing so you limit it, or the description of it. Someone else’s description of the feeling they have of happiness may not match our own or anyone else’s.

Happiness is our own personal perception and therefore unique to each of us.

Perception is a whole other rabbit hole to disappear down and a very interesting one too. Basically, none of us can understand exactly how another ‘sees’ any situation. Both literally and figuratively. It depends so much on factors that can be different for each of us. From our eyesight to our experiences and expectations.

So, it now makes more sense why the definition of happiness remains under debate. Its meaning can’t be summarised in words that would satisfy everyone.

It is interesting though, to look at the words we use to describe happiness. Also, the different ways we see to get to happiness, and things we say and believe that bring us happiness.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at the different ways we define happiness for ourselves. We’ll also look at how those definitions can both help us and hinder us to find our own happiness.

How do you define happiness?

Tell me in the comments below.

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Megan Ruffino
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