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What Is Happiness?

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
- Abraham Lincoln

Happiness and unhappiness are opposite sides of a judgement about your situation. If you judge your situation as bad for you, that's unhappiness. If you judge a situation as good for you, that's happiness.

The experience of happiness is one of those general terms we use to say, "I feel good emotionally." People use different terms to describe what feels good for them. For someone it might be excitement, passion, exhilaration, fulfillment, freedom, feeling fully alive with inspiration and joy. For another it might be more peaceful, content, capable, hopeful, satisfied, and comfortable feeling. Whatever you call it, it just feels darn good.

Our natural state of being is to be happy. When you remove all the uncomfortable emotions we humans can experience (and they are numerous), you're left with happiness. So it's easiest to define happiness by what it is not.

Happiness is what you feel when you're NOT feeling....

self doubt
depressed
hateful
fearful
worried
unsatisfied
bored
grief
shame
guilt
discontent
anxious
annoyed
angry
irritated
stressed
frustrated
upset
down
sad
envious
or
jealous.

Whew! That's a long list!

Pleasure vs. Happiness

Happiness is not pleasure although they can appear similar. Pleasure is enjoyment of an outside stimuli. You might find pleasure in buying a new car, or in going on vacation, or having friends over for dinner, or having sex, or....the list is long on what you might enjoy experiencing. Pleasure requires an external stimuli for you to experience it. Happiness does not. Happiness is a belief about yourself and the outside world. You can be doing something you normally experience as pleasurable but not be happy! Pleasure is born from the external world, happiness is born from the internal workings of our own minds.


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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 6). What Is Happiness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/relationships/creating-relationships/what-is-happiness

Last Updated: August 6, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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