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Concept of Happiness

Happiness is such a complex term that it doesn’t have any specific definition as it varies depending on the context. It holds different meanings for every individual. We, humans, have various levels and concepts of happiness in different stages of our lives. Like an infant receiving the right amount of attention and affection, or even being carried in his mother’s arms is happiness for him. And as that infant grows into a toddler, maybe getting his favourite little toy is happiness for him. When he starts going to school, probably topping his maths exam would be happiness for him. Reaching his teenage years, getting his desired college or pursuing his dream degree can be happiness for him. When this young man turns into a proper adult, maybe getting his dream job is his source of happiness. And then marrying the love of his life, having his kids around, and watching them grow can be happiness for him then. Well! At the final stage i.e.Old age the concept of happiness for him might be just wanting to die and leave for his heavenly abode. While we grow as humans, our desires and source of happiness also keep on changing.


Happiness and its Psychological Concepts

There are two main psychological concepts regarding happiness. They are:

  • Hedonic Level of Affect (Affective Component)- Hedonic level of effect is about how satisfactory one feels. In simpler terms, the extent to which positive affect generally overshadows negative affect. Imagine winning an award or an unexpected lottery prize, can you think of that elevated level of happiness at that time? Can you feel your dopamine levels increasing to a different tier? Well!  According to psychologists, all this is temporary and you tend to return to your prior levels of happiness once the newness of the experience fades away.

  • Contentment (Cognitive Component)- Contentment is the driving force for happiness. When you are content with the present, you are allowed to let go of occasionally bitter longings for what you can’t have. As a consequence, acknowledgement follows. Consequently, when you accept your circumstance, you are enabling yourself to be happy and content.


The Five Major Elements of Happiness

Martin Seligman, who is a psychologist, an author and advocate of the concept of positive psychology, in his book “Flourish”, specifies five major elements of happiness. Those are:  


  • Positive Emotion – How happy have you felt lately? How many happy memories have you created? How many moments of contentment have you felt?


  • Engagement Have you been truly engaged and immersed in what you are working out? How many times has time flown as you’ve been lost in an exercise?


  • Relationships – How much time have you spent relishing yourself with your family and friends? How frequently did you talk to your extended family on the phone, catch up with friends or colleagues or r with your kids and spouse?


  • Meaning – Do you think your life has significance and contributes positively in some or the other way to someone or something? And does that meaning provide you fulfilment and pleasure?


  • Accomplishment – Can you look back at your aspirations and feel proud and delighted with the outcome and your inputs and contributions to them? Do you go to bed at night appeased with your day’s achievements? Are you proceeding in life in some manner?


Incorporating these elements into your life and enriching them will certainly make your life better and happier. Ask these questions to yourself and you’ll be surprised to know how in the tiniest of the things you can extract happiness. So sit back, take out your pen and paper and write down answers to these questions.

The Four Levels of Happiness

There are various ranges or better say levels of different emotions you feel. The same case is with happiness. Do you know there are four levels of happiness?

Level 1: Pleasure

The first level of happiness involves the basic operators in your life — bodily pleasure and abrupt contentment. This aspect of happiness is considerably short-lived and superficial. For instance, a savoury feast or even listening to your favourite music playlist. Being stuck at the first level of happiness is a continuous rollercoaster of striving for pleasure in momentary fascinations. 

Level 2: Passion

Being passionate about something is an outstanding source of happiness. 

Passion is required to attain self-confidence however it is often based on a desire to appease your ego. Well! If you get stuck at Level 2, you may come to be obsessed with succeeding so much that you start to feel the necessity to keep others low. This category of happiness is not sustainable.

Level 3: Purpose

When you believe your abilities and skills enable you to serve others and are a part of something huge, this can bestow you with a feeling of purpose and long-term happiness. We, humans, look for meaning in our lives. Deeper, intense and longer-lasting happiness thrives as you bring a positive change in the world.

Level 4: Ultimate Good

The fourth level of happiness is an essential desire we possess as humans for perfect sensibility, sincerity, beauty and affection. Most people discover this form of happiness through their religious and spiritual moralities. This level of happiness is often deemed to be the most lasting and profound.

Aristotle and His Definition of Happiness

Aristotle described “eudaimonia” as the purpose of human belief and action. Eudaimonia is often interpreted to signify happiness. Aristotle’s aim of the term in Nicomachean Ethics broadens beyond the widespread sense of happiness.

In the Nicomachean Ethics which was written in 350 BCE, Aristotle stated that happiness is the only facet that humans wish for their well-being. For Aristotle, the term eudaimonia is an activity instead of an emotion. The fundamental question Aristotle strives to resolve is “What is the ultimate purpose of human existence?”. Many people crave pleasure, fitness, and a decent status. These surely have an importance, but none of them can acquire the spot of the tremendous good for which humanity intends. 

Therefore Aristotle provides us with his explanation of happiness:​

The function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul by virtue.”

Another vital characteristic of Aristotle’s theory is the connection between the notions of happiness and virtue. He says that the most crucial aspect in the endeavour to accomplish happiness is to maintain a good moral virtue — what he names “complete virtue.” But being virtuous is not a modest state, one must behave in congruence with virtue. Nor is it sufficient to have a few virtues; instead one must aspire to acquire all of them.

About this Aristotle writes,

He is happy who lives by complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life”.


Happiness and its Relation to Morality

The philosophy of happiness is frequently debated in intersection with morality. This was correlated with the execution of a particular sort of role in a distinct way of social life. Happiness continues to be a complicated term for moral ideology. Over the history of moral philosophy, there has been a jiggle between efforts to interpret morality in terms of aftermaths steering to happiness and struggles to interpret morality in terms that have nothing to do with happiness at all.

The concept of happiness has its different ranges. It can never be one specified generalised definition. Terms like “love”, and “life” can never be the same for everybody, similarly “happiness” also depends on how one perceives it. Happiness is an abstract idea, you can just feel it. The way you feel it or the manner you conceptualise it by your perceptions solely depends on you.

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