What it means to be happy

I recently read a great book by Jonathan Haidt (a positive psychology professor at the University of Virginia) called The Happiness Hypothesis.  The book discusses what defines happiness and what it looks like, as well as what makes us happy as individuals. Haidt uses ancient wisdom from several of the world’s civilizations to understand happiness.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it cleared my way on discovering what it means to be happy. I think he did a great job using positive psychology and lessons from previous generations to help us understand happiness. Sure there are many things and people that can make us happy.

For example, reaching a goal or buying something new makes one happy, most of the time; but, this happiness is only temporary since it wears off as the time progresses. If you get a new car, after awhile you get used to it and it doesn’t necessarily make you happy as it did the first day that you bought it. In marriage, we all go through moments when we are really happy with our partner but there are definitely days where it is hard to get along with your partner. In this case, the “in love” feeling that we feel in the beginning of a relationship is only temporary and it is soon replaced by a different kind of love, a stronger love that couples develop over years. As we grow together, have children, go through thick and thin, love takes on different meanings. Many fail to recognize the different kinds of love and they feel that they have “lost” the spark in their relationship. Usually, the person feeling that the magic is gone is the one to file for divorce or start creating problems in the marriage. They think that because the spark is no longer there, that their partner might not be the “one” for them. During this stage in marriage, many commit adultery and ultimately separate from their partners. However, those who make it through such rough patches, usually come out stronger and happier. We cannot all be happy 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and personally I feel many couples forget that and expect perfect romances all of their lives.

Heidt also points out a very interesting concept about the level of happiness that we feel. He states that we all have a default or genetical happiness that we feel, which is our center point. Some days we are more happy than others, sometimes even months go by that we feel extreme happiness, but as we get used to our new circumstances (whatever made us happy in the first place), then we go back to our default level of happiness. For example, you got a new house and you are really happy in your new life and your new home. it is everything you ever wanted and you feel as if you wouldn’t want anything else. Years might go by, maybe just a few months, and you will get used to your new house and your new life, and you go back to your default happiness level. Ultimately, there are some things that make us more happy than we normally are, but eventually that moment wears off and we go back to our normal happy. He goes into more details of this concept, I do recommend reading the books, it will open up your mind to happiness and love in ways that you have not thought of before.

We all constantly search for meaning of happiness and strive to reach a certain level of happiness and love in our lives. We work hard in our careers to reach some success level to make us happy. We look for partners to share life with us to make us happy. We have children, spend time with family, earn money, and do whatever else we have to in order to achieve some level of happiness, whatever happiness means to you. However, it is not as easy as it might seem and this book discussed just that. Personally, this was a great book to get me started on understanding the meaning of happiness.

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