Happiness is the Meaning
Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence (Aristotle). That much can be agreed upon by the majority of the world. We as humans seek happiness and self satisfaction. But just what is this happiness we strive to achieve? Philosophers, psychologists, and other great minds have pondered this very question since as far back as ancient Greece. If one was to ask a person from India what it means to be happy, his opinion would be completely different than people from Germany, Iceland, and Mexico. One can even base this notion of joy to be different amongst the individual, that we all have our own ideologies and beliefs surrounding what makes us happy. So how do we seek something that has no clear definition? Happiness and its effects on people can be explained from a psychological stance, a cultural viewpoint, and a deeper look within oneself to better understand what it means to be happy’.
Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized (G.K. Chesterton). Happiness from a psychological point of view, as well as most topics in psychology, is extremely suggestive. Psychologist investigated ways that make people happier. Many believe a simple key to increase joy is through small, often looked over, rewards to our neurological system. These rewards include things such as a receiving letter from a loved one, a smile while walking down the street, and other unexpected small acts of kindness. This is why most companies hand out free samples or trials. While getting their brand out there and giving a chance to people to try their product, they also know that samples increase happiness to the patron. This in turns makes people associate happiness with their brand, making them more likely to purchase their product. Other ways psychologists and companies work together is in proper marketing. An example of this is using red and yellow, two colors which invoke hunger to the mind, for food companies. Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut, and other large chains use these primary colors for advertisement.
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How it works
A huge task assigned to psychologists is to calculate the exact amount of happiness from a population. But how does one measure happiness’? Psychologists’ answer to this is the Cantril ladder scale. The test is very simple. Subjects are told to imagine a ladder with the steps numbered zero to ten, with zero being on the lowest step. They are then told to imagine the best and worst life possible, and place the worst possible life on the bottom step, and the best possible life on the top step. Next, participants are asked to choose where their life would fall on the ladder currently. Lastly, they are asked where they think they will be in five years. This test has been given in a hundred and fifty different nations. The test showed across the world those who placed their lives at seven or above are shown to have a constantly improving and a healthy lifestyle, including a successful careers, low stress, and low anger. Those who placed lower on the ladder, between four and seven, showed to have an inconsistent lifestyle and were shown to worry more financially than those above on the scale. And on the lower end on the spectrum, those below four, are more likely to have unsuitable living conditions and struggle with hunger and disease. These are consistent trends seen across all nations included in this study. But how does these statistics stand up against the difference between cultures?
Happiness from a cultural viewpoint seems to be a generally broad spectrum, ranging between materialistic importance to spiritualistic values. Most Americans would say success, family, and other high stimulant activities lead to a happy life, while in Japanese and Chinese cultures would say social harmony, peace of mind, and other low stimulant activities are the key to happiness. Some cultures value war and other acts of violence, such as ancient Mongolians believed a man is not a man unless they have experienced warfare. Cultures also branch out from just countries. Some such cultures include the anti-government movements of hippies back in the 70’s. They believed that humanity should be at peace, and to pull soldiers out of Vietnam. Their happiness stemmed off of mass groups of individuals coming together to peacefully interact with one another.
Looking back through time, ancient Greece and ancient China associated happiness with good fortune, believing everything great in one’s life can be summed up to the fortune of the gods and general luck. In an overall view of these cultural beliefs on being happy, it can almost be summed up to a handful of points. Self acceptance, for one, can be defined as an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself (Shepard ca. 1979). People must be comfortable with themselves before they can go out into their own world and thrive. People generally read people who are self conscious as weak and timid. This in turns make people not accept individuals who cannot even see worth in themselves. The same principle applies for relationships.
Both genders seek a partner who can support them in certain ways. If a person who has no self confidence, people will internally think, If they don’t even think they are good enough, then I will not take a chance on them to enter in a relationship. This attitude seems shallow, but it in fact is the deepest part of our instinct. It also seems humans, being social creatures, thrive on social connections and the compassion of others, no matter where they’re from or what time in history. Lastly, one of the most easily recognisable example of happiness is living a purposeful and meaningful life. Even though the definition of this changes depending on where you live and the people that surround you, humans are always seeking greater fortune and status. In certain cultures, wealth is an easy sign of a successful life. It shows people that a person has achieved goals, and work hard to reach them. Other cultures believe that working for charities and other groups that support less fortunate groups lead to a meaningful life. Yet all this would be meaningless without a personal, individual view of joy.
An incredible misconception in today’s world is a negative or positive correlation between money and happiness. Neither can be backed by tests or studies. So why are there the rich who live happy and fulfilling lives, while coexisting with the rich who are depressed and dismayed? The answer is a simple as their internal perception of happiness. If a person can’t appreciate the simplest of gifts in life, than they will never be happy (Mackanic ca. 2018.). So to what degree does one’s happiness fall onto the responsibility of perspective? Think of happiness as a running stream of water and humanley perception on happiness as the floodgates. Sometimes the river flows heavy and enough water is let through to be a healthy amount. Other times the same river runs poorly, but with proper functioning of the floodgates, can be enough to sustain.
Although a vast amount of responsibility relieves on the stream, or happiness, there is responsibility on the floodgates, our perception, to properly handle the happiness that flows into our lives. If one is to keep the gates open all or majority of the time, too much would come through, leaving times where it doesn’t come as strong to be seemingly drastically terrible. If one is to keep it closed all or most of the time, than even strong moments of joy can never be registered properly, thus leaving people with a sense of depression. The key is to manage this flow of joy coming at us all the time. Sometimes, people must restrict how happy we become by not being too greedy and demanding too much from the world. Other times, people should seek happiness, and demand more for themselves, as happiness should be a right granted to everybody.
The key element to this variation of joy is moderation. People must understand that with the highs of life comes the lows. As author C. S. Lewis would put it, The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal. To dig deeper into this quote, one must understand just how pain and suffering is linked to joy and happiness. Take the passing of a family member, a truly tragic experience. It is fully acceptable to mourn the loss of a love one. But with that needs to be the acceptance that the feeling of loss, is in fact the same feeling of love and happiness the person was once gifted to them. People should not mourn the loss of people, but honor the joy they have received from them while they were alive. If one can truly understand this, than pain and depression seems a little more bearable. One can also learn to appreciate these seemingly necessities in life a little more, for what is here today, might just be gone tomorrow.
With all the perspectives of happiness, and the search for a united truth to it, there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding this complex emotion. One could even say that there is no real definition of happiness. The feeling of joy can arguably be broken down to various chemicals released in the brain, motivating us to perform actions that advance our life for the better by rewarding us with boosts of joyfulness.
These chemicals can also cause an imbalance, which is the cause of extensive depressive states and other mental disorders. In this sense, joy, amongst other emotions can’t possibly be real. To accept this notion is to denounce every feeling a human has ever felt. While it may be true that these emotions do elevate our moods, it is really the bodily response from said chemicals that gives us feelings. The body perceives an event, then those chemicals are released, and lastly the body experiences the proper emotion for the event. Therefore, the chemicals just simply allow the body to feel the right sensation for the exact feeling. No matter how we perceive the mystery of happiness, it is a uniting sentiment, one that can bring people across the globe together stronger than any other emotion. Humans should strive to not only secure happiness for ourselves, but to also secure it for generations to come. As for now, people will always fight for their right of happiness, no matter what that might mean to them.
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