What Is Happiness?

Happiness can be an elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have long sought to define it. And since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning down and propagating the science of merry bliss. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment.

A growing body of research also suggests that happiness can improve your physical health; feelings of positivity and fulfillment seem to benefit cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things. Happiness has even been linked to a longer lifespan as well as a higher quality of life and well-being.

Attaining happiness is a global pursuit. Researchers find that people from every corner of the world rate happiness more important than other desirable personal outcomes, such as obtaining wealth, acquiring material goods, and getting into heaven. 

How to Be Happy

Happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be. So do individual ways of thinking and expressing feelings. Research shows that much of happiness is under personal control.

Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction.


Gratitude, Habit Formation

Does Money Make You Happier?

Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point; money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—shelter, food, and clothing. However, research from the journal Nature Human Behavior shows that the sweet spot for yearly income is between $60,000 and $95,000 a year, not a million-dollar salary. Earnings above the $95,000 breaking point do not equate to increased well-being; a person earning $150,000 a year will not be necessarily as happy as a person earning less. Happiness also levels off, just as the hedonic treadmill shows us—people return to their set point of well-being no matter how high or low moods rise or dip.


Hedonic Treadmill

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