What Makes You Happy: Exploring the Psychological Foundation of Happiness

What Makes You Happy: Exploring the Psychological Foundation of Happiness

A mother laughing with her daughter

The feeling of holding a trophy on stage when everyone is applauding for you in a large hall, getting admission in the educational institution you have been longing for, greeting selected for your dream job, and receiving your favorite flowers or gifts from loved ones. Have you ever considered the emotions you go through in these life-changing events? What is this state of emotion called? Why do I feel positive when someone praises my efforts? Happiness is a state of emotional well-being that encompasses living a meaningful life. It’s an emotion that is represented by a “smile”, a facial expression. Happiness can be distinguished from other positive emotions such as interest, excitement, and affection, and also from negative emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness.

Happiness as a conceptual idea has similar grounds of understanding across the globe. There are five basic emotions, namely sadness, happiness, fear, anger, and disgust. Happiness is a basic emotion that cannot be broken down into more fundamental emotions, however, it can be combined to form more complex emotions such as loving including the emotion of happiness it.

Why Are Psychologists Interested in the Basic Emotion of Happiness?

The rising body of research on happiness has two main drivers. First, happiness is ranked as the top priority for most people. It excels at gaining money and maintaining good health in the list of important things to be achieved in life. Every layman is curious to know how to be happy and psychologists can work with them to attain this goal. Secondly, it contributes to a deeper comprehension of human nature. Every human being is drawn towards things that provide pleasure and avoid things that result in pain.

What is Happiness?

Kringelbach and Berridge (2010) assert that happiness is difficult to define and challenging to measure. Building resources and expanding one’s thinking, according to Barbara Fredrickson (1998), is one of the main purposes of happiness. People want to become and remain happy which means the absence of pain and displeasure and experience of a strong positive feeling of pleasure according to Freud (1930). Happiness has two concepts given by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle: Hedonia and Eudaimonia.

  1. Hedonia is defined as tracking pleasure over pain, an individual feeling relaxed and away from problems is said to be “happy” (Ryan & Deci, 2001). In other words, pleasant and unpleasant experiences of life are considered Hedonia according to Kahneman (1999). Thus, pleasure is a crucial component of happiness. It is associated with experiencing enjoyment, fulfilling desires, doing self-care, and feeling a sense of satisfaction.
  2. Eudaimonia is a well-lived sense of life that is developed from an individual’s virtues and strength (Norrish & Vella-Brodrick, 2008). Another important component is the feeling that your life has value, purpose, and meaning. The concept of self-actualization, which Maslow defined as the need to realize one’s full potential, as well as Carl Rogers’s idea of a fully functional individual who is capable of performing to their potential, form the foundation of eudaimonia.

    Therefore, happiness is an emotional state that is characterized by the feeling of joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. As happiness is a broadly defined term, psychologists use the term “subjective well-being”. It focuses on an individual’s overall personal feelings and emotional state at the present moment in life. A feeling of more positive than negative
Theories of Happiness
1. Aristotle

    Other than describing the two components of happiness. Aristotle characterizes happiness, related phenomena to be positive. And people who are happy tend to experience positive emotions. Happiness is, in general, an emotion, but it also contains a cognitive component. For instance, when you think of any happy memory you feel positive about that event and my life.

    2. Need and goal satisfaction theories

    Research shows a correlation between goals and happiness. Setting a challenging but not unachievable goal is crucial as it makes people experience happiness. Even if there are set-backs in achieving that goal. Happiness acts as a shield to negative effect because these setbacks are seen as temporary. However, many people think that it is an outcome rather than a tool to achieve a goal. Therefore, it is a result of meeting fundamental human needs and striving to achieve goals.

    3. Positive psychology and happiness

    Positive psychology introduces the concept of happiness through the authentic Happiness Theory. People start to live in accordance with their “signature strengths” as they become conscious of and own their personal strengths, claims Seligman (2002). It is the central assumption of positive psychology. Positive emotions that come from happiness are a sign of flourishing. Thus, positive psychology defines flourishing through the PERMA model given by Seligman. The model consists of 5 domains: P= Positive emotion, E= Engagement, R= Relationship, M= Meaning, A= Accomplishment.

    4. Flow theory

    Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow states that flow is the condition of involvement that offers the road to happiness. A peak of experiences happens when a person is engrossed in a difficult challenge that is intrinsically motivating.

    Myths of Happiness

    People believe that happiness will come when they reach a particular milestone, such as landing their dream career or making six figures. It’s a misconception that once people attain a goal they have been chasing for years, it would make them happy for the rest of their lives, but they then look for another, which is their baseline for happiness. Another myth is that happy people are always happy. It’s not true that happy people also experience other emotions of anger, sadness, fear etc. However, their outlook towards life remains optimistic in nature. They feel that they can deal with the discomfort that is currently in their life.

    Signs of Happiness

    It’s an emotion which, can vary from person to person in terms of experiences. There are some signs that psychologists, in particular look for while assessing and measuring happiness. These are:

    • Being satisfied with life
    • Feeling more positive emotions than negative
    • Going with the flow of life
    • Being open to new experiences and ideas
    • Practicing self-care
    • Feeling that you are living a life you want to
    • Enjoying healthy relationships with others
    Why is Happiness So Important?

    According to research, it has a favorable impact on both physical and mental health. It is a positive motion that increases an individual’s satisfaction with life. It serves as an emotional resource and aids in developing strong coping mechanisms. Positive feeling also increases resilience which helps in stress management and prepares us to face setbacks. Our eating behaviors are greatly influenced by our emotions. According to studies, persons who are in a good mood eat a balanced diet of nutritious foods and engage in regular experiences.

    Additionally, it boosts the body’s defense mechanisms. It has an impact on physical as well as on mental health. Research suggests that it has an impact on an individual’s success in life. Thus, success not only brings happiness, but the person who is happy also has a higher chances of achieving success. A study conducted by Koopmans et al (2010) found happiness to be a component of success in life. The feeling of positivity and fulfillment. It has been linked to higher quality of life and longer life span.

    It is a fundamental emotion that is noticeable to everyone. Hedonic and Eudaimonia are two different aspects of happiness, where Hedonic is the feeling of joy in life and Eudaimonia the pursuit of virtue and significance in life. As a result, it is a personal feeling also referred to as “subjective well-being” by psychologists as it is difficult to define and measure it. To explain it, there are many different theoretical angles. Numerous other misconceptions, such as the idea that it must be attained, are widespread among people. According to research, it has a beneficial effect on one’s physical and mental health, success and life accomplishments, immune system, and satisfaction.

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