What is Happiness?
What is Happiness?
There are considerable amount of questions to ask about the true meaning of happiness and dozens of different definitions. With all this confusion surrounding happiness, is it possible to achieve happiness in our lives? Perception as they say “is in the eye of the beholder. ” Happiness is an emotion developed by consequences of choices and through learned life experiences. Believing that happiness is characterized by a pleasant emotion, ranging from a simple smiling to intense joy would be missing the true meaning of happiness.
These characteristics may be true of happiness, but this as the only definition is too vague. Happiness is judged by a wide range of physical emotion, it is judged by actions which bring us to the point of feeling happy. There are triggers that lead to different levels of happiness and those triggers are just as important as the emotion itself. Jamie R. Woods, an Education Teacher, brings out a very good example in her article “Achievement as a Side Effect of Happiness.
” She suggests that when people have control of the decisions they make about their education, they showed higher levels of satisfaction and happiness. When they made their own choices they felt like they achieved their goal and in combination, achievement was the trigger for feeling happy. Through daily decision making processes we tend to select the course of action which will make us the happiest. My father always took the long way home from work because he found greater satisfaction when taking the scenic route.
He would always have a good story about what he saw on the way home and it was simple to see his decision directly affected his happiness. There is a fine line between choices increasing the level of happiness and what the costs of those decisions have on happiness. In today’s world, there can be far too many choices to make and it can directly affect our happiness. Psychologist Barry Schwartz establishes during his presentation “The Paradox of Choice” that when people exercise the freedom of having too many choices, it lowers contentment because of unrealistic expectations.
In his tests he found that people would second guess their choices they made because they feared that they did not choose the best available option. This lessened the overall satisfaction they felt from being able to choose. They found themselves disappointed with the choice they made. This was an interesting observation because one would think that more choices there are the better off we will be. Although he proved that there could be difficulties in the choices we make every day we still tend to choose what will make us the happiest. Choosing to be happy is not as easy as it appears.
Life experiences helps sort out the abundance choices we make to guide us closer to achieving happiness. We have an unbelievable amount of choices to make that will guide us toward our expectations of happiness. Barry Schwartz suggests that “the more choices you have the less likely you are to choose and the less satisfied you are after making your choice. ” If eating pizza makes us happy because it’s the most delicious thing you have ever tasted, will it not be as enjoyable if there are too many choices of toppings to put on that pizza?
Although there may be many choices to make when ordering your pizza, you already have decided which toppings are possibilities because of your previous experiences from eating pizza. Happiness was acquired by a positive end result; delicious pizza as expected. When people get what they want they are happy and when they don’t they have mixed emotions. Dan Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, presented a discussion about “The surprising science of happiness. ” His discussion primarily focused on the differences of synthetic happiness and natural happiness.
Dan argues that, “natural happiness is when we get what we wanted and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we want. ” His argument is that people will logically change their views of the world to meet their expectations of happiness. One of his talking points is how our brains are “experience simulators,” and we change our views of the world around us to meet our idea of happiness. People can relate to this even in the most dismal situation. When we don’t win, human nature tries to find something positive to connect with the event to better understand what is going on.
Positive spins put on undesirable events creates synthetic happiness. After failing miserably we hear ourselves saying “It’s not that bad or I’ll do better next time. ” This is a classic example of how we try to change the experience form unhappy to happy and synthetic happiness helps us accept the things we cannot change. Learning to deal with our expectations of happiness and adjusting them to the environment, it is easier to predict possible outcomes without actually trying them. This process demonstrates how personal growth has shaped us over time to a better understanding happiness.
As we mature we learn that happiness is more than immediate gratification. Happiness is a result of experiences we have been molding for ourselves all our lives. There are many forces which drive our quest to achieve happiness and understanding how to use choices to get there is half the battle. Sometimes happiness is difficult to achieve, but happiness is a wonderful emotion that all humans at some point seek in their lives. No matter how simple or complex you view of happiness is, you have learned how to feel it, see it and taste it and choose it.
It has been a journey of developing experiences that shapes what you know about happiness. Next time happiness touches your life, ponder how choice affected the outcome. Work cited Gilbert, Dan. “The Surprising Science of Happiness” Youtube. com, Google, Sep. 2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. Schwartz, Barry. “The Paradox of Choice. ” Youtube. com, Google, 16 Jan. 2007. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. Wood, Jaime. “Achievement as a Side Effect of Happiness. ” Dreamschoolcommons. org, Dream School Commons. 22 June 2012. Web. 9 Oct. 2012.