H is for Happiness
|Author: null null||Published: 8th November 2012 21:23|
Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of travelling.
Margaret Lee Runbeck
For me, this quote sums up a meaningful definition of ‘happiness'. A Thesaursus search I did recently came up with the following synonyms for happiness:-
beatitude, blessedness, bliss, cheer, cheerfulness, cheeriness, content, contentment, delectation, delight, delirium, ecstasy, elation, enchantment, enjoyment, euphoria, exhilaration, exuberance, felicity, gaiety, geniality, gladness, glee, good cheer, good humor, good spirits, hilarity, hopefulness, joviality, joy, jubilation, laughter, lightheartedness, merriment, mirth, optimism, paradise, peace of mind, playfulness, pleasure, prosperity, rejoicing, sanctity, seventh heaven, vivacity, well-being
- which pretty much covers every aspect of feeling good! Some of the words I would associate with ‘joy' as a more transitory emotional state, whereas others reflect an ongoing state of wellbeing or contentment.
However, there is a common argument that if we always aim for ‘happiness' in our lives this may not necessarily be beneficial, and then how do we deal with the inevitable challenges of life such as loss and bereavement. I read an article recently called ‘A Dark Side of Happiness: How, When and Why Happiness is Not Always Good.'
The authors identify a wide range of issues from suggesting that there are important benefits from expressing negative emotions such as anger or sadness, to the fact that a feature of psychopathic behaviour is the absence of such emotions, suggesting that they could be described as ‘happy' about their behaviour.
They also point out that the pursuit of ‘happiness' is mostly associated with increased wealth, status or possessions, and can lead to a good deal of frustration and negativity.
Which brings us back to the thorny question of what do we really mean by ‘happiness'.
Richard Layard, founder of Action for Happiness in the UK, argues that the critics' arguments are based on misunderstanding. How can misery and suffering be considered a desirable state, he says, unless it leads to action to help people feel better about themselves and others?
Across the world governments are starting to take on board the growing body of research into levels of wellbeing in different countries. Although a certain level of economic wealth is necessary, it seems clear that happiness does not increase in relation to GDP. The United Kingdom comes out considerably lower than some South American countries on the wellbeing scales.
So is happiness a ‘state of mind'? Is it a social and political issue? Or is it a world changing philosophy? Does being ‘happy' mean acceptance of the status quo, or can it be a driver on the journey for cultural, social and economic change?
Any thoughts welcome!
In the meantime, click on the link for a diversion into the world of The Happiness Formula' with the BBC.