The Existence of Happiness

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November 15, 2013 by throughwriting

TMR
Psychology 101
15 January 2013

The Existence of Happiness

Virtually all people around the world would like to be happy, but the query some of these folks has is what happiness is. There are different views to look at happiness and it has been an ongoing mentioned topic among psychologists, philosophers, and researchers. Since happiness has a denser definition than the Oxford’s definition, which is “the state of being happy,” there have been manifold psychological and philosophical definitions, explanations and theories for it. One of the definitions is that happiness can be described as having three parts, which are positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. These elements are used interchangeably and can be defined from having different perspectives. Briefly, positive emotion refers to what we feel; engagement refers to how to live a good life in the existence of the current world; and meaning refers to serving something that is bigger than itself (Seligman).  Furthermore, it is vital to know the kinds of happiness, which are brief happiness and durable happiness, and these two types are used variously among people. The majority of people when asked whether they are happy or not state the first type of happiness. In addition to its definition and types, in the rest of this paper, I will be explaining and examining the existence of happiness, and the reasons that have made happiness exist, even though some writers deny its existence.

Happiness is an existential perspective, which means happiness exists until human beings’ existence. It basically means that a person is needed to feel happiness, and the continuity of this person makes happiness last with itself. To understand this, it is essential to understand the relation folks of the world has with each other and the universe. Peoples daily communicate with each other to make themselves well fit with the world and the universe ready for their permanent interaction with it. Surprisingly, almost nobody knows each other’s mood unless he shares what he is thinking of either directly or indirectly by doing joyful activities, showing some gestures or putting a gleeful expression on his face. Besides body language, which might express a little bit about the person’s mood, happiness is invisible if not shared. As Bo Jacobsen states, “The existential approach examines openly and phenomenologically the person’s actual existence, his or her concrete meeting with the world and his or her concrete states of happiness or unhappiness” (44). That is, the continuity of human beings is important for the continuity of happiness. One example of this happiness can be found between couples from the starting point of their relationships until getting married; therefore, it lasts between the individuals. On the contrary, being alone might give a person a brief happiness from having some cheerful temporary activities or jobs. According to Contemporary Research in Business:

The surest route to happiness is quality social relationships. With many today feeling overwhelmed and living through “just in time” schedules where every second is accounted for, resources are scant. If people aim to become happier as effectively and efficiently as possible, then people should put energy into family, friends, romantic partners, and colleagues. Researchers assert that social relationships may be the “greatest single cause” of happiness. In 1992 and 1999, Myers concluded that individuals in close relationships report better physical, mental, and emotional quality of life, as well as more adaptive coping responses to stress and adversity. If people aim to be happy, they should enjoy a latte at Starbucks while catching up with an old buddy. Social relationships matter (Lu et al, 2001)! (Zeinab et al. 662)

In other words, happiness exists but differently among individuals, and it is usually more common among groups or people living together, so human beings’ happiness greatly is linked together. Here, the authors explicitly recommend social relationships is the way to be happy. Hence, because social relationships most likely happen among people, if it is common or not, happiness somehow exists.

Another reason that makes happiness exist is due to its opposition, sadness. It would be plausible to say that almost all the feelings human beings have have antonyms, such as pain and pleasure, love and hate, and others. Not only feelings, but also there are different opposite behaviors humans have like right and wrong behaviors. The existence of which is immensely related to sadness due to the effects sadness makes on the person feeling so. To put it in another way, a person tries to achieve his requirements to get rid of the bad mood in which he is fixed. As a result, he will be seeking for happiness, even if he is not aware of it. People sometimes do not know whether they are happy or sad due to the difficulties to measure happiness and sadness. However, people can differentiate the terms, happiness and sadness, easily. If a person, for instance, is asked how happy you are, he is most likely saying, “I am happy.” According to Eshkol Rafaeli and William Revelle, “Furthermore, in two experiments, we will show that happy and sad as well as more reliable cluster composites representing Positive and Negative Activation can be manipulated separately” (2). The essence of Eshkol and William’s research doest not explicitly state that happiness comes from sadness or any negative states of mind, but it examines the separate ways that manipulate two states of mind, which is happiness and sadness. Some psychologists asserts that “sadness often emphasizes its role in conveying empathy,” and it is responsible for making meaningful relationships that individuals have with the surroundings and to make themselves happy (Robert, Whalen, Seedier, and Shiota). Here, the information stresses one of the elements of Seligman’s definition, which is engagement, living well in the current world, which facilitates by sadness to optimistically interpret the ambiguous behaviors happening in the world.

Seeing the big picture and thinking outside the box are reasons to make happiness exist. Because the world’s productions are increased daily, peoples’ demands are increased at the same time, which determines the needs of individuals. Therefore, individualistic behaviors change enormously and lead the world to become more innovative in different subjects, such as technology, politics, science, and others. Interestingly, these approaches have made people whether they are the innovators, developers or users happy indirectly. The consequence of these hardworking thinkings, despite earning money, is to be happy, which again refers to the Seligman’s definition and makes it relevant. One element of happiness is meaning and according to which gives efforts more than it needs to be happy. Psychologists through experiments have been able to explain the importance of seeing the big picture for happiness and vice versa. Aparna A. Labroo and Vanessa M. Patrick, in their experiments find that participants are “able to perceive the benefits of engaging in activities that provide long-term rewards, consider future activities more important than immediate ones, and adopt whichever abstract goal is accessible” (801). In another word, long-term rewards usually create durable happiness and let almost all the people achieve their goals and continue doing so.

In addition to innovation due to happiness and needs, biologically, human bodies release hormones that are responsible for lessening sadness, if measured, and making a person happy or feel happy. Serotonin, Endorphins, Dopamine, Phenylethamine, and Gherkin are hormones that play great roles in making a person happy differently. For instance, Serotonin is a hormone and it is sometimes called happiness hormone and regulates the mood and depression. Another important and more frequently released hormone, particularly among people exercising is Endorphin (Radwan). As an illustration, the majority of athletics usually are cheerful and the source to be asked while examine happiness. This is greatly due to the hormone a body releases and causes to make durable happiness since the more exercise generally a person does, the more he will be happy. Nevertheless, it is understandable that this is not the main source of happiness. Katherine G. Denny and Hans Steiner from Stanford University School of Medicine extol, “Athletes are often considered to be a paragon of mental health and happiness and could be used to answer questions about the role of health, happiness and adjustment under duress. Yet, they are a fairly understudied population in this regard”(56). By extension, this evidence shows that this part of community is significantly important to examine happiness, and virtually all scientists have been successful to do so due to having physical and emotional ramifications while exercising, which is, I suspect, due to the Endorphin hormone. Furthermore, According to Claudia Wallis’s article in Time Magazine, “Because of the large influence of our genes, Lykken proposed the idea that each of us has a happiness set point much like our set point for body weight. No matter what happens in our life—good, bad, spectacular, horrific—we tend to return in short order to our set range.” That is, I totally agree with Wallis’s point that there are genes not only for body weight but also for happiness, and humankind goes back to happiness after life events, such as good, bad, terrible events and other situations. In sum, happiness exists due to hormones released and to testify this, scientists usually conduct experiments on athletics, and another school of thoughts explains the effects of genes on happiness.

In contrast, it is mentioned, albeit hardly, by a few website authors that happiness does not exist, and happiness is considered to be a subject that cannot be disproven. Also, there is a school of thoughts that compare happiness to God, which cannot be disproven. Conversely, there is a difference between God and happiness, which is God is considered a religious phenomena, whereas happiness, by a general definition, is feeling happy. People can be happy as a consequence of various desirable or undesirable behaviors. Folks usually have goals to achieve to be happy, to get money, or to survive. Therefore, the existence of which again becomes visible, even if it is not literally seen because some introverted people don’t like to share their states of minds. As Denny and Hans states, “Success and the realization of goals seem to be likely causes of individual happiness”(56). That is, having goals is anther way to explain the existence of happiness. Moreover, if happiness did not exist, people would not try to become happier and satisfy with their lives. People use “hundreds of self-help books, motivational speakers, and life coaches whose primary goal is to improve subjective well-being” (Oishi, Diener, and Lucas 346) to become happier and enjoy their lives.

To sum up, since the creation of the universe, human beings have been trying to find new methods to determine the characteristics of themselves and how they feel. There are various definitions of happiness that are made by looking through different points of views. Psychologists have not prioritized the best one, yet according to Seligman, a pioneer of “happiology,” happiness has three elements, positive emotion, engagement, and meaning, which connect all the reasons of the existence of happiness. Moreover, To explain happiness and the reasons of its existence, psychologists have been conducting empirical experiments. In my perspective, happiness exists due to sadness, hormones released by human bodies, having goals, seeing the big picture, and is an existential perspective. Sadness is the opposite of happiness, which means a person is able to distinguish between happiness and sadness. It is said that almost happy situations come from miserable situations or situations that need some kind of efforts, which highly makes a person to achieve his goals whether to be happy, get money, or get a job done. Hormones, such as Serotonin, Endorphins, are crucial to make a person happy. This experiment has been conducted on athletics due to their weekly exercising. More to the point, some writers declare that happiness does not exist because it cannot be seen whether it is a true happiness or not. Admittedly, I think and believe that happiness exists, even though it is for a short time because I’ve realized that having been sad for a few days, eventually happiness makes me say that “I am happy,” despite sad moments because it is the nature and nurture of human beings that make you feel like that.

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Works Cited

Denny, Katherine G., and Hans Steiner. “External And Internal Factors Influencing Happiness In Elite Collegiate Athletes.” Child Psychiatry And Human Development 40.1 (2009): 55-72. ERIC. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

“Happiness.” Oxford Advanced American Dictionary, Web. 14 Jan. 2013.

Jacobsen, Bo. “What Is Happiness?” Existential Analysis: Journal Of The Society For Existential Analysis 18.1 (2007): 39-50. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Jan. 2013.

Labroo, Aparna A., and Vanessa M. Patrick. “Psychological Distancing: Why Happiness Helps You See The Big Picture.” Journal Of Consumer Research 35.5 (2009): 800-809. Business Source Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

Oishi, Shigehiro, Ed Diener, and Richard E. Lucas. “The Optimum Level Of Well-Being: Can People Be Too Happy?” Perspectives On Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell) 2.4 (2007): 346-360. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.

Seligman, Martin E.P. “Using the New Positive Psychology.” Authentic Happiness. N.p., Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Jan. 2013.

Radwan, Farouk. “The Ultimate Source for Understanding Yourself and Others.” Hormones That Make You Happy. 2knowmyself, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

Rafaeli, Eshkol, and William Revelle. “A Premature Consensus: Are Happiness And Sadness Truly Opposite Affects?” Motivation & Emotion 30.1 (2006): 1-12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

Robert W. Levenson, et al. “Greater Sadness Reactivity In Late Life.” Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience 6.2 (2011): 186-194. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

Wallis, Claudia. “The New Science of Happiness.” Time. Time, 09 Jan. 2005. Web. 20 Jan. 2013.

Zeinab Rostami, et al. “What Is Happiness?” Interdisciplinary Journal Of Contemporary Research In Business 3.12 (2012): 660-667. Business Source Complete. Web. 12 Jan. 2013.

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