What’s your definition of happiness? Research in the field of positive psychology and happiness often define a happy person as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger.
Happiness has also been said to relate to life satisfaction, appreciation of life, moments of pleasure, but overall it has to do with the positive experience of emotions.
The key to these definitions is that positive emotions do not indicate the absence of negative emotions. A “happy person” experiences the spectrum of emotions just like anybody else, but the frequency by which they experience the negative ones may differ.
It could be that “happy people” don’t experience as much negative emotion because they process it differently or they may find meaning in a way others have not.
In fact, using the phrase “happy person” is probably incorrect because it assumes that they are naturally happy or that positive things happen to them more often. Nobody is immune to life’s stressors, but the question is whether you see those stressors as moments of opposition or moments of opportunity.
Regardless of where you are on the happiness spectrum, each person has their own way of defining happiness. Philosophers, actors, politicians, and everybody in between have all weighed in on their own view of happiness. Read some of our favorite definitions below and let us know what resonated with you.
The ancient Greeks defined happiness as:
“Happiness is the joy that we feel when we’re striving after our potential.”
Shirley MacLaine, Academy Award winner, said:
“To be happy, you have to be willing to be compliant with not knowing.”
Michael J. Fox said:
“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”
Gabrielle Bernstein, author, said:
“Choosing happiness is the path of least resistance.”
“Happiness is a state of activity.”
Dr. Shefali Tsabary, psychologist and author, said:
“Only when we fill our own need and feel satiated from within can we truly be fulfilled and happy.”
What’s great about all these definitions is that commonalities start emerging. Shirley MacLaine and Michael J. Fox tell us to accept life’s situations and to accept uncertainty as a natural part of life. And the greater we are able to do that, the greater we can lean into happiness.
Mastin Kipp tells us it’s ok to not strive to be happy, but accept whatever we’re feeling. He hints at an important concept, which is that we so often try to fix things and get to be “happy” or “at peace” or “over a situation,” but sometimes we need to acknowledge what we’re feeling (whatever that is).
What you often find is that acknowledgement will allow you to move into the “happy space” more quickly because your emotions aren’t trying to get your attention. Your emotions aren’t screaming at you, telling you that you’re sad or angry. You’ve already begun the work of processing it.