The True Meaning & Secrets of Happiness
To start let’s do some clarifications on what happiness is …. exactly….
I am using several sources for these definitions, as sometimes they will include more information,
however I will only post the additions from the first definition to keep repetition at a minimum.
The Basic meaning of Happiness according to the following references are:
hap·pi·ness [hap-ee-nis] noun
1. the quality or state of being happy.
2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Origin: 1520–30; happy + -ness
Related forms: o·ver·hap·pi·ness, noun
Synonyms: 1, 2. pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction.
Happiness, bliss, contentment, felicity imply an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction.
Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good: the happiness of visiting one’s family.
Bliss is unalloyed happiness or supreme delight: the bliss of perfect companionship.
Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires, even though every wish may not have been gratified:
contentment in one’s surroundings.
Felicity is a formal word for happiness of an especially fortunate or intense kind: to wish a young couple felicity in life.
This source has several links each detailing specific areas:
Haybron, Dan, “Happiness”,
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
The list of authors & scholars in this Bibliography is staggering, ranging alphabetically from A-W!
Listed here are but a few from the top of the list:
Alexandrova, A.; D. M. Haybron; Almeder, R.; Angner, E.;
Annas, J.; Argyle, M.; Barrow, R.; Belliotti, R. A.; Benditt, T. M.;
Biswas-Diener, R.; J. Vittersø; E. Diener; Block, N.; Bok, D.; Bok, S.;
Boniwell, I.; S. David; Bortolotti, L.; Brandt, R. B.; Brülde, B.; Carson, T. L.; ETC….
Quoted here is the opening paragraph of this particular website & a visit to read more is recommended.
“There are roughly two philosophical literatures on “happiness,” each corresponding to a different sense of the term.
One uses ‘happiness’ as a value term, roughly synonymous with well-being or flourishing.
The other body of work uses the word as a purely descriptive psychological term, akin to ‘depression’ or ‘tranquility’.
An important project in the philosophy of happiness is simply getting clear on what various writers are talking about:
what are the important meanings of the term and how do they connect?
While the “well-being” sense of happiness receives significant attention in the contemporary literature on well-being,
the psychological notion is undergoing a revival as a major focus of philosophical inquiry,
following on recent developments in the science of happiness.
This entry focuses on the psychological sense of happiness (for the well-being notion, see the entry on well-being).
The main accounts of happiness in this sense are hedonism, the life satisfaction theory, and the emotional state theory.
Leaving verbal questions behind, we find that happiness in the psychological sense has always been an important concern of philosophers.
Yet the significance of happiness for a good life has been hotly disputed in recent decades.
Further questions of contemporary interest concern the relation between the philosophy and science of happiness,
as well as the role of happiness in social and political decision-making.”
Still another definition from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/happiness states –
adj. hap·pi·er, hap·pi·est
1. Characterized by good luck; fortunate.
2. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy.
3. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.
4. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.
5. a. Characterized by a spontaneous or obsessive inclination to use something. Often used in combination: trigger-happy.
b. Enthusiastic about or involved with to a disproportionate degree. Often used in combination: money-happy; clothes-happy.
[Middle English, from hap, luck; see hap.] happi·ly adv. happi·ness n.
Synonyms: happy, fortunate, lucky, providential
These adjectives mean attended by luck or good fortune: a happy outcome; a fortunate omen; a lucky guess; a providential recovery. See Also Synonyms at glad.
Definition of Happiness and the True Meaning of Happiness
IS there a magic formula for stumbling on happiness?
Happiness is a state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant, at least for a good portion of time, NOT a set of happenings.
If this is true, then it implies that we have direct control over it.
what is pursuit of happiness?
Pursuit of happiness represents actions that individuals deliberately engage in, for the purpose of becoming happier.
That, by definition, can mean different things to different people.
- For an aspiring student, it can mean a higher grades or a better school.
- For a graduating student, it can mean a well-paying job.
- For a business man, it can mean more sales.
- For a corporate person, it can mean a promotion.
- For the rich person, it can mean a perfect life partner, who is not interested in his riches, but him as an individual.
- For the not-so-rich, it can mean an increase in income. Or a lottery!
- For newly-weds, it can mean an exotic honeymoon.
- For those that have been married for a while, it can mean having a baby.
Does such a quest for happiness lead to true happiness?
There is no denying the value such goals and aspirations bring to our life, and as
such a quest for happiness always remains our eternal objective.
However, the main limitation is the contentment or pleasure that comes as a result of satisfying such external stimulus is never ever-lasting.
By nature, it is always momentary, and is quickly replaced by another stimulus; and the “pursuit” begins all over again.
While such a quest adds value to life, it does not really address capturing the “state of happiness”,
or focus on making it a more permanent part of our lives.
In fact, it detracts and diverts our focus away from the real thing by misleading us to believe
that true contentment comes by satisfying external stimulus; when in fact, quite the opposite is true.
The true meaning of happiness is not about what you have
Its not about what you are going to get
Its not about where you are at the moment
Its not about where you are going, either.
The point to remember is this:
We can be happy, regardless.
Regardless of what we have, or not have.
Regardless of where we are, or where we will be.
To be truly in agreement with the definition of happiness,
all it takes is to learn the ability to re-live that state of mind,
which we remember experiencing at some point of time in our lives,
when we identified ourselves as “being happy”.
Rarely do we hear things like Love, life and the ability to have the movement of our limbs working in sequence and accordingly, for the answer of what Happiness is.
Is happiness a state of mind or is it a requirement from some one else to give to satisfy another?
The path to happiness begins with choices.
The choices and the decisions we make play a major part in ones goal for happiness.
It is ones own soul responsibility to acquire a means of happiness, not to depend on another to supply that happiness, thus setting yourself up for disappointment.
In order to have true happiness, one must look within the depth of their soul to find their purpose in life and then from there evaluate that purpose to determine if it will be satisfying to their “happiness appetite”.
Happiness can be contagious, either in a happy way or in an infectious way spreading over one’s body, then expanding into your life & the lives of others.
By dealing with our own issues we tend to rely on ourselves, and instill healthy items into our lives.
To find Happiness within ourselves, we should take time to look within ourselves and determine what avenues should be taken to make us have a life of true happiness.
Some things we do that take our time or distract us from Self-time are:
- We distract ourselves with TV,
- video games,
- social networks
- We obligate ourselves to duties and people, then when we commit we begin to regret it instead of being honest saying, “I really cannot obligate to that”.
- we worry about what others may think of us if we do not and can not come through for them,
- we worry about making someone else unhappy therefore we sacrifice our own happiness for theirs.
- We allow others to depend on us and take up all of our time making it impossible to have time for ourselves.
All because we do not want to face our true essence, disrobe and reveal our true identity and deal with those realities. All are antidotes for short term happiness and we continue to self medicate ourselves with these things because we do not take the necessary procedures to obtain our own happiness.
We need to control things instead of allowing things to control us. Only then will we as a people maintain a level of true happiness.
I was once the world’s number one “yes man” however; I’ve come to realize that while I was miserable doing what I really did not want to do for someone else, they were so happy! However, when it was my turn to be the recipient to impede on someone else’s time and schedule more often than not I was denied.
We should never sacrifice our true happiness for others, not in marriages, with our children, and families and the hardest one of all,even with our parents once we become adults. Allowing things/people to have the power that causes us to sacrifice our happiness is too much power. It does not mean we love them any less, it simply means that we have a right to say no and not be inconvenienced unless it is a life or death situation, to do so is also unhealthy not only for the individual seeking happiness, but to the other person making them responsible for our happiness as well.
When a significant other, friends, even our children use the phrase…
“You make me happy” simply reply to them…
“Neither I nor anyone else should be the factor to determine your happiness;
however, I and others can be the factor to enhance the happiness you have found with in yourself.”
Mahatma Gandhi said:
‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.’
If you are true to yourself and always remain truthful no matter what, you feel the great amount of joy within and that makes you happy.
The Theories & Philosophies of Plato, Socrates & Aristotle on Happiness:
Aristotle‘s definition goes even wider and deeper:
As a result he devoted more space to the topic of happiness than any thinker prior to the modern era.
Living during the same period as Mencius, but on the other side of the world, he draws some similar conclusions.
That happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, though his virtues are somewhat more individualistic than the essentially social virtues of the Confucians.
Yet Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. In this way he introduced the idea of a science of happiness in the classical sense, in terms of a new field of knowledge.
Essentially, Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two
‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’
Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. His doctrine of the Mean is reminiscent of Buddha’s Middle Path, but there are intriguing differences.
For Aristotle the mean was a method of achieving virtue, but for Buddha the Middle Path referred to a peaceful way of life which negotiated the extremes of harsh asceticism and sensual pleasure seeking. The Middle Path was a minimal requirement for the meditative life, and not the source of virtue in itself.
The pure joy and happiness, which we get by doing or experiencing certain things, is priceless. When you visit a place which is serene and tranquil or has great natural beauty, when you spend time with your loved ones or do some noble things, your heart gets filled with pure joy. Happiness lies with simplicity.
Every living being needs three basic things to survive:
Humans think we need a lot more, but do we actually need a lot more?
We may need more than the basic things but not necessarily a lot more. The truth is, almost half of the people in our World are living with those basic things only. You don’t need a huge fancy house, expensive cars or designer clothes, etc., to live. These are the material things which makes our lives complicated, causing us to do things which may cause tension, create greed and take some true, simple but profound things away from you which may be priceless.
Happy Living is a form of Art, which forms a perfect balance between your material greed/desires and your true senses/mental well being.
Our mind is the single most powerful controller of our life, and if we run after unnecessary, materialistic objects, we bring too much complexity and tension to our lives, which in turn, causes us to loose ourselves.
I am not saying that you have to give up everything to be happy, but living a simpler, less complicated life could be the first step to regaining control and beginning to feel happiness.
Plato, marble portrait bust; from an original of the 4th century bce;
in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Credit: G. Dagli Orti—DeA Picture Library/Learning Pictures
In the relevant sense of the word, happiness—the conventional English translation of the ancient Greek eudaimonia—
is not a matter of occurrent mood or affective state.
Rather, as in a slightly archaic English usage, it is a matter of having things go well.
Being happy in this sense is living a life of what some scholars call “human flourishing.”
Thus, the question “How can I be happy?” is equivalent to “How can I live a good life?”
The notion of happiness in Greek philosophy applies at most to living things, that of arete—“virtue” or “excellence”—applies much more widely.
Anything that has a characteristic use, function, or activity has a virtue or excellence, which is whatever disposition enables things of that kind to perform well.
The excellence of a race horse is whatever enables it to run well; the excellence of a knife is whatever enables it to cut well; and the excellence of an eye is whatever enables it to see well.
Human virtue, accordingly, is whatever enables human beings to live good lives.
Thus the notions of happiness and virtue are linked.
Plato’s beliefs on the matter, which are similar but not exactly the same as what Aristotle held.
Plato, who was Aristotle’s mentor, has a lot to say about happiness, virtue, and political life in his masterful book, the Republic.
By Plato’s time a conventional set of virtues had come to be recognized by the larger culture;
and part of Plato’s case for his view that we must be moral in order to be truly happy rests on a discussion of these four cardinal virtues:
- modesty or temperance,
- and wisdom.
Wisdom has to do with the intellect.
For Plato, the wise person uses the mind to understand moral reality and then apply it to her daily life.
The wise person is guided by rationality in the choices he/she makes.
Courage has to do with how we face adversity.
It includes things like courage on the battlefield, but it also includes having the courage of one’s convictions.
In fact, Plato’s mentor, Socrates, chose to die rather than sacrifice his deepest convictions.
No doubt this deeply influenced Plato’s views on the matter.
Moderation (temperance, self-control) is related to our desires.
Human beings have many desires, of course, and this is a good thing.
The problem arises when we desire a good thing in the wrong way, or a bad thing at all.
We must not let our desires for food, sex, and drink control our lives in a way that compromises our character.
Justice for Plato is related to one’s overall character.
The just person has a healthy soul, in which reason rules the appetites and our desire for honor.
The just person is fulfilled, at peace, and truly happy.
Socrates and Plato undertook to discover what these virtues really amount to.
A truly satisfactory account of any virtue would identify what it is, show how possessing it enables one to live well, and indicate how it is best acquired.
In Plato’s representation of the activity of the historical Socrates, the interlocutors are examined in a search for definitions of the virtues.
It is important to understand, however, that the definition sought for is not lexical, merely specifying what a speaker of the language would understand the term to mean as a matter of linguistic competence. Rather, the definition is one that gives an account of the real nature of the thing named by the term; accordingly, it is sometimes called a “real” definition. The real definition of water, for example, is H2O, though speakers in most historical eras did not know this.
In the encounters Plato portrays, the interlocutors typically offer an example of the virtue they are asked to define (not the right kind of answer) or give a general account (the right kind of answer) that fails to accord with their intuitions on related matters.
Socrates tends to suggest that virtue is not a matter of outward behavior but is or involves a special kind of knowledge
(knowledge of good and evil or knowledge of the use of other things).
The Protagoras addresses the question of whether the various commonly recognized virtues are different or really one.
Proceeding from the interlocutor’s assertion that the many have nothing to offer as their notion of the good besides pleasure, Socrates develops a picture of the agent according to which the great art necessary for a good human life is measuring and calculation; knowledge of the magnitudes of future pleasures and pains is all that is needed.
If pleasure is the only object of desire, it seems unintelligible what, besides simple miscalculation, could cause anyone to behave badly. Thus the whole of virtue would consist of a certain kind of wisdom.
The idea that knowledge is all that one needs for a good life, and that there is no aspect of character that is not reducible to cognition
(and so no moral or emotional failure that is not a cognitive failure), is the characteristically Socratic position.
In the Republic, however, Plato develops a view of happiness and virtue that departs from that of Socrates.
According to Plato, there are three parts of the soul, each with its own object of desire:
- Reason desires truth and the good of the whole individual,
- spirit is preoccupied with honor and competitive values,
- and appetite has the traditional low tastes for food, drink, and sex.
Because the soul is complex, erroneous calculation is not the only way it can go wrong. The three parts can pull in different directions, and the low element, in a soul in which it is overdeveloped, can win out. Correspondingly, the good condition of the soul involves more than just cognitive excellence.
In the terms of the Republic, the healthy or just soul has psychic harmony—the condition in which each of the three parts does its job properly. Thus, reason understands the Good in general and desires the actual good of the individual, and the other two parts of the soul desire what it is good for them to desire, so that spirit and appetite are activated by things that are healthy and proper.
Socrates proposes that this inquiry can be advanced by examining justice “writ large” in an ideal city. Thus, the political discussion is undertaken to aid the ethical one.
- and producers
The wise state is the one in which the rulers understand the good;
- the courageous state is that in which the guardians can retain in the heat of battle the judgments handed down by the rulers about what is to be feared;
- the temperate state is that in which all citizens agree about who is to rule;
- and the just state is that in which each of the three classes does its own work properly.
Thus, for the city to be fully virtuous, each citizen must contribute appropriately.
Justice as conceived in the Republic is so comprehensive that a person who possessed it would also possess all the other virtues,
thereby achieving “the health of that whereby we live [the soul].
Yet, lest it be thought that habituation and correct instruction in human affairs alone can lead to this condition, one must keep in view that the Republic also develops the famous doctrine according to which reason cannot properly understand the human good or anything else without grasping the form of the Good itself.
Thus the original inquiry, whose starting point was a motivation each individual is presumed to have (to learn how to live well),
leads to a highly ambitious educational program.
Starting with exposure only to salutary stories, poetry, and music from childhood and continuing with
supervised habituation to good action and years of training in a series of mathematical disciplines,
this program—and so virtue—would be complete only in the person who was able to grasp the first principle,
the Good, and to proceed on that basis to secure accounts of the other realities.
There are hints in the Republic, as well as in the tradition concerning Plato’s lecture “
On the Good” and in several of the more technical dialogues that this first principle is identical with Unity, or the One.
Plato uses the term dialectic throughout his works to refer to whatever method he happens to be recommending as the vehicle of philosophy.
The term, from dialegesthai, meaning to converse or talk through, gives insight into his core conception of the project.
Yet it is also evident that he stresses different aspects of the conversational method in different dialogues.
The form of dialectic featured in the Socratic works became the basis of subsequent practice in the Academy—where it was taught by Aristotle—and in the teachings of the Skeptics during the Hellenistic Age.
To find out more and read this whole theory/principle please see the following link:
Daniel Gilbert On Happiness
Although Mr. Gilbert’s book is copywrited and I can not share what it says here,
I CAN supply the information on where to get it, as well as a link to his.
Gilbert, D. T. (2006). Stumbling on happiness.
- Published in 28 languages in 31 countries
- 24 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list
- Winner of the 2007 Royal Society General Book Prize for the best popular science book of the year.
and here is the video:
the link in case you can’t see the video here is:
There are many views on Happiness and it would not be right to leave out the religious belief systems, who also have varying views,
So I will cover a few of those as well.
What does the Bible say about Happiness?
The Bible equates Happiness with contentment, Enjoyment, Gladness & Joy through-out many of their verses,
but there are a few specifically mentioning Happiness alone.
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them,
to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
Matthew 25:21 NIV
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
Ecclesiastes 2:26 NIV
“To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,
but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Job 7:7 NIV
“Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.”
Esther 8:16 NIV
“For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.”
Deuteronomy 24:5 NIV
“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him.
For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”
Does the Bible Promise us Happiness?
Actually NO it doesn’t PROMISE Happiness, but challenges us to be happy, have joy, bring happiness to others etc…
Peace and joy are not the same thing as happiness because, the word happiness is based upon “happenings”..
those are temporary and what happens in this life is certainly not always happy.
In John 16:33 Jesus said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world“.
Don’t fool yourself or others into believing that once you become a Christian, all things will be blissfully happy. That is a lie.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:4
“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses”
Jesus said it would not be a happy experience or easy but difficult and narrow.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”
There are many promises of God though and they include having joy and peace which are not a temporary, fleeting feeling like happiness is.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”
Other religious views on happiness
In his article: A Key To Happiness , Ron Rink references Rob Nairn, whose quote Is:
“I define mindfulness as knowing what’s happening while it’s happening, most people are never present in the moment,
distracted as they are by thoughts, worries and stress.”
He continues, “I would say happiness begins with being able to accept oneself and one’s situation in the world, so that one is not constantly in a state of inner turmoil, striving, strife, conflict. Those are the main things which actually prevent us from being happy,” he says.
Suppose you were to decide that you could only be happy if you have a lot of money and a beautiful house in the right suburb and all that sort of thing. If you don’t have that you will be in a state of conflict. You’ll always feel like you’re failing and you’ve got to keep striving. You still haven’t reached your goal.
Suppose you get part way to your goal — you have a beautiful house in the right suburb, but you don’t have a lot of money yet. You’ve still got a mortgage and car payments — and you’re struggling to make ends meet. So, you’re still striving, there’s still conflict, you still feel like you’re failing, and your to-do list is never-ending. There’s no way you’re going to settle down, be happy, and enjoy what you have.
However, what if you were to turn it around and say, “Alright, whatever I have is wonderful – I have a house, I have food, I have a car, I have good friends, I have a lovely job, I live in a beautiful city, I have all I need”. The mind in that person can be happy.
Nairn says the mindfulness technique has been recognized within science, psychology and medicine as beneficial, while mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is used increasingly in the treatment of depression. But he believes we can all benefit by introducing some level of mindfulness into our lives. In this way people can train themselves to let go of many of the stresses which affect them.
Bringing mindfulness into our way of living in the world is not the old method of Buddhism which is to withdraw. This is a great way to give people methods of living peacefully and happily in the life that’s around them right now.
Instead of facing head-on those aspects of life that create restlessness and stress, many people in the modern world rely on distraction – through television, the internet, books, sex, alcohol, or other activities – to help quiet the mind. While this may be the easier route, mindfulness provides a more enduring solution. The better long-term option is to train your mind not to get attached to these other techniques, but instead to train your mind to come and rest in a different place, and then a certain inner confidence will begin to develop.
Meditating every day while focusing on breathing, counting, mantras or chanting, is the first step in achieving mindfulness — it’s how to learn to settle the mind.
The second step is to accept the fact that while you’re meditation, thoughts will continue to distract you from settling your mind. However, you don’t have to be drawn away by these thoughts. Just see them as mere thoughts — if they are thoughts of importance just tell them that you’ll be with them after you’re through meditating — and return your focus to your breath or whatever you’re using for a focus point. This will bring you back into the present moment.
Mindfulness is something almost anyone can learn. It’s not about religion. Rather, it’s about learning to allow your mind to rest in the present moment and to accept what is at that moment. “What is” at any moment is all there is. Peace and happiness will come when we learn to accept “what is”.
Most of the suffering talked about in Buddhism is brought on by the way we fight with ourselves all the time. We’re not good enough. We’re not perfect enough. What we’re doing isn’t worthwhile. We’re not tall enough. We’re not thin enough. We’re not young enough. Yada-Yada-yada.
The way to find inner peace and happiness is to bring all these negatives out into the open — come to terms with the futility of these inner turmoils — make peace with ourselves and see how a beautiful inner peace will begin to develop. There’s nothing wrong with accepting the things that come into our lives for us to use, but when those “things” have served their purpose, just let them go.
Meditate daily, and you too, could find inner peace and happiness.
Metta ….May all beings be well and happy. May all beings live in safety. May all beings be healthy and strong. May all beings live with ease.
Namaste — Be in Peace.
For Buddha, the path to happiness starts from an understanding of the root causes of suffering.
Those who consider Buddha a pessimist because of his concern with suffering have missed the point. In fact, he is like a skillful doctor—he may break the bad news of our suffering, but he also prescribes a proactive course of treatment.
In this metaphor, the medicine is the Buddha’s teachings of wisdom and compassion known as Dharma, and the nurses that encourage us and show us how to take them are the Buddhist community or Sangha.
The illness however, can only be cured if the patient follows the doctor’s advice and follows the course of treatment—the Eightfold Path, the core of which involves control of the mind.
In Buddhism, this treatment is not a simple medicine to be swallowed, but a daily practice of mindful thought and action that we ourselves can test scientifically through our own experience.
Meditation is, of course, the most well known tool of this practice, but contrary to popular belief, it is not about detaching from the world.
Rather it is a tool to train the mind not to dwell in the past or the future, but to live in the here and now, the realm in which we can experience peace most readily.
The first and second verses of the Dhammapada, the earliest known collection of Buddha’s sayings, talk about suffering and happiness.
So it’s not surprising to discover that Buddhism has a lot to offer on the topic of happiness.
Buddha’s contemporaries described him as “ever-smiling” and portrayals of Buddha almost always depict him with a smile on his face.
But rather than the smile of a self-satisfied, materially-rich or celebrated man, Buddha’s smile comes from a deep equanimity from within.
During the late 6th and early 5th century BCE, Siddhartha Gautama of Shakya, who later became known as the Buddha, was born in modern-day Nepal near the Indian border.
While there are a number of mythical stories surrounding his conception and birth, the basic facts of his life are generally agreed upon. Born into a wealthy royal family, the Buddha was born and raised in worldly luxury. Despite his father’s attempts to shield him from the ugliness of life, one day he ventured out beyond the castle walls and encountered three aspects of life:
- the old,
- the sick
- and the dead.
Each of these experiences troubled him and made him question the meaning and transience of life and its pleasures.
After this, he encountered an ascetic who, by choice, lived a life renouncing the pleasures of the world.
Even while he was completely deprived of life’s comforts, his eyes shined with contentment.
These shocking experiences moved Buddha to renounce his comfortable lifestyle in search of greater meaning in life. During his time practicing extreme forms of self-denial that Buddha discovered the “Middle Path” of moderation – an idea that closely resembles Aristotle’s “Golden Mean.”
During his life, he had experienced intensive pleasure and extreme deprivation but he found that neither extreme brought one to true understanding. He then practiced meditation through deep concentration (dhyana) under a bodhi tree and found Enlightenment.
He began teaching the Four Noble Truths to others in order to help them achieve transcendent happiness and peace of mind through the knowledge and practice that is known today as Buddhism.
These Four Noble Truths, monks, are actual, unerring, not otherwise. Therefore, they are called noble truths.
Buddha taught his followers the Four Noble Truths as follows:
- Life is/means dukkha (mental dysfunction or suffering).
- Dukkha arises from craving.
- Dukkha can be eliminated.
- The way to the elimination of dukkha is the Eightfold Path.
Buddha believed that dukkha ultimately arose from ignorance and false knowledge.
While dukkha is usually defined as suffering, “mental dysfunction” is closer to the original meaning.
In a similar vein, Huston Smith explains dukkha by using the metaphor of a shopping cart that we “try to steer from the wrong end” or bones that have gone “out of joint” (Smith, 1991, p. 101).
Because of such a mental misalignment, all movement, thoughts and creation that flow out can never be wholly satisfactory.
In short, we can never be completely happy.
The Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path is often divided into the three categories of:
- wisdom (right view/understanding, right intention/ thought),
- ethical conduct (right speech, right action, right livelihood)
- mental cultivation (right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration).
The Eightfold Path is a practical and systematic way out of ignorance, eliminating dukkha from our minds and our lifestyle through mindful thoughts and actions. It is presented as a whole system, but the three paths associated with the area of mental cultivation are particularly relevant to the happiness that we can find in equanimity, or peace of mind.
If by leaving a small pleasure one sees a great pleasure, let a wise person leave the small pleasure and look to the great.
Buddhism pursues happiness by using knowledge and practice to achieve mental equanimity, or peace of mind, and is achieved by detaching oneself from the cycle of craving that produces dukkha. So by achieving a mental state where you can detach from all the passions, needs and wants of life, you free yourself and achieve a state of transcendent bliss and well-being.
As described in the first verse of the Dhammapada, for Buddha, mental dysfunction begins in the mind. The Buddha encouraged his followers to pursue “tranquility” and “insight” as the mental qualities that would lead to Nirvana, the Ultimate Reality. The Eightfold Path as a whole is said to help one achieve these qualities, in particular, the areas of mental cultivation, which include right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, are the mental skills and tools used for achieving happiness.
The Buddha once described the mind as a wild horse. In the Eightfold Path, he recommends practicing “right effort” by first avoid and then clear our minds of negative, unwholesome thoughts. Once that is achieved, one perfects a wholesome, tranquil state of mind through the practice of positive thinking. This ongoing effort promotes a state of mind that is conducive to the practice of mindfulness and concentration (meditation). Mindfulness is one of the most influential teachings of Buddhism and has filtered into popular culture as well as modern psychotherapy.
The Buddha felt that it was imperative to cultivate right mindfulness for all aspects of life in order to see things as they really are, or in other words, to “stop and smell the roses.” He encouraged keen attention and awareness of all things through the four foundations of mindfulness:
1. Contemplation of the body
2. Contemplation of feelings
3. Contemplation of states of mind
4. Contemplation of phenomena
In a word, mindfulness is about experiencing the moment with an attitude of openness and freshness to all and every experience. Through right mindfulness, one can free oneself from passions and cravings, which so often make us prisoners of past regrets or future preoccupations.
A monk who with tranquil mind has chosen to live in a bare cell knows an unearthly delight in gaining a clearer and clearer perception of the true law
Right Concentration is a mental discipline that aims to transform your mind. As the core practice of “meditation,” right concentration is a foundational activity within Buddhist thought and practice.
According to Buddha, there are four stages of deeper concentration called Dhyana:
1) The first stage of concentration is one in which mental hindrances and impure intentions disappear and a sense of bliss is achieved.
2) In the second stage, activities of the mind come to an end and only bliss remains.
3) In the third stage, bliss itself begins to disappear.
4) In the final stage, all sensations including bliss disappear and are replaced by a total peace of mind, which Buddha described as a deeper sense of happiness.
The disciples of Guatama are always well awake, and their minds day and night always delight in compassion, stories of Buddha’s compassion and consideration for all life abound. He taught truth and he also taught compassion because he saw personal happiness as related to the happiness of others, humans and otherwise. Such a lesson is reflected in both the way he lived and the way he died.
In life, it was said that the Buddha forewent Nirvana in order to teach others the keys to transcendence.
In death, the story goes that a follower accidentally poisoned Buddha. As he was dying, he comforted this follower by assuring him that the meal he had just eaten was one of his two most blessed meals; the first meal was the one he had to break his fast under the bodhi tree, and this second meal of rotten mushrooms was the meal that would bring him to Nirvana.
The journey to attain a deeper form of happiness requires an unflinching look into the face of a reality where all life is seen as dukkha or mental dysfunction. Buddhism is a philosophy and practice that is extremely concerned with the mind and its various delusions, misunderstandings and cravings but, happily for us, sees a way out through higher consciousness and mindful practice.
Perhaps it is because of this seemingly dim view of reality that happiness in Buddhism is so tremendously full; the ideas contained in Buddha’s teachings point to a thorough engagement with lived reality.
Ironically, it is through such an engagement with one’s self, the world and reality that one is able to achieve a transcendent happiness.
Equanimity, a deep sense of well-being and happiness is attainable through proper knowledge and practice in everyday life.
Here are some case study results done by various groups, mentioned in a wikipedia report on religion & happiness:
Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Center and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than the least religiously committed people. An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that “high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being. However, the links between religion and happiness are always very broad in nature, highly reliant on scripture and small sample number. To that extent there a much larger connection between religion and suffering (Lincoln 1034).
“ and a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of them showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem and lower levels of hypertension, depression, and clinical delinquency. A meta-analysis of 34 recent studies published between 1990 and 2001 found that religiosity has a salutary relationship with psychological adjustment, being related to less psychological distress, more life satisfaction, and better self-actualization. Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that “the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”
The studies cited above test only correlation, as opposed to causation; they do not distinguish between various possible explanations. These include the following:
- The religious belief itself in fact promotes satisfaction and that non-belief does not promote satisfaction and/or promotes dissatisfaction
- Satisfaction and dissatisfaction contribute to religious belief and disbelief, respectively (i.e. satisfied persons may be more inclined to endorse the existence of a traditionally defined deity than dissatisfied people)
- confounding variables may well promote satisfaction rather than religion itself (see below)
Some researchers suggest there are happiness benefits to being in the majority when it comes to religious belief. Many studies finding correlations between happiness and religiosity come from measuring Religion in the United States – a predominantly Christian country (making the nonreligious a minority). According to a 2007 paper by Liesbeth Snoep, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, there is no significant correlation between religiosity and individual happiness when researchers measure Religion in the Netherlands and Denmark. These countries have lower rates of religious affiliation than the United States, meaning the non-religious are not the vast minority – a fact that Snoep thinks might help explain the different correlations. This might suggest that religious people are happier because they are simply satisfying various other criteria for happiness. According to the Gallup World Poll survey conducted between 2005 and 2009 Denmark is the happiest country in the world, and the Netherlands rank fourth.
Terror management theory maintains that people suffer cognitive dissonance (anxiety) when they are reminded of their inevitable death. Through terror management, individuals are motivated to seek consonant elements – symbols which make sense of mortality and death in satisfactory ways (i.e. boosting self-esteem).
Research has found that strong belief in religious or secular meaning systems affords psychological security and hope. It is moderates (e.g. agnostics, slightly religious individuals) who likely suffer the most anxiety from their meaning systems. Religious meaning systems are especially adapted to manage death anxiety because they are unlikely to be disconfirmed (for various reasons), they are all encompassing, and they promise literal immortality.
Whether emotional effects are beneficial or adverse seems to vary with the nature of the belief. Belief in a benevolent God is associated with lower incidence of general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion whereas belief in a punitive God is associated with greater symptoms. (An alternative explanation is that people seek out beliefs that fit their psychological and emotional states.)
Citizens of the world’s poorest countries are the most likely to be religious, and researchers suggest this is because of religion’s powerful coping abilities. Luke Galen also supports terror management theory as a partial explanation of the above findings. Galen describes evidence (including his own research) that the benefits of religion are due to strong convictions and membership in a social group.
I promised that I would reveal what the “experts” have to say regarding Happiness
what they say are the 7-21 Secrets of Happiness
You will find them below.
The Seven Secrets: of Happiness
While I don’t entirely agree with this next person’s theory about happiness, I decided to include it nonetheless.
His article is also copywrited and they have requested that we share the page instead of taking anything from it.
I have only included the titles of each section as a reference point for this article.
His full article/theory can be found here at this link:
1. Money buys you little happiness
2. Friends are worth more than a new Ferrari
3. Winning the lottery won’t make you instantly happy
4. Losing your job makes you unhappy – but less so when others have too
5. Fat friends make you happier than thin ones
6. Divorce can make you happy
7. Happiness is contagious
This list of 7 secrets gives us a more precise list and includes the ways to achieve what we are looking for: Happiness
The 7 Secrets to Happiness
By Marteka N Swaby
1) Develop your self esteem–
If you are not happy with who you are on the inside making changes to the outside will often be short lived. Work on yourself and valuing who you are. It is impossible for you to be like anyone else and still feel authentic. Discover your unique gifts and qualities to embrace who you are.
2) Face suffering-
Instead of putting off difficult things we need to face them first. This will give you more energy for other things in your life without dread looming in the background. If these are difficult or complex issues putting them off will often make your suffering worse. Take the first steps and decide to no longer procrastinate or avoid suffering.
3) Deal with anger, hatred and anxiety–
holding onto negative feelings about yourself or others is like drinking poison everyday. It will ruin everything you do. Decide to forgive, this does not mean you have to trust that person or spend time with them everyday. However it is a decision not to hold onto any past wrongs.
4) Deepen your connections with others–
human beings require connection to others through relationship. Strengthen your relationship with your partner, children, family, friends or neighbors. Recognize they are special and play an important role in your life by making more time for them. Alternatively volunteer your time or join a community group connecting with the wider community can be incredibly rewarding.
5) Meditation for your inner being–
Daily relaxation and deep breathing for just only 15 minutes can make a difference. It can be a powerful and deep way to connect to a greater awareness and compassion for life. Being thankful in your inner being strengthens you and puts you in a much calmer and peaceful state.
6) Diet & Exercise–
commit to reducing the amount of sugar, fat and processed foods you eat each week. A simple thing to do immediately is substitute white processed carbohydrates for whole grains like brown rice, whole meal pasta or bread. They release energy slowly and will give you natural energy better than Redbull. Exercising each day even if it is just walking for 30 minutes will release endorphins and give you an energy boost.
7) Refresh yourself with positive things–
Avoid listening to the news or weather forecast first thing it is not refreshing to be exposed to negativity when starting your day. Instead try a daily devotional or positive quotes, something that will uplift your mood first thing in the morning. If you get into the habit of focusing on the right things before you leave the house you will start your day right.
( some say 12 secrets of happiness):
WebMD Featured this article: Scientists reveal the 12 secrets that keep happy people smiling By: Kristyn Kusek Lewis from “Redbook” Magazine
In this era of reality-show fantasies, extreme gratification seems like the only key to lifelong happiness. But while we’re all for the mood-boosting power of brand-new bedroom furniture (and a bear hug from Ty Pennington, for that matter), researchers who study happiness say these external changes don’t do much for your long-term state of mind.
In fact, positive events like losing some extra weight and even life-altering milestones like getting married cause only a brief “bounce” of bliss that fades fast, allowing your old outlook to return full-force.
“What makes people truly happy is how they live ‘inside of themselves,’”
says Dan Baker, Ph.D., author of the best-selling What Happy People Know and director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson, AZ.
“Meaning that if you want enduring satisfaction, you have to approach life with a mind-set that allows you to walk on the bright side,
no matter what’s thrown at you.”
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you have to be perpetually chipper to be happy. Rather, decades of research indicate that true bliss stems from possessing 12 distinct characteristics that enable you to navigate life’s rough spots with greater ease and feel content no matter the outcome.
The good news: You already have most of these qualities – it’s just a matter of tapping into them.
Read on to discover the science-backed secrets to lasting happiness.
Embracing all of your life experiences — even the really painful ones — with the knowledge that something good inevitably will come out of them is what optimism is all about.
“It helps minimize fears about the future that could otherwise become debilitating,
allowing you to move past them more quickly and ultimately lead a more carefree life,” says Baker.
Case in point: A classic study from the University of Massachusetts found that accident victims who had become suddenly paralyzed were more hopeful about the future than lottery winners.
The reason: The tragedy allowed them to see that most of the stuff that gets us down isn’t really worth fretting over.
To become a more “glass half-full” thinker, take stock of how past bad experiences may have benefited you in the long run. For instance, perhaps getting dumped by your college sweetheart made you available when your true love arrived on the scene.
And when you’re anticipating rough times — say, a crushing week of work deadlines — devise an “optimism emergency plan”:
Make a list of what you hope to gain from the experience, and ask yourself if there’s an opportunity to learn or grow.
Approaching a potentially bad situation with an open and eager mind primes you to see the upside in everything.
Having a sense of compassion for the people in your life and knowing that you’re cared for in return is one of the biggest predictors of happiness, says Baker. Whether it’s the thrill of romantic love or nurturing parental love, feelings of companionship provide a comforting sense of belonging that enhances overall life satisfaction. One of the most well-documented ways to increase the love in your life: share quality time with others.
“Feeling isolated makes it easy to succumb to negative feelings like self-doubt and insecurity,
but spending time with loved ones strengthens the human connections that silence those self-defeating thoughts and improve mood.”
explains David Niven, Ph.D., author of The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People.
So keep planning movie nights with girlfriends, and enlist the company of others when you’d normally be alone. For instance, instead of throwing dinner together solo, ask your guy to help out. And to experience the mood-buoying effects of loving bonds even when you’re alone, carry photos of loved ones in your wallet and peek at their smiling faces for an anytime pick-me-up.
Being courageous means acting in accordance with your personal values, an empowering practice that enhances your sense of self.
“If you behave contrary to what you believe, you go to war with yourself,” warns Baker.
But stand up for what’s important to you, and the pride you feel will increase personal satisfaction.
For the majority of women, this means curing the “disease to please” and speaking up even when you risk causing a stir, such as saying no to a neighbor who’s always asking for a favor.
When your life is in line with your sense of right and wrong, you avoid falling victim to happiness-sapping self-doubt.
4. Sense of choice
Research has found that people who describe themselves as “autonomous” and “self-governing” are up to three times more likely to be satisfied with their lives.
These individuals know they have the power to opt out when a situation no longer suits them,
so when things get bad, they make the active choice to change matters. Niven explains
An easy (and enjoyable!) way to practice your power of choice is to indulge in your favorite pastimes whenever possible.
Remember, you decide what goes on your to-do list, so opt to add that occasional afternoon of watching bad TV in your pj’s.
And if feelings of guilt threaten to ruin the moment, remind yourself that checking off this to-do will enable you to approach the rest of your chores with a more positive and invigorated attitude.
The happiest people are always on the hunt for new experiences thanks to a natural zest for life.
To fire up your inner passion, Baker recommends setting a goal of making one mistake every single day.
This encourages you to try new experiences you might otherwise have avoided out of fear of failure (like testing out the freaky-looking weight contraption at the gym!).
Plus, exercising your curiosity in this manner is proven to promote happiness:
Neurology researchers have found that diving into a fresh experience triggers the production of dopamine, one of the body’s “feel-good” chemicals.
True security means feeling good about your current place in life.
It’s recognizing that becoming rich or the most popular party host on the block will only get you a bigger, more crowded house.
It won’t change you, and that’s a good thing.
“Happy people simply like who they are, they’re not slaves to popularity or financial status.” says Baker.
Security also stems from the knowledge that who you are today is the culmination of all the little moments in your history that can never be taken away from you. Your family history, your education, shared experiences with loyal friends — none of these things can be whisked away by the whims of fate, a fact that instills a sense of grounding and inner peace.
So whenever you’re feeling off-kilter, Niven recommends conjuring one of those self-defining moments (accepting your diploma, say, or listening to your best friend’s toast at your wedding). Mentally reliving these formative experiences will help you keep your footing in the rockiest of situations.
7. Good health
The mind and body are intrinsically connected, so taking care of yourself both above and below the neck makes for head-to-toe happiness.
“One of my favorite quotes is from a famous 1920s physician who said,
‘Health is the optimal condition that allows for the ultimate engagement in life,’” says Baker.
“What he’s saying is that health doesn’t necessarily mean being fit, but being able to live fully.”
The easiest way to achieve this optimal state of being: Get moving. Regular activity — be it walking, dancing, or playing Frisbee with your dog — releases endorphins (the substances responsible for a runner’s high) and increases levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.
Best of all, just 10 minutes of exercise is all it takes to produce the mood-boosting brain changes, according to Northern Arizona University researchers.
People who tap into their spiritual side have greater life satisfaction than those who don’t, according to a growing body of research.
It reminds us that life may have bigger meaning beyond our knowing, explains Niven, so we don’t dwell so much on the little things.
Research also reveals that religion can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health:
People who regularly pray or attend religious services are less likely to suffer from:
- anxiety disorders,
- and depression,
according to experts at Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.
Any soulful act, including meditation, walking in the woods, reading an inspiring book,
or listening to a moving piece of music, can help you dial into the bigger picture, assures Baker.
Giving without expectation is one of the easiest ways to feel good about yourself, your world, and life in general:
“Altruism connects you to others, gives you a purpose, and gets you outside yourself,” says Baker.
Having a positive impact on somebody else’s life generates feelings of goodwill that help minimize whatever negativity might be occurring in your own life.
Looking for inspiration? Log on to volunteermatch.org, a nonprofit site that allows you to search for philanthropic organizations in your area that match your interests.
And if you’re strapped for time, don’t fret: Taking a girlfriend out for a hot-fudge sundae when she’s having a rough week has the same happiness-inducing benefits as participating in an organized volunteer program.
Happy people mentally frame life experiences so that the good features prominently in the forefront, while the bad is that fuzzy, out-of-focus backdrop.
For example, one study at the University of Georgia found that happy workers who’d just been promoted were ecstatic about the new opportunity, whereas unhappy employees dreaded the additional work that came with the bigger title.
To adopt a positive viewpoint, Niven suggests comparing a seemingly bad situation to the worst-case scenario.
For instance, getting up at 5 a.m. for work isn’t fun, but would you rather wake up later for a job you hate — or worse, no job at all?
“If you measure your current happiness against the greatest moments in your life,
you might be disappointed because those moments are hard to beat,
but if you measure today’s satisfaction against some of your tougher days,
you have all the reason in the world to appreciate your life right now.” Niven explains.
“Finding humor in a bad situation is a shift in perception that gives people the guts to push forward even when things look grim,” says Baker.
Laughter also causes physiologic changes in the body that make you feel good:
When something tickles your funny bone, you experience a spike in feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine, while levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop.
Make an effort to experience some funny stuff each day, whether it’s by reading the comics in the newspaper or tuning in to your favorite talk show host at night.
One genuine laugh a day is all you need to lighten up about life, says Niven.
Having a reason to bound out of bed every morning is one of the most sustaining sources of happiness because it gives you something positive to focus your life on.
- Some find purpose in being a phenomenal mother and wife.
- Others find it in teaching and inspiring kids,
- or mentoring junior colleagues at work.
“If you’re not sure what your purpose is, then your purpose is to find a passion,” says Baker.
Start by engaging in small activities that light up your day and give you a sense of truly being you.
- sign up for an acting workshop if you have a burning desire to be on the stage.
- Check out books about pet care if you have an interest in animals.
- Even joining a social group like a book club could open doors to new experiences and relationships that reveal your true path.
- And once you’ve discovered your passion, practice it daily.
“When what you do with your daily life really talks to your heart, you’ll be truly happy,” says Baker.
The following link is a PDF file by Joyce Meyer.
Once opened, you can save to your computer & read at your leisure.
In it you will find 21 Ways to find peace & happiness.
Listed here are the tips she gives:
BE AT PEACE WITH GOD
Peacekeeper # 1 Trust the Lord of Peace
Peacekeeper # 2 Make Peace Through a Surrendered Will
Peacekeeper # 3 Know Your Enemy
Peacekeeper # 4 Don’t Worry About the Future
Peacekeeper # 5 Don’t Be Double-Minded
Peacekeeper # 6 Stay Supernaturally Relaxed
Peacekeeper # 7 Avoid Strife to Maintain Peace with God
BE AT PEACE WITH YOURSELF
Peacekeeper # 8 Stop Rushing
Peacekeeper # 9 Accept Yourself
Peacekeeper # 10 Focus on Your Unique Strengths
Peacekeeper # 11 Keep Your Priorities in Order
Peacekeeper # 12 Protect Your Health
Peacekeeper # 13 Avoid Financial Pressure
Peacekeeper # 14 Keep Your Thoughts Above Life’s Storms
BE AT PEACE WITH OTHERS
Peacekeeper # 15 Esteem Others as Higher than Yourself
Peacekeeper # 16 Adapt Yourself to the Needs of Others
Peacekeeper # 17 Beware of Idle Talk
Peacekeeper # 18 Establish Boundaries with People
Peacekeeper # 19 Let Go of Offenses
Peacekeeper # 20 Maintain a Quiet Inner Life
Peacekeeper # 21 Aggressively Pursue Peace
As you can see there are NUMEROUS views on what Happiness is & how to achieve it,
but what IS the the SECRET KEY to attaining Happiness & keeping it in your life?
The Secret KEY of Happiness is:
King James Bible
The Bible – New International Version
Müller, Max. (2002). Dhammapada. (Max Müller, Trans. & Jack Maguire, Revised) Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing.
Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions. (1991). New York, NY: HarperCollins, Inc.