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Come On Get Happy, Part Two

Okay, first things first (according to the author of Happier). What is happiness? As in, what is your definition of happiness?

Tal Ben Shahar defines it as the ultimate currency–the thing we should be working towards amassing over tangible items such as money or iPods. But how will you know if you have it–either a small pocketful or enough to choke a horse–if you don’t know what it is?

Ben Shahar writes, “Is it an emotion? Is it the same as pleasure? Is it the absence of pain? The experience of bliss? Words like pleasure, bliss, ecstasy, and contentment are often used interchangeably with the word happiness, but none of them describes precisely what I mean when I think about happiness. These emotions are fleeting, and while they are enjoyable and significant, they are not the measure–or the pillars–of happiness. We can experience sadness at times and still enjoy overall happiness” (p. 6).

So, first things first–ask yourself that question and answer it before you read my definition below. I do think there is room for all of us to have our own personal definition of happiness and have all of those definitions come together to form a larger, collective definition. Perhaps happiness is something too large to be contained to a neat series of words like a dictionary entry. Instead it needs to be painted, like a picture, with anecdotes and listings.

Okay, you have your own definition in place? Don’t read on until you do…

I define happiness as the peace that comes from a lack of anxiety. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t stressors that occupy my worrying hours, but the major tiles that need to be in place are set firmly in their foundation. My needs–what I need those tiles to be–change from time to time. Some tiles remain a constant. When I have those tiles in place, I have a place to stand and I feel secure. I’m aware that bad things may happen and I certainly worry that I’ll have happiness taken away from me.

Which, I’m beginning to think, is part of this book. Helping you maintain that foundation even though the storms. At the beginning of the book, he admits that happiness may not be attainable for everyone. Either a person has internal (depression, anxiety disorders, illness) or external (poverty, divorce, abuse) obstacles standing in the way of setting that foundation. But right now, even though I have infertility knocking me around, I think I am in a space to set that foundation. At least I need to believe that I can set that happiness foundation or this whole project is a moot point. And I’m wasting my time reading these books.

Thinking of happiness in terms of tiles is a scary thing because it means that (1) those tiles can be taken away or (2) they may never be achieved. If one of my needs is completing my family, how will I ever build that foundation if I’m basing my happiness in that? People can leave me and jobs can be lost. It feels very vulnerable to have my heart placed in other people’s hands. But how can great happiness be achieved otherwise?

So what is your definition of happiness? If you answer this one on your blog, please leave a link to the url below in the comments section so other people can read along too.


1 Journeywoman { 08.22.07 at 9:41 am }

I think I define it as absence of worry. (similar to anxiety, but not the same.)

2 xavier2001 { 08.22.07 at 9:59 am }

When I think of life happiness, I think of contentment. No, not everything in life is going as it should, but feeling peace in the midst of the chaos is contment or happiness. I guess that goes along with the absence of anxiety. I may worry about something, but it doesn’t consume me like anxiety does. Just being able to live in the moment and deal with the rest later is happiness. For me, this is based largely on my relationships with others, if I am not at peace with others (especially my husband and family), I start to get anxious about every little thing, so I guess part of my happiness is based on relationships

3 Starfish { 08.22.07 at 10:04 am }

I immediately thought that it should be defined as the absence of stress or worry, but I think you said it better when you said that it is “peace” that you feel as a result.

Right now I am generally happy, but I am stressed out about some stuff at work and therefore getting no sleep – so I guess there are different “levels” of happiness – lower ones that affect you for short periods and higher ones that affect your ability to function in life.

4 Karaoke Diva { 08.22.07 at 12:53 pm }

I wrote a post:

5 Jess { 08.22.07 at 12:06 pm }

Happiness is a warm gun.

No, wait. šŸ™‚

Happiness, to me, is being at peace in your life and being able to appreciate and take pleasure in the way your life is, right now.

It’s not that everything is perfect. It’s not that you don’t have worry or stress. It’s that you can still see the good. That you can still smile and be yourself.

I think that, as a religious person, my happiness also has a lot to do with making sure I’m right with God or working to BE right with God.

6 dmarie { 08.22.07 at 12:20 pm }

Your posts inspired me to post about happiness too. I didn’t really answer the question though. I don’t think I can. Anyway, great idea! šŸ™‚

7 Ellen K. { 08.22.07 at 12:33 pm }

Happiness is not a single emotion but rather a spectrum, ranging from peace to pleasure. A warm gun by the Beatles’ definition, and a warm puppy by Charles Schulz’s.

8 megan { 08.22.07 at 1:19 pm }

the first word i thought of when reading your question is peace. feeling peaceful inside and with the important people in my life…that would be happy.

9 May { 08.22.07 at 4:28 pm }

I had a very happy moment a few weeks ago, H and I lying in the shade of an oak-tree and looking up at the blue sky through the leaves, surrounded by the debris of a picnic and the Sunday papers. We lay there for an hour. Nothing happened, we didn’t talk, we had no major bonding moment, we weren’t even making out. We just lay there, side by side, and had nothing else to do and nowhere else to be. And I was happy. Totally living in the moment.

On considering other happy times, that’s what they all have in common – I was in the moment, and not actually filling my head with the terrifying future and troubling past.

Which is very irritating, as ‘live in the moment’ is exactly the sort of chirpy ‘just relax’ advice that always makes me want to spit.

10 bonniekay { 08.22.07 at 5:12 pm }

Or, for more hopelessly chirpy advice, happiness is the overall sense that life is good. Not in a cold-beer-in-the-hand-on-the-beach kind of way (although that can’t hurt) but in a deep sense, as though, in general, my life is going right. As it’s supposed to. That I make a difference to others, and they to me.

11 Grad3 { 08.22.07 at 6:49 pm }

I will have to blog this. I have too many thoughts!

12 niobe { 08.22.07 at 7:16 pm }

Happiness is, y’know, that thing that just keeps slipping through my fingers.

13 B { 08.22.07 at 8:51 pm }

Happiness is being free.

14 Bea { 08.23.07 at 3:00 am }

Mel, this is part one of topic seven of my course. You are reminding me I should be working. I wrote a 550 word essay on this question this morning.


15 sharah { 08.23.07 at 9:19 am }
16 LJ { 08.23.07 at 10:35 am }

I’m up, and I didn’t even read his definition before I wrote mine, I swear.

17 serenity { 08.23.07 at 12:07 pm }

I’ve always thought of happiness as a pure, unbridled joy… but it’s elusive. It’s something that flits in and out of your life as the circumstances dictate. And if you look directly at it, it disappears.

So I suppose I never thought of it as something that can be obtained. I like living in between the happiness and anxiety – the place of balance. It’s hard to stay here, but it’s a peaceful place.

18 Dianne/Flutter { 08.23.07 at 1:20 pm }

Wow, I know i’m a little late, but these posts have really made m think. My answer is on my blog, http://flutterofhope.blogspot.com/2007/08/my-happiness.html

19 Kami { 08.23.07 at 4:42 pm }
20 Kristen { 08.23.07 at 7:57 pm }

I just wrote about this in my blog and wanted to link to it:


I actually haven’t read anyone else’s responses yet because I didn’t want to be influenced when writing mine. I hope I was able to be as articulate and not sound like some joker!

21 Piccinigirl { 08.24.07 at 9:39 am }

I think that for many people the first thing you think of is PEACE, a place of no worry.
For me it starts there but when I picture happiness, it comes across more as CONTENTMENT. A feeling like I am where I am belong in the time I belong there.
I know that the times I am NOT Happy that I am feeling like I am out of sorts, that I am not doing what I should be, I am not with who I should be with, I am not content.
I think even in anxiety I feel happiness if I can feel like I am where I belong at that moment, it is only when my gut is telling me that I not that I become unhappy.

Does that make sense?

22 Pamela Jeanne { 08.24.07 at 5:24 pm }

Not getting lost in “what ifs” and instead embracing the little things that bring joy to life — a beautiful sunrise, a spontaneous warm hug, a smile from a stranger, a glass of fine wine, a Saturday morning snuggle, the pride of a job well done, a heartfelt giggle from my nephews and nieces, the list goes on and on…how much room do I get?

23 Gabby { 08.27.07 at 10:54 am }
24 B { 10.30.07 at 5:01 pm }

Talk about late to the party!

I define happiness as living in the present. Free from past and future worries. Just peacefully, calmly, now.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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