What is Happiness?

Happiness: (noun) The state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. (Source: wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

An article I read recently pointed out that comfort doesn’t equal happiness. This is super true. In fact, for a lot of people, comfort is a neutral state, what they feel when they aren’t pursuing happiness.

Happiness is a continuum, a range of emotions. It’s the positive part of the emotion line (like the number line, but for emotions). Comfort is 0, on its own. Discomfort often accompanies unhappiness, but as any number of serious outdoors people can tell you, you can be pretty uncomfortable, and pretty happy at the same time, such as hiking in very cold weather. Many hikers feel like superheroes during those times, busting through personal doubt and numb digits to make it to a camp, defying nature, and being out when wild animals think it’s too cold.

Happiness is the result of a composition of needs which have been met. What is required for a particular person is dependent on their personality and situation. For instance, one might adore writing, and will be extremely happy when sitting at home, after a nice lunch out with a friend, typing away at a story inspired by the conversation. Someone else might be happiest underneath a customer’s car, tugging at a recalcitrant bolt while her coworkers tell bawdy jokes and conduct oil changes. Others might dislike those situations, for reasons of their own.

Because of the nature of the word, we will try to avoid using it directly. To be sure, however, a central goal of this work is to shore up the foundation of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, that notable phrase from the Declaration of Independence.

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