Monday, October 20, 2008

Happiness

The more I write this blog, the more I think about relationships with other people, and the older I get, I believe there are some people who seek happiness and others who don't.

"Is happiness a skill that, once acquired, endures through one's ups and downs?" asks Mattieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill.

"There are a thousand ways of thinking about happiness, and countless philosophers have offered their own. For Saint Augustine, 'Happiness is a rejoicing in the truth.' For Immanuel Kant, happiness must be rational and devoid of any personal taint, while for Marx it is about growth through work. 'What constitutes happiness is a matter of dispute,' Aristotle wrote, 'and the popular account of it is not the same as given by the philosophers.'"

How does Mattieu Ricard define happiness? "By happiness, I mean a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it."

Do you believe that people choose to be happy? Is it a personality trait? Or is it a skill they acquire?

14 comments:

Gianna said...

a good video with Mattieu Ricard:

Click here for video

I hope that embedded right otherwise you can google his name and the words "google video"...

I do believe happiness is a choice to a large extent...but it's extremely complex and it involves the human condition which always includes suffering.

Mariposa said...

Now, that's a profound answer...and for me it's like the chicken and egg thing.

It's something we get to feel and can't avoid...yet, at times, it's something we can choose to have...then, from there it becomes a disposition.

Speaking only for myself, I can say that there moments when happiness just knock on my door and it stays there...there are also times when I am devoid of it...longing for it and people around me brings it to me like a present...and there are times when I just feel I badly need it and I decide to get it for myself like shopping for shoes. The latter part could be what we can refer to as a skill to develop...a disposition we can have.

Also, I can play with words here and say, I try to look for things that delights me...and things that makes me glad...and a string of those things...can spell happiness for me as well.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for the clip. Yes, it did work, and it's nice to be able to hear him talk.

I agree that happiness is complex, and does involve the human condition, which consists of "happy and sad" emotions.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
Yes, even for those of us who are happy much of the time, there are times of great suffering and sorrow.

But perhaps the difference between us and others is that we have experienced profound joy and know it's possible.

In the darkest depression, it's difficult to remember what happiness feels like. But, for me, there was always the understanding that once the depression ended, I could be happy and joyful again.

But I believe there are some people who are never happy. They are loved, but it is never enough. Their friends and relatives try to help them, but whatever people offer is never what they want.

Susan
P.S. Maybe you're right and it truly is a "disposition." But I wonder where it comes from, and whether it can be learned.

Bradley said...

I don't think happiness is a choice for everyone, but for me it's something I have to work at. The hardest part is not trying to be happy, but reminding myself that I usually have the ability to change my thought process to be happier.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
That's a different take on this. I wonder why some of us are happy by nature and others have to think about it. Any thoughts on this?

Susan

P.J. said...

Being a Christian, I've always been taught there's a difference between JOY and HAPPINESS. For me, I see JOY as the source of happiness. Joy is something that God gives that is deep inside us. Being happy though, is an emotion. Emotions come and go, and if we torture ourselves into thinking we should ALWAYS be happy, we are doing ourselves a misservice. JOY, however, which is deep inside, can always be there, even when you're feeling like crap.

I hope this made SOME kind of sense.

Tamara said...

I think happiness comes more easily to people who have been brought up to feel safe, self-confident, loved, respected. They have seen the good in the world and in others much more than those of us who were abused. I do however believe that happiness is available to everyone but some of us have to learn the skill as adults and I feel it is more difficult to learn as an adult. If not sewn into us as a part of our upbringing then it takes more thought and effort to feel happy. It doesn't come as naturally.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
Yes, this does make sense and it's an interesting differentiation as far as I'm concerned. I never thought about it this way, but it would work no matter what religion a person ascribes to.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
Thanks for weighing in on this issue. I can certainly understand why people who are abused or had very rough childhoods would have difficulty believing in happiness. I appreciate your point of view on this.

Susan

P.J. said...

Susan,

Yes, it would work regardless of "religion". I meant that I was taught that growing up. I would assume that others need to acknowledge that joy IS inside them. They can't have that "ah ha" moment without them first recognizing it is an option.

I believe we can have joy inside whether we are happy or not. To me, joy can be defined as contentment and peace.

Happiness is shown by a smile on your face; joy comes from the smile on your heart.

Wellness Writer said...

P.J.
That's a really nice way to think about things. And I will continue to reflect upon the concept of having joy inside whether a person is happy or not.

Susan

Gianna said...

Some one asked about what we thought about happiness on another blog a few days ago...I answered with the below statement--I really am very philosophical about happiness and agree it's generally fleeting...this broader view as stated below is more realistic I think:

I don't think being happy on a consistent basis is natural to humans. Having moments of happiness or joy is totally human.

In highschool I remember watching a film on Socrates and while I don't remember exactly what was said I remember it had a huge impact on me...it said something about having a happy life is not a frame of mind it is the result of having lived an ethical and meaningful life.

happiness is something you assess as you look over the quality of your lived experience...not any one experience or moment...

I remember that touched me deeply and inspired me to think about living a meaningful like rather than a "happy" life.

I only shoot for good health and meaningfulness in my life. Happiness may or may not be a by product of that.

Still I think we choose much of our perspective and attitude...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Personally, I agree with your first comment that "happiness is a choice to a large extent...but it's extremely complex and it involves the human condition which always includes suffering."

Obviously this is a topic you feel strongly about. Thanks for your clarification.

Susan