TED Conversations

Leanna Walters

Student in Biological Sciences,

This conversation is closed.

What attributes lead to universal happiness?

We all have different values and priorities, but what are the parts of life that are essential to pure happiness? What are the most basic aspects of life that are necessary to be happy? What are universal characteristics that are important ensure a happy life, whether you're in a big city or remote tribe?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Dec 6 2012: The part of this question that I find interesting is "universal."

    A universal answer requires we consider every circumstance.

    For some people, happiness is completely conditional on circumstances. I think these people are going down the wrong path. I think there were a lot of happy cave people. Many people in terrible health describe themselves as basically happy, when the pain is under control. I have seen photographs of people who make a living digging through piles of garbage for items that they can sell, and these people were smiling.

    On the other hand, happiness is not completely an internal choice. People, particularly children, who are stuck in bad relationships are not happy. People who have made commitments that turn out badly, sometimes personal, sometimes financial, sometimes to a job or task, are not going to be happy until the end of the commitment.

    I think Colleen has made a good case for the attitudes necessary for happiness, and I think Pat's notion of goals and barriers is a very important addition. (I might be retiring in the next few years, and the thought of life without goals is scary).

    It seems that what is left is the external requirements for happiness. I suspect a certain level of freedom is necessary, although there have been stories of slaves who appeared to live happily. Strangely, health does not seem to be necessary, as there have been many cases of people in terrible health who said that they were basically happy. Absence of physical pain might be a necessity. Having sufficient food and water, clothing and shelter would each seem to be a requirement. Some level of hygiene might be a requirement. Similarly, physical security, at a basic level. I think good relationships are a necessity.

    If the behavioral sciences could come up with a realistic check list of the requirements, it would be a very good tool. If you have all the external requirements, then all you need to be happy is a change in attitude.
    • thumb
      Dec 7 2012: Barry,
      Why do you think retirement means the end of goals? Some of my most memorable accomplishments were AFTER retirement from the workforce. I had more time to do more volunteer work:>)
      • Dec 7 2012: Hi Colleen,

        Its just that I have not yet formed any specific goals. With me, family always comes first, and It might be difficult to form realistic goals that fit alongside family activities. My abilities seem to be fading, and quickly.
        • thumb
          Dec 11 2012: Dear Barry,

          I've read many of your comments and it appears that you are a very insightful, introspective person, so I have no doubt that you will discover or create a beneficial path, with family first, which is a great goal. My thoughts and love are with you my friend.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.