Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach


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What is happiness?

I just stumbled across this little animation:
and it got me thinking - what is happiness? Is it who you are, or who you know? Is it solitude or togetherness?
All of these things? None of the above?

I have my own definition, but am curious what yours are.

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      Jun 28 2013: I tend to agree with you on personal happiness. I'd add that happiness is somehow linked with human dignity. The caveat, however, is that it is subjective. Happiness potential will vary from zero to a high degree of materialism.
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          Jun 29 2013: Cannot agree more. Somehow, your philosophy is strikingly close to that of M.K.Gandhi.
        • Jun 30 2013: This is such an important phrase, LaMar - "Human dignity in my opinion would be not getting your happiness at the expense of others."
          Where is human dignity these days??
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    Jul 4 2013: What is happiness, not the definition of it, but the essence of or the substance, before it is fashioned into the conscious experience? Does happiness exist without the word happiness? How do you know when you are happy, or must someone tell you and educate you about it?
    Can you desire happiness, like you desire a pair of shoes?
    These are questions one must ask, not just believe that there is something called happiness, and the way to it is by doing this or that..
    Carl Rogers and others have spoken about being Authentic. Being authentic is being without conflict.
    But that requires complete honesty and I am afraid, honesty, like Billy Joel sings, "is such a lonely word/ every body is telling lies".
    Honesty profits you nothing save the authenticity of your self. But without that, happiness is also "such a lonely word".
    Our consciousness is profit driven, and we see profit as the basis of happiness rather than the cause of misery.
    This is where humanity is wrong. Because happiness, authenticity, is universal.
    Profit is not. It divides and creates misery and unhappiness. But we are blind to it.
    Profit drives us to wars, to exploitation, to suffering. To violence, rape, stealing, lying, crime.
    Is this so hard to see?
    • Jul 6 2013: I agree, Johnny, it's hard to define this personal state with a single word, especially one that has been so abused (see the thread with Edward Long below).

      I tend to keep coming back to the consumerism sickness we are engulfed in now, and like you, see no way anyone can find true 'happiness' when the expectations for humankind are only slightly different than a herd of cattle, the difference being, we have bank accounts. I see it, clear as day. We can't be the only ones!!
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        Jul 6 2013: Hi Lizanne,

        I am so grateful that a few of us do see it.
        And sometimes, the few that see can steer the ones that don't to the light.
        By example.

        Bless you
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    Jun 30 2013: Daniel Kahneman said it best, " It turns out that the word "happiness" is just not a useful word anymore, because we apply it to too many different things. I think there is one particular meaning to which we might restrict it, but by and large, this is something that we'll have to give up and we'll have to adopt the more complicated view of what well-being is."

    The origin of the word "happy" is, "favored by luck or fortune : fortunate
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    Jun 29 2013: Lizanne: Love this video. It reminds me of a saying that my grandmother used to tell me. She would say if you think you got it bad, take all of your problems and put them in a bag and then place them in the middle of the room with everybody else's problems. Now it's time to pick a bag. I'll bet you pick your bag back up.

    And then there's the old saying "Happiness is not having what you's wanting what you have. "

    And finally my saying.......I'm not a former victim....I'm a future survivor.
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    Jul 1 2013: I find something intriguing at the very end of that video for some reason. If I don't want to invite the Joneses over for a BBQ would that make me an unhappy person or a person of ....snob appeal (connected to another thread here ::))

    Capital One "what is in your wallet?" ...Nothing, you took it all. Then I played the video again :) happy happy joy joy I sang along this time then I invited Capital One CEO over for my very last affordable going away to homeless shelter BBQ :) LOL They ate well! I'm glad we are still friends (most important)! We then put our BBQ sauced up lips together and all...OH, have I got a sequel to this video!!! The thoughts and laughter are uncontrollably flourishing! I have so much more. In the end I'm helping Jacque Fresco and Cap One invites me over for there last BBQ because all they have is money left to eat. Who wants to help me shoot the sequel?

    Happiness comes from within.
    • Jul 1 2013: Vincent, thank you for this enjoyable comment!

      You have touched on the very reason I posed this question in the fist place. I enjoyed the little video, but the whole part about happiness being dependent on how many friends you have kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

      I love solitude and indulging the introvert in me, the times when I have been alone have been times where I have felt true contentment and joy (particularly when I was a kid). I have a gazillion 'friends' on Facebook, does that mean I should be happy? I have no desire to invite my neighbours over for a barbeque, firstly because I despise barbeques (too many food poisoning episodes), and secondly, because I know my neighbours and I would consider an evening with them a form of torture.

      Maybe the 'knowing people' part is referring to opening up and welcoming each other, without prejudice. If that's what it is implying, then I absolutely agree. Gathering people as a sort of anti-sadness plan is, in my opinion, not the answer to happiness in any form.
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    Jun 29 2013: Happiness is not pleasure.
    Even if we are not experiencing pleasure we can be happy.

    Happiness does not depend on outside factors, situation or cicumstances,
    It lies and comes from with in.

    Nobody can make us unhappy

    Have belief, we can be happy no matter what.

    We choose to be happy as a way of life and we need not wait for it to happen.

    Happiness is harmony. Happiness is a state of mind where our body, mind and soul are in harmony.
    • Jun 30 2013: I agree, Adesh.
      I think there is a difference between happiness, and things like joy or ecstasy.
      When I think of happiness, I think of pure contentment, like you say, 'harmony'.
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    Jun 29 2013: H is a state of mind where there are no influences from sadness. H is the third member of the famous trio, FAT, DUMB, and H. H is possible in a frying pan. . . if you just escaped from the fire. Happiness is a fickle, subjective state of mind. H is the subject of 57 indexed pages of conversations displayed on TED "Search Conversations".
    • Jun 30 2013: There's that magic number three again, Edward!

      So, I get the feeling you categorize the word 'happiness' together with other adjectives that say very little, like 'nice'? I get that - it is such a generalized emotion, it's in that pedagogic basic box of emotions, 'happy', 'sad', 'mad'. Says a lot, but at the same time so little... Am I right on this, or completely off?
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        Jun 30 2013: I think you are right, except about the word saying a lot. H is a diluted, overworked word which has become vague to the point of being meaningless. From Bob Ross' "happy little clouds", to the American Indian's "happy hunting ground", the word has been spread so thin that it no longer carries a substantial definition. I assume your question is asking what the word means historically, linguistically, and etymologically, rather than what has it evolved into. As an example, I remember a manager at my place of employment saying in an all-hands meeting, "I am happy to confirm for you all that only 15% of you will be impacted by the downsizing!" Happy? Really? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To fill the hour-- that is happiness."
        • Jun 30 2013: Ok, I get exactly what you mean - it is an abused word, paper-thin. Your example about the manager is an excellent one of how this word has evolved into meaning in fact the exact opposite of what it should mean. It's become insincere, no linger authentic, lost its integrity as a description.

          I fact, my question has nothing to do with what the word means in a historical or linguistic sense, nor how it has evolved, and been misused. I didn't even consider those aspects when I posed it. I really enjoy that you have interpreted it this way.

          How about if I ask you instead, "What rocks your boat"?
  • Jun 28 2013: In my opinion,

    Happiness is a temporary reward for correct behavior.
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      Jun 28 2013: However fleeting there is a lesson there?
  • Jul 9 2013: Damn shame I cant answer this Lizanne, I really want to, but the speech is going to be use in a screenplay. So when/if the movie ever comes out, I'll let you know. :)

    Till they be happy :)
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    Jul 9 2013: A good question - and you'll probably have as many answers and people answering. Personally, happiness is a long-term state - it is more than fleeting 'yay' or excitement about a specific somethings, it is an overall contentment that you like who you are, where you are, what you do, and who you're with. Sure there are up days and down ones, but for me, happiness is a choice to see the good, to do good. My ultimate happiness is when I hug my 13kg cat!
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    Jul 7 2013: Happiness is being content with the life God gave you and the situations he places you in. A happy person does not compare him/herself to the next person. They are happy with themselves not "So and so is smarter than me" "So and so is prettier than me" none of that; a happy person looks him/herself in the mirror and say "I am the smartest" or "I am the prettiest." One thing a happy person doesn't do is seek the opinion nor the approval of others. If a person doesn't like another individual for who they are, they would just keep it moving not dwell on the reason why someone doesn't like them. Happiness starts from within then works itself from there.
  • Jul 6 2013: being happy is not just an expression it is a feeling from needs to be satisfied with oneself and when we achieve this we be happy when we reach our goals we be happy but as a human we live a life with compromises and challenges that come everyday and when one learns how to overcome them and transform them into happy things one is happy and when he comes home after a long tiring day and busy day he just needs a person who helps him/her to get at ease and relaz and enjoy the life we need to live our lives and do evrything that we wanted to do. i cant say that i am happy but i always try to be and i does help my friends help me and eventually all the burdens go away and a sense of ecstasy comes
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    Jul 5 2013: I tend to think it's kind of hard for human beings to be happy because we are mortal, even if we're happy today we know that down the road there's sickness, old age, death.
    • Jul 6 2013: True, we face the inevitable... We could also get hit by a bus and not have to deal with sickness and old age though - if that makes you happy...!
      I find happiness lies in things that are intangible, so minuscule yet so gigantic. The here and now.
      Look at a child, they will teach you what happiness is.
    • Jul 6 2013: actually dude getting old is not sad you be happy that you will leave this sinful world and go to the heavenly father...well i know its hard to believe but we have too..cheers
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    Jul 4 2013: Happiness is when you get what you didn't expect.
    so expect less and hope more :)
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    Jul 2 2013: I think happiness comes down to a persons perspective, context and attitude to life. Undoubtedly too, it will mean different things to different people. By this I mean someone may be so happy when they are skydiving, yet to the person who is afraid of heights, they would be horrified at the prospect and far from happy.

    Therefore, happiness must be an individualistic differentiated experience. You could generalise about what it is, however the elite athlete who is miserable because they are 1/10 of a second too slow would be at complete odds to the bulk of people who would be so happy to be that quick!

    I am sure that I have met people too who are happy, being miserable,complaining and arguing... the types who always see the glass as being only half full and would probably even complain if they won the lottery!

    Personally tho, I think those people with a positive outlook on life are generally happier than those who don't! : D
    • Jul 6 2013: Absolutely. Those with a positive and realistic view, I think. I tend to get criticized for always seeing the silver lining in any given situation, but it is not an intentional thing, I sincerely see a positive aspects, which helps me analyze my mistakes in such a way, that I really have no regrets. An opportunity to learn, is an opportunity to grow!! It doesn't get much better than that.
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    Jun 29 2013: Happiness is harmony.

    Happiness is a state of mind where our body, mind and soul are in harmony.
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    Jun 29 2013: .
    My definition:

    Happiness is the short-time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive.
    Otherwise, there is no human in the world.
    • Jun 30 2013: I like how you connect happiness with evolution - those who are fundamentally unhappy will probably be less likely to form a family, wouldn't you say? Happiness is essential to our reproduction!
  • Jun 29 2013: A few days ago,I read an article'The Meat in the Familial Sandwich'.After fishished the reading,I couldn't help smiling.Yes,I have a chance to being'The Meat in the Familial Sandwich' is definitely a happiness in my life.
    • Jun 30 2013: Hahahaha! That is so wonderful!! Yup, I often feel like the slice of maternal salami smooshed between two slices of whole-wheat children!!
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    Jun 28 2013: Those moments when you weren't thinking about it.

    And, when you can safely say "life is good"
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    Jun 28 2013: I think that, just as with any other emotion, happiness is almost wholly dependent on the person. To address whether it's solitude or togetherness it totally depends on the person. There's a large range going from introverts to extroverts. I think for any happiness though, there needs to be a sense of satisfaction or completion. It'd be hard to be happy with unfinished projects or work. For me, when I conclude on an idea that I've been thinking about for a while, it makes me happy (sort of in the satisfaction category). Remembering the good in the past and thinking about some good things that are likely to happen in the future (upcoming get together, anticipated promotion, etc.) can also promote happiness.
    • Jun 30 2013: Thank you, Kai, for bringing up introverts and extraverts!
      Susan Cain's talk 'The Power of Introverts':
      Personally, I consider myself what Susan calls an 'ambivert' - depending on my mood, or circumstances (both internal and external), I can find happiness on both ends of the spectrum. When I am creating, writing music, I need solitude and the freedom to self-reflect en discover. In my own experience, I agree with Susan, that a creative process cannot take place without solitude. But the logical next step for me, is to perform in a very extrovert way. On stage, I can also experience happiness by getting my message across to others through singing and entertaining.
      To me, happiness is dependent not only on the person, but on the situation.
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    • Jun 30 2013: Deepak, although you say happiness is a temporary thing, it seems you have found a wonderful, positive way to extend and prolong that feeling, by experiencing it countless times a day!