Nicholas Lukowiak


This conversation is closed.

"What is happiness?"

Some say "ignorance is bliss" others will say "knowing is the ultimate enjoyment."

What do you say?

To me, happiness seems to be an acceptable cognitive bias. We find little joys in the world (through aesthetics) and never really question why they are joyful or beautiful or appealing to us. But why do we never question what we enjoy or what makes us happy?

There seems to be a battle in our minds of 'knowledge vs happiness'

We will sacrifice happiness to know more, and we will sacrifice what we know for happiness... What does this say about us as a thinking thing?

How does one 'know' 'happiness'?
Are you happy with your already knowledge? Why or why not?


One day I was at a Burger King and waiting online to order. The person behind me (about my age - 22) was speaking very loudly and said "I'm just happy, that's all there is to it. I am in a great mood, because I am happy." Or something like that, and I turned around and asked "Or do you think you are happy?" He responded "Wow, that was deep" and laughed and we smiled at one another and nodded and I turned back around to order. As I waited for my food I turned around to look at the person and he was no longer smiling, he was in a deep state of thought and even let the person behind him cut him in line to order ahead of him. He was no longer smiling but had no emotions on his face. I can only blame myself for changing his state of mind, but all I did was encourage him to question his own happiness... Which made him no longer happy...

Once we question (seek knowledge of) our happiness, can we be just as happy after that line of questioning? Can we always be happy while we question our own happiness?

Let's discuss!

* I know I ask a lot of questions, feel free to answer them or comment in a general response!
I've also asked in the past: "What is love?" "What is evil?" And soon "What is respect?"

Closing Statement from Nicholas Lukowiak

I didn't get to respond to a few individuals and if those individuals want - they are more than welcomes to e-mail me to continue. Or anyone else.

So, a closing statement on "what is happiness?" seems humorous! As it should never have a final say, but maybe a simple conclusion.

As my original summary suggested I do think happiness is (at times) a sort of cognitive bias, but that does not suggest I think of happiness in any 'negative' manner. In fact I believe it is a leading factor that guides our general thinking as a spirit, soul and/or mind - as a human being.

From the conversation you will see that majorly happiness was regarded as 1. momentary, 2. involves an idea of enlightenment, and 3. an interpersonal experience. We also talked about happiness involving A. choices, B. self actualization via individuation, and C. social altruism.

My final thoughts: We should all practice hard-hedonism as individuals, philosophers, freethinkers, etc. What I mean by 'hard-hedonism' is that we should lead our lives by pleasure, but to never let pleasure go unquestioned. I think of happiness as something similar to the practice of 'faith' and if happiness is worth having, it can stand-up to the scrutiny of a serious investigation. Find what is joyful, aesthetic, and pleasing in life, absorb it, store it, but do not be greedy and keep it to yourself! If there is anything worth calling 'beautiful' and 'breath-taking' it is worth being shared.

Ultimately, I don't think there is happiness without sharing happiness with others - hence this conversation!
So find pleasure, understand why it pleases you, then share it! Better yet, give it away! Good things should given away at no cost besides the smiles we take on credit!

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    Apr 3 2014: "Dan Gilbert discusses This Emotional Life, a PBS program he hosted. Gilbert offers an answer to the question “what causes happiness?” He points out that there is a set point for happiness, despite good or bad experiences. Humans are good at adjusting to their circumstances, and no matter what they experience they are likely to have a general level of happiness, independent of their experiences.

    Gilbert suggests that we should be more skeptical when considering what causes happiness. Much of what we think we know about happiness is wrong.

    In “This Emotional Life,” Dan Gilbert says there are three key findings on the science of happiness:
    1. we can’t be happy alone
    2. we can’t be happy all the time
    3. we can be happier than we are currently

    Humans are social animals; we need to socialize. The biggest predictor of happiness is the extent of our social relationships. A primary reason that our brains have evolved in the manner they have is so we can be social.

    Gilbert says “friendless people are not happy.” It is not realistic, nor is it desirable to be happy all the time. Negative emotions are natural. When considering negative emotions, what is important is learning to appropriately regulate those potentially damaging thoughts. Being happy all the time implies epistemic irrationality (holding beliefs that are not commensurate with available evidence).

    With a few minor changes you can probably be happier than you currently are. This adjustment doesn’t require much effort, and may be easier than you think."

    Personally, I know when I'm happy. I just feel it and oftentimes I can't even explain why I'm happy or unhappy. I believe the secrets to true happines are: 1) doing the right things even when no one is watching, 2) making the right choices no matter how difficult, even when making the easy ones is more convenient, 3) making positive contributions to other people in the community.
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      Apr 6 2014: .

      The reasons of Dan Gilbert's keys:
      1. we can’t be happy alone ---- Symbiosis or keeping DNA alive.
      2. we can’t be happy all the time ---- a-step-better.
      3. we can be happier than we are currently ---- a-step-better

      The reasons of your secrets:
      1) doing the right things even when no one is watching, ---- For keeping DNA alive.
      2) making the right choices no matter how difficult, even when making the easy ones is more convenient, ---- For keeping DNA alive.
      3) making positive contributions to other people in the community. ---- Symbiosis or keeping DNA alive.

      (See also the definition just below)
  • Apr 16 2014: The OECD Better Life Index has some interesting criteria that it uses, on an International scale, to determine "life satisfaction" on a broad spectrum. Stating that ,"Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings such as enjoyment and pride in accomplishment, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings such as pain, worry or sadness." Of course, this is just one entity's definition of happiness....but I would tend to agree with their criteria if we are really trying to apply a quantitative/qualitative measurement of what it means to be happy.

    I am a Registered Nurse and feeling very conflicted with my nursing practice, especially in recent years, as I feel that culturally we need to look closer at what "quality of life" means to the individual...which I suppose would be very similar to the "life satisfaction" scale. I have recognized the lengths that people will endure medically/surgically to in order remain alive...or for the hope of lengthening their life. What seems to be desperately missing is the scale that helps people to determine what exactly that means to them. What makes them HAPPY, or allows a feeling of LIFE SATISFACTION, versus simply the ability to be alive.

    Then, there are the people who seem to be more "happy" when they are miserable. You know the ones I'm talking about. They seem to thrive on negativity and drama. Despite efforts to offer solutions or examples of how they might be "happier", they continually make choices or negate options that would require the work to be happier. there is always someone else to blame for these people and they are undeniably stuck in a place of "poor me" and the victim to everyone and everything.

    This is a topic that I am eager to explore in greater depth here. I am passionate about empathy and gratitude as well. I feel they are all interconnected, and I am excited to engage in this discussion! Thanks for the opportunity!
  • Apr 7 2014: There are major joys and sadness but happiness to me are those moments when I am at peace at myself and with the world. They are small, fleeting but precious to me.
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      Apr 8 2014: Great response,

      So far the main response is that 'happiness is something momentary' which is an interesting result from asking this question.
      • Apr 8 2014: Interesting observation. I think it is correct. Remembering a story about a wise man was asked for a phrase that would work in all instances. He came up with, "And this too shall pass."
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          Apr 8 2014: I use that one a LOT Wayne....."and this too shall pass". It serves to bring me back to the moment, and realize that most things that may create unhappiness (in our perception) will often pass, if we give it a little time.....a moment.....a day....week....month..........

          Perhaps part of recognizing and experiencing happiness is acceptance? Patience?
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    Apr 6 2014: Happiness is a feeling,
    often difficult to hide,
    may expose what is really going on inside.
    "Once we question (seek knowledge of) our happiness, can we be just as happy after that line of questioning? Can we always be happy while we question our own happiness? "
    For me, feelings change as time passes. Happiness is dynamic. I am not always happy when seeking self knowledge, are you?
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      Apr 8 2014: I am not always happy when seeking self knowledge - but, I imagine, in the long term, I will be better for it.

      So in the moment I am willing to sacrifice my happiness to try and gain a longer term of happiness (for my whole life), but... I do this, that does not mean others do it. And personally I asked why?! Why would you not want to offer (give up) some happiness now to be happy for the rest of your life? By merely questioning life, existence and one's personal enjoyment...

      Happiness is dynamic, just as all emotions can be - but, yes I agree.
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    Apr 5 2014: The state of mind when you do not seek happiness anymore. It is different from contentment, satisfaction, peace or joy all of which are context dependent. Happiness is free from context and self expressing.
    The ancient wisdom says that one needs to detach mind from all material associations to be happy. I do not agree with the view. In my little experience, it is more an elevated state of mind and being rather than getting free from material associations.
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      Apr 8 2014: Pabitra - You seem to be talking about a state of enlightenment, that which is finding an eternal happiness by means of not needing to seek happiness... Not making the goal happiness but allowing the path to accept it on the journey through life. In which I agree and is a great interest of mine when considering longevity issues.

      And yes I also agree, it's not about attaching to items and materials, it's about understanding why we attach which is much more wise to do. Dismissing our innate desires to want to find significance in objects is wrong, but questioning and understanding why we do so... that is wisdom seeking.

      Thanks for your response, I can sum it up as "happiness is not looking to be happy, but accepting it as a natural condition."
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        Apr 8 2014: I am happy with your summary :)
        Happiness is a natural condition or a natural state of being. I hope you noticed that it is only the unhappy people who are reminded of happiness, happy people hardly care if there is anything such as unhappy.
        Some say there is a perfect happiness and we are in eternal pursuit of it. I am not sure if there is anything perfect other than the hypothetical. Imperfection is the order of nature. If I am not wrong modern neuroscience corroborates the fact that we shape our minds (and neuron-hormonic make up our brains) as much as our minds shape us (behaviorally).
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          Apr 8 2014: I wholeheartedly agree is a natural condition or state of being! I think/feel that it is a LOT of work to be unhappy....lots of energy spent to maintain unhappiness.

          Some folks are seeking something outside themselves, that is WITHIN all of us, and sometimes, one only needs to be aware and recognize it.....right there in front of our own noses:>)

          I think/feel there are many different levels of happiness....just as there are many levels of EVERYTHING in our world
  • Apr 3 2014: Good happiness is in being useful, from use, and according to use.
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      Apr 6 2014: .
      The eventual use is keeping our DNA alive.
      • Apr 7 2014: Yes, and then after our body dies...

        well, I believe having been useful keeps us connected to God till eternity. Then we live in a realm of use, which many here call heaven.
        But to each his own.
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      Apr 8 2014: Sounds like you are one of the first to say "happiness is the result of the external world and our place within it."

      does that follow your thinking Adriaan?
      • Apr 8 2014: Hi Nick, yes, because that's the only way we can express our thoughts and act on our wishes (be useful), in this physical environment. Just thinking doesn't do it.

        In fact I believe that's why we are here in the first place. Only here can we pretend to be a good and loving person, and end-up loving being that kind of person. Some would call it rebirth or regeneration.
        Thanks for your topic.
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          Apr 12 2014: Adriann, Your answer was interesting to me. I was wondering....when you find yourself unhappy or less than what you would consider fulfilled, do you tell yourself that you will try better or do things differently in your next life? Do you feel that you may get another chance to learn from the mistakes you made in this life?
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        Apr 14 2014: Nicholas I am new here at TED and was wondering what led you to ask this question have you been feeling down or upset? Did someone hurt you so bad that you dont know what happiness is anymore?
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          Apr 14 2014: No, lol, don't think that! I am just a philosopher-type of person - I am never settled with the simple answer or just one - it has to be complex and sophisticated. That includes happiness lol. To the point where I see it as something which drives our general thinking (evolutionarily, socially and individually). I like to ask general/broad questions to crowd-source how others interpret such basic terms. "What is love? Evil?" Next conversation will be 'What is respect?" Look for it!

          Here are a few links to what I wrote on my blog about happiness:

          " To gain, some sort of objective happiness, Aristotle would say "a secondary condition for happiness is political activism" therefore, instead of solely using your thoughts to better yourself, you would be practically using your thoughts to make real changes in society. "

          "As far as our culture: We are one who does not care about the future in the norm, therefore individuals will not care to focus on life long goals, and rather immediate happiness satisfying..

          As for every individual: Happiness does not come from making happiness the goal... Happiness comes from creating a path which allows personal betterment. Ignorance prevents the goal from being a futuristic one... But, very successful at providing immediate happiness, because those who are blissfully ignorant are those who making happiness the goal, and not goals which allow happiness."

          Thanks for your interest and post, and enjoy TED conversations!
  • Apr 3 2014: Well the Beatles said "Happiness is a warm gun, shoot shoot, bang bang" I concur...
    Happiness is a smile that reaches your heart, I said that
    Happiness has early warning signs, just like an earthquake, they are vibrations which start hitting your body, wave after wave until you feel a warming sensation around your heart (that is because it begins to beat faster) and all your senses begin to crave more stimulation as the waves roll over and through your body. Your mind races to pinpoint the approach and your senses turn to face the light waves and get the full impact of the tsunami about to rock your world. Your heart seems to be beating out of control and your face is flush with excitement as you hear it rolling down a narrow corridor like a hundred miles of railroad train, and then it happens, first a sputter followed immediately with a gigantuous clap of thunder. Opps flatulation. What we talking about? Happiness? Oh yea... "Happiness is a warm (yes it is) gun" :)
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      Apr 3 2014: Unique description of happiness. Gidder done. Rich and interesting life, Mr. Henline.

      Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night. ~Marion Howard

      Life is not like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today might burn your xyz tomorrow. ~Author Unknown
      • Apr 4 2014: Thank you Rodrigo I love Quote gardens, here are a couple of my own if you are interested:
        Best played on FULLSCREEN the bigger the better and Stereophonic sound, the scenery is awesome. Sit back and relax, I would love to take you for a ride... By the way, You and I did our graduate work at the same college, what a coincidence.
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      Apr 5 2014: lately i've been wondering when the beatles (or could we say the beetles?) hit it big, was there pride in the insect community?
      • Apr 5 2014: Well Greg there is a lot of proof that plants like some music, I guess they are picky. Some pets will watch TV for hours just like their owners. My guess is insects have such a short life span and so much work to do that they don't care as much about music. They sure scurry when they hear your hands clap so my guess is they do have hearing mechanisms. Their antennae appears to be their most sensitive appendage but who knows what information they are getting from them. We know so little. Touch is the obvious but they may be feeling vibrations like our inner ear of they may be testing chemical content like a tongue or other things we cannot even imagine. They touch each others antennae for some kind of communication like ants, what is that all about, who knows. It may be like a thumb drive and they are instantly transferring terabytes of information to one another, the fact is we have no clue after studying them for hundreds of years. Humans think they are smart but the fact is we are pretty much clueless and worse, we don't know it. We are slaves and refuse to believe that also. One thing we do know... they have survived a whole lot longer than we have or will. Maybe they are farming us, they sure eat us when we stop moving, don't they.... A beetle conversation might go like this: Hey George, pass the Dejon I like mustard on my human steak, it is still a little tough. Ringo, how about a little music to wash this kidney down, you known how music puts me in the mood for this delicious brain soup.
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          Apr 6 2014: one kind of strange thing i've heard, keith, is that if a nuclear bomb is dropped, cockroaches will be able to survive the radiation. Wonder what's different about their bodies? Well, it's good to know if we all kill each other in a massive nuclear war, at least some life-form will survive.
      • Apr 6 2014: For one thing they do not have lungs which is one of the reason you can step on them and they still get up and walk away. They are also regenerative, if they lose a body part they just grow another one.
        I am pretty sure the way "we" are going, we will disappear just like the dinosaurs did, unable to live in the toxic state we are creating on this planet, poisoning our own water, land, air and even space.
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          Apr 8 2014: well, do they have something like a heart, so if you step on them that would kill them?
        • Apr 30 2014: In addition, their cells do not divide very often--only when they shed their shells once they become adults. This gives their DNA repair mechanisms time to fix things after a hit of ionizing radiation.

          However, I don't see how "the way we are going" will lead to an asteroid or comet impact that will result in our extinction. That is how the dinosaurs went out.
      • Apr 8 2014: No heart or blood, they have that gooey stuff throughout there body and even if you chop off their head or smash it, the gooey stuff will clot and they will continue to live for several weeks. They can stay under water for almost an hour and some do not even need a male to reproduce. Some only need the male once for an entire lifetime. One female can produce many hundreds of eggs and some thousands in a lifetime. They are very hardy.
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          Apr 9 2014: well then maybe i'm doing a good thing by living on skim milk and cream, it will fill me up with that white gooey stuff inside?

          How is it that you know about roaches, Keith, or are you just surfing up the answers as I ask the ?'s.

          I find it funny to talk with people about cockroaches, it gives me an excuse to say the word "cock" without getting in trouble.
        • Apr 30 2014: Cockroaches have blood (lymph). They have hearts. They have multiple internal organs. All insects do. I've dissected larger roaches.
      • Apr 9 2014: Greg, I lived in Hawaii for 20 years where cockroaches get so big we put saddles on them and ride them into town for the cockroach races. Seriously everything thrives in the tropics and insects can be a major problem so I had no choice but to learn as much about them as possible just to survive. The best way to control them is not leave food out for them. Seal all food up in containers and keep your home clean. I worked for a farmer who controlled them with chemicals and even went to school and got my own commercial license from the State to buy and use restricted chemicals. I also spent time at the federal agriculture testing station on Kauai where our government produced Agent Orange used in Vietnam to kill everything it touches and many other chemicals. That is what convinced me to quit working on the farm. And yes I always Google for the latest answers and to make sure I get the facts as clear as possible, after suffering from sleep apnea for 30+ years my mind is not as clear as it used to be.
        • Apr 30 2014: And learn to love the local lizards. In south Texas it's sometimes considered lucky for a gecko to take up residence in your home.
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      Apr 8 2014: I enjoyed you examples of feeling 'happiness' and what it is to you.

      Thanks for the post!
  • Apr 2 2014: In my opinion, happiness is a state of mind in which you feel good. But what is good? How would you define good?
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      Apr 3 2014: You just know it, Alon. Mr. Henline defined happiness so well.

      Examples of good:

      "You'll need better tools for this job.

      The car is in good condition.

      There are some good restaurants in this neighborhood.

      I'm afraid your work is just not good enough.

      Keep up the good work.

      “Would you hire her again?” “Yes, I would. She does good work.”

      The food was good but not great.

      He has done good but not outstanding work.

      Did you have a good time at the party?

      We're expecting good weather for the weekend."

      Good is - after sitting down for one hour listening to a excellent lecture - stretching your arms, yawning and you did not hit someone in the face. RPF
      • Apr 3 2014: Nice example :)
    • Apr 3 2014: Good is anything in accordance with God's laws. Natural and spiritual.
      • Apr 3 2014: Nicely put, I agree :)
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      Apr 8 2014: Euphoria is definitely when one 'feels' happiness and it is pleasant and can be labeled good.

      But, what does that mean?

      What then is happiness as something which is useful besides enjoyment?
      • Apr 8 2014: I'm not sure I understand your question... I don't see any reason for happiness to be something "useful".
        I think being happy is the goal, not the means.
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          Apr 9 2014: Happy can never be achieved by just making it the goal, or rather, making it the goal in the first place.

          I'll try an example:

          My parents used to try to plan great family vacations; we'd fly here and spend nights here and here, and if we drive here we can see this while it's available. Renting a car, hotels, eating out, the works. I appreciated and appreciate these trips. But it was never perfect for anyone. My father would expect this to and that to be on time, it wasn't - anxiety. My mom would clean so much we missed an activity - argument - anxiety. My brother and I would get into a fight and not want to spend time with one another - anxiety.

          And at times it just seems the best part of the vacation were the pictures and the discussions my parents and brother and I got to share afterwards - about where we went. "Here here and here and then saw this that and some of these."

          Where is the actual happiness? Was it at the achievement of a great vacation or the enjoyment from the thought of a great vacation?

          And by useful I was implying what we gain from evolving as people and evolution.. What would be the benefits of being happy in order to survive?
        • Apr 12 2014: I think that when you consider yourself to be happy, you find yourself happier than you were (or could have been) during other times - happiness is relative. So perhaps when planning a vacation - you imagine being happier than you are at the moment. Then, during the vacation - you find it doesn't live up to your expectations. You may feel unhappy, because you find yourself less happy than you could have been had the trip gone well, less happy than you expected. Once you're back home and reliving the trip, it's possible that during the trip you felt happier than usual, (even though it didn't go exactly as planned), and that's why at the moment you feel happy, remembering a happier time than the present.
          Bottom line, I think that a person is a master of his or her own happiness. It's possible to think, again and again, about what you're missing in your life, and how things could be better, and sink into depression. But if you look on the bright side, think of what you do have, how good your life is, - then you are creating your own happiness.
          As for benefits in order to survive - human beings differ from animals in that they search for meaning in their life. It is not enough to live, it's all about how to live. Happiness answers that need. If I'm happy, I feel like I'm getting something out of my life, that it's worth living. Maybe with the pursuit of happiness comes the will to live.
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    Apr 29 2014: Without book definition of happiness, happyiness is very simple- we are happy, if we make others being happy.

    Real happiness is based on self-affirmation who we are, and that we are good, and that information we got from others. That's why we (like) helping others, watch them being happy, and feeling proud because, we made them feel that way.
  • Apr 28 2014: Happiness is getting trapped in a elevator with a liquor salesman who has a case of samples.
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    Apr 14 2014: Happiness is something that you feel when you are excited or when you see the love of your life . Happiness can also be a sad feeling. What I mean by a sad feeling is when somebody dies in your family and your looking down on them, you remember what you did with that person the fun, sadness, love all of those things make you happy because you remember every single moment with that person, and you know they are right there with you in Heaven, they will never leave the gate of your heart.
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      Apr 14 2014: Yes, you cannot know happiness without sadness.

      We are dualistic in nature as human beings - it would be very odd for someone to campaign: "Want to be happy? Let me make you sad first!" But, haphazardly, it could work!

      Do you think someone can know "true-happiness" without ever experiencing or witnessing a real tragic event?
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        Apr 14 2014: NO I dont but i know some people who do
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        Apr 15 2014: I think this because you cant for example fall in love without being happy... Someone just cant have no one in their life that has died or has been seriously hurt... What im trying to say is that you cant be happy without knowing what sadness is.. its really hard to know what happiness is without knowing what sadness is.
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    Apr 10 2014: Hi Nicolas, There is an old saying that my grandmother used to tell me that I believe is true it says.....Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have"

    I see a lot of people who are miserable over "stuff". Wanting stuff, losing stuff, not be able to afford stuff or worrying about someone taking their stuff. And then there is a lot of unhappiness over indulging in too much stuff. The show hoarders is one example. The number of homes in foreclosure is another example. There were so many people that went in over their heads and purchased much more home than they could afford. I suppose they thought that it would bring them happiness. Each month they would struggle to make the house payment and in the end they lost their homes anyway when the housing market crashed. That could not have been a happy day for them.

    For me, I stick to the advice of "wanting what I have" I live very modestly in what most would consider a tiny home, but I think of it as cozy. I have son that I am very proud of, a husband who took his wedding vows seriously, a mother who is supportive and has my back, and my dog who is always happy to see me. I have clean clothes on my back, some food in the fridge and some cash in my wallet. In my opinion, I need nothing more, and that is my definition of happiness.

    There are also many wealthy people in big mansions with bottomless bank account that are miserable. Nothing is ever enough, they may become paranoid that everyone wants something from them and they even may become intolerant of anything or anyone that they feel is below them. They think everyone is out to get their money so they close their heart and lose their trust. That does not seem happy.

    The bottom line is I think for anyone to be happy, they need to be content where they are, wherever that may be. Some days you may need to find a reason to be happy but should keep in mind if times are tough that everything is always changing.
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      Apr 12 2014: While I agree - for the most people I met - your response can hold a lot of value, but it is not universal, and with that in mind I find it easier said than done for many people to "be content" with what they have when they have nothing (literally). Their need to strive for more becomes either impossible or much harder than it would be normally because of their pre-conditioned life. Should they be content when they can never be more, or feel more? Should they be content with how unfortunate they are in their life, when they were just born that way?

      I say no, they should fight and struggle for more. And probably will become better for it, not having just accepted their lives the way it is but trying to make it what they want.

      This advice is good for the some I have met in first world countries that take for granted the food they eat, their families and their possessions. This advice is not as useful for those in impoverished areas of the world...
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        Apr 12 2014: Hi Nicolas, I agree that if I were hungry or homeless, or suffering on pain, I too would find it challenging to feel content. You said you find it easier said than done for "many people" to be content when they had nothing. How many of these people do you actually know? You talk about a "pre-conditioned" life of an impoverished person. And yet, their parents are well aware that there is no food, but have a child anyway. There needs to be some help with population control in areas that cannot provide for the basic needs of even the existing people, never mind more children. If that sounds harsh, it is because reality is hard to hear.

        There is another kind of pre-conditioned life for many born with a silver spoon. They want for nothing, are often over indulged by their parents, have never heard the word no, have no clue how to manage money because there is always more, and do not believe they they were put on this earth to disturb dirt with a shovel. And it is unfortunate that they too were "born that way".

        My point was for those who have the basics, such as a home, food and clothing a some cash or at least a job to make some, to be a little more HAPPY and learn to count their blessings. You may be interested to know that only 1% of the world population has all four of the following:
        1) A roof over their head
        2) Clean clothes on their back
        3) Some food to eat
        4) Some money in their pocket

        Do you feel happy now?

        I also agree with you that if times are bad, that a person should fight to keep their head above water and work hard until they get back on track - and like you, believe that they will be a better person for it, and appreciate where they came from and the achievements they worked hard for.

        I have had lots of money, some money and no money at different times in my life, and I was always still me, My issue is with the people that feel that their happiness is based on what they have - like whether or not they can upgrade their cell phone this week.
  • Apr 8 2014: Happiness is well-being that comes from experience gained from trial and error in your younger years. Older people should make life difficult for younger people. It's for their own good!
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      Apr 12 2014: I have come to accept we are never not-children in our lives, we simply gain more knowledge and the knowledge we are not longer 'children.' In other words... our minds are that of a child through our lives... We are always gaining experiences and learning from the past and trying to make a better future...

      It would be better for people to remember: We all do those things, and should try to remember without others we could never have a chance to experience those things. Work hard to work hard with others, play with others, because others are where we came from, and others are going to be with us and are constantly involved with us (I mean we didn't make this website to talk to one another).

      As socialistic as it sounds ' we are others and need others ' which is why - exactly as you said - the older should make challenges for the younger to get through life... not but them in front of T.V and let that brainwash them, or just rely on the education system to educate them...

      If you are older and see a child, ask them a question - they may not know the answer but it is more likely the question will stick with them longer than it would an adult (less knowledge clouding their perception).
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    Apr 7 2014: On the relationship between happiness and intelligence: there seems to be a positive correlation (though not a firm one)

    The claim that knowledge decreases happiness has no support. So that shouldn't be a reason to stay ignorant ;-)

    I would recommend reading 'the happiness Hypothesis' by Johnatan Haidt. One of the best reads on the topic.

    Then we have the idea of synthetic happiness Dan Gilbert. by

    Increasing happiness (according to Haidt) can be done through medication, meditation and (cognitive, behavioral) therapy.
    Furthermore, it seems that happiness has a strong hereditary component.

    Sometimes, when I'm waiting (in a line or for the bus), I try and change my neutral state to a happy one. Like self-suggestion: I remind myself about how great it is to be alive, to see the people and watching them bustling around, or admire a tree and look at the details of the bark,... or listen to the different noises. It works.

    Yes, you can question everything, and why shouldn't you be happy while doing so?
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      Apr 8 2014: Not that I need to give you anymore 'likes' Chris, but one more can't hurt - thanks for participating, long time no discussion.

      I was not relating 'intelligence' as much as 'knowledge' - they differ where one is the responsive-awareness and the other is just awareness. Knowledge is more a memory-factor and intelligence is more so the cognitive functionality which is the macro to the micro-part of memory - as there are multiple components of intelligence (memory being one). In a brief sense; dissonance is activated when knowledge is violated, not necessarily intelligence.

      So happiness effecting knowledge and vice versa, is an odd but interesting concern of mine.

      Why ignorance may be bliss: Once we learn the truth, we can never go back. Once the thought is unfolded, it can never refold the same way,

      Now this may not necessarily be 'unhappiness due to knowledge seeking and learning' but that also depends on the knowledge being sought and what is being learned.

      We cannot unlearn our loved ones have been unfaithful, we cannot unlearn why innocent people have died and we cannot unlearn how we were unknowingly at fault and offended another.

      So, yes, there is no empirical evidence (to my knowledge) that knowing more can make someone less happy. But there are examples where that is just the case. Also consider how one would enact religious practices although they do not fully agree, but do so to please their family - this is letting external happiness agendas override one's knowledge (and awareness) of what would be a more happy situation. And contemplating such could lead to more anxiety. Another example: not approving of the arranged suitors one's family has picked out for you and wanting to find one's own spouse.

      Again there is an external element effecting one's inner happiness with knowledge. The more they think about it the worse it becomes...

      Thanks for your contributions - and we should remember: Zen is the tree right in front of our faces :-D
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        Apr 9 2014: Thanks for your reply Nicholas

        Of course I need to agree that the knowledge of specific facts might hurt a person (like hearing what some of your deemed friends say behind your back, or your girl/boyfriend cheating on you,...) - especially those things you care about.
        I think one can easily find find cases where the discovery of certain facts may have led to depression or even suicide.
        -- I also believe that there must be cases where the absence of certain facts might have led to depression or suicide as well, as portrayed in Greek tragedies or Shakespeare's The Moor of Venice --

        In those cases, ignorance may be bliss... but then again, if you uphold truth high in your banner, in the end, you might be happier that you did find out.
        I think that's why, on an average scale, both balance out or lean over towards knowing is better...

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          Apr 9 2014: Of course there is a possibility too much and too little awareness can effect one's ability to make and predict future based decisions.

          However, as this discussion showed me, there is a remarkable lack of interest to regard happiness as something objective and/or void of opinion. Happiness has to relate to 1. oneself, 2. and how we relate it to our depiction of 1.

          I'll bring up how you said you can enjoy the simplicity of existence - the bark of a tree for a moment - but be fair, that's not everyday. That's an occasion, a brief enjoyment, compared to what that moment meant for the rest of your/mine/our lives, means... void - nothing. You brought that bark to an example, but will it go further? Will it quantify the same, after another example of something - not looked at - but thought about in place of your bark.

          Robert Galway said the "It is possible for events, circumstances, or conditions to make you happy or sad. ...[ in this discussion ]... For example in a life where food is plentiful, being served something you do not like makes you sad, but in a life where food is scarce, finding anything to eat may make you happy."

          What counts as knowing, also effects our ability to know.

          A child in a country polluted by the first world developments... could only imagine a life where they could enjoy waiting at a bus stop to go to school or work. They can never imagine staring at the bark on a tree, waiting at a bus stop...

          Mental health is not the only concern, there is a balancing of 'self' - individuation, self actualization - that is required for someone to know they want to have more than a 'normal' mind by means of medicine and therapy.. but by learning what those medicines and therapies are doing, and trying to learn the basics of how to do that.

          I know you're a man of a higher awareness, but, please consider, from a stance of objectivity: happiness can lead people to their biases as likely as a moment of enjoyment

          The bark, is a luxury to enjoy.
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    Apr 6 2014: Here are some quotes about happiness from Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was a teacher of Universal Sufism:

    "There is no source of happiness other than the heart of man."

    "Our thoughts have prepared for us the happiness or unhappiness we experience."

    "The principal thing necessary for attaining happiness is to purify one's mind from all things that disturb it and create disharmony. There are not only bad impressions which disturb the tranquility of the mind, but many feelings of resentment and resistance against things which do not agree with one's own idea that disturb one's mind."

    "We also confuse pleasure and happiness. Sometimes we say pleasure for happiness, or happiness for pleasure. In reality very few in this world know what happiness means. Pleasure is the shadow of happiness, for pleasure depends upon things outside ourselves; happiness comes from within ourselves. Happiness belongs to the heart quality; pleasure to the outer world. The distance between pleasure and happiness is as vast as that between earth and heaven. As long as the heart is not tuned to its proper pitch one will not be happy. That inner smile which shows itself in a man's expression, in his atmosphere, that belongs to happiness. If position were taken away and wealth were lost in the outer life, that inner happiness would not be taken away. And the smiling of the heart depends upon the tuning of the heart, the heart must be tuned to that pitch where it is living."

    "Happiness lies in thinking or doing that which one considers beautiful."

    "Man unconsciously pays happiness in order to buy pleasure."

    "Earthly pleasures are the shadows of happiness, because of their transitoriness. True happiness is in love, which is the stream that springs from one's soul; and he who will allow this stream to run continually in all conditions of life, in all situations, however difficult, will have a happiness which truly belongs to him, whose source is not without, but within."
  • Apr 5 2014: General personal happiness is a temporary condition in which you are emotionally content with your present situation, environment and/or general state of well being. I see happy/sad as sort of a an emotional dividing line that impacts attitude towards yourself and others, and perhaps also how strongly your are motivated to change your situation, environment and/or state of well being.

    It is possible for events, circumstances, or conditions to make you happy or sad. How much you let these things control your emotions varies from person to person, and from life experience to life experience. For example in a life where food is plentiful, being served something you do not like makes you sad, but in a life where food is scarce, finding anything to eat may make you happy.

    Since happiness is relative, in order tho know and appreciate happiness, you must also know sadness.
    • Apr 5 2014: I am happy at the moment so let me ask what is "quantum happiness"?
      • Apr 5 2014: In physics, a quantum (plural: quanta) is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction. Behind this, one finds the fundamental notion that a physical property may be "quantized," referred to as "the hypothesis of quantization".[1] This means that the magnitude can take on only certain discrete values. (From Wiki).

        Not sure I understand your question, but if it is "How little contentment with your present situation, environment and/or general state of well being is required to go from sad to happy?", then I think the response might be:

        Quantum happiness is the amount of happiness required for you to switch the focus of your attention from being sad and to being happy. Once again it would vary.
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      Apr 8 2014: You rationalized how the hierarchy of needs is part of the question of happiness (and our ability to express happiness and sadness).

      If this were a course in philosophy I would give you a B+ lol, and an A+ for the response to Rodrigo - thoughtful, informative and expressive. Which, by the way, some Buddhist in history define as 'enlightenment' in which is the ability to control one's emotions freely - to turn sadness to happiness without any delay; instantly.

      You get the B+ because you did not discuss long term happiness (and like most people here didn't bother to try to answer any of my other questions lol). But I am curious to hear more from you about long-term happiness and what does that involve. Keep the hierarchy of needs involved (and how others may be at different levels), and perhaps add more about environments (which I imagine will be key for a life time of happiness - but I may be wrong).

      thanks for both your excellent response (kidding about the grade, you posted something excellent here)
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    Apr 5 2014: ‘the pursuit of happiness', I think happiness is the road you take to pursue what you want
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      Apr 12 2014: Definitely - making the goal happiness is impossible, you have to make it a part of the steps you take on the path.
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    W. Ying

    • +1
    Apr 3 2014: .
    Happiness is the short-time feeling of things
    being a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive.

    Otherwise, we can not survive.
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      Apr 8 2014: This is actually a very refined of what is happiness and if you do not mind I will expand:

      "Happiness is the short term cognitive response to the emotional state we are reacting to in the moment or at this most immediate time. This is a positive illusion at that it is evolutionarily necessary to enjoy these moments of happiness and mark them as essential and important. However, it is just us acting past our design... while also functioning within our design to [psychologically] survive]."

      So W. Ying,

      How do you feel about your own response after reading how I interpreted it?
      Do you feel people can do more than just survive and contemplate what it means to survive?
      Happiness is involved with that question^ (innately) as it seems... but, as what point will happiness become sadness when survival is not the question, but mental and psychological stability is the primary concern?
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        W. Ying

        • +1
        Apr 20 2014:

        You interpreted it wonderfully.

        I think:
        1. "When survival is not the question" there is no happiness.
        2. "Happiness will become sadness" when there is:
        . . . (1) no a-step-better ---- boring.
        . . . (2) a-step-worse
        for keeping our DNA alive.
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      Apr 12 2014: W. Ying, Can you explain what invalid happiness is, and what validates happiness. Also, if a person has never has a child and passed on their DNA, is their life useless?
      • Apr 14 2014: Hi Amy, I'm just now responding to your post above. Way above, sorry
        "Adriann, Your answer was interesting to me. I was wondering....when you find yourself unhappy or less than what you would consider fulfilled, do you tell yourself that you will try better or do things differently in your next life? Do you feel that you may get another chance to learn from the mistakes you made in this life?"

        I believe that we only live in this physical world once. That only during this life we can learn from our mistakes and change our character, hopefully for the better. Once we loose our body, whatever made us happy, will make us happy to eternity.
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          Apr 14 2014: Thanks Adriann, So, would you say that if we are content when we leave this world, then we will be eternally content, and if we leave this world full of anger and misery then will eternally be trapped in that state? I assume that everyone has lots of ups and downs throughout their life, and that when things are going well, we may feel fulfilled, content, and at peace. However, we all have felt sadness, loss and frustration or heartache and during those times it is hard to feel content and peaceful. So, it is just the luck of the draw that we should leave this world during one of the more pleasant stages of our lives? or are you suggesting that our eternity is a reflection of the whole life and all that we have contributed during our time here?
      • Apr 14 2014: I wonder why you call it "trapped" in that state..

        To really go where happiness takes us, I think we have to go back to "Love." We are what we love, we are not what makes us happy. Happiness, I believe, is only a side-effect. When we go to a show because it will make us happy, then if we focus to much on us being happy, we'll miss the show. Same with marriage.
        What determines our eternity is what we love. One very basic choice is to love ourselves more than others, or others more than ourselves. The latter is heaven. One way of indication which of the two directions we're going, is what is it that causes our feeling of happiness.
        Are we happy because we just robbed a bank and gained two million dollars? Or are we happy because we kept the door open for someone behind us, who thanked us and gave us a smile?
        When money makes us feel happy, then after a while we need twice as much money to be just as happy. The same about salt.

        So in answer to your last question, Yes, in a way. :)
        Again, we are what we love. Sickness, unfortunate events etc. could certainly make a basic change in what we love, if we let it !!. We do not have any control over what happens to us, but we do have control over how we react to everything.

        If we could just realize that whatever happens to us has only one objective. It gives us the opportunity to become a stronger, loving person. The happier we'll be to eternity.
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          Apr 14 2014: Thank you Adriann, I guess I called it"trapped" because whenever I am in a place of discomfort, I want to get out of that place, and know that I have to work my way out of it, much like driving and getting stuck in a snow ditch, you try and try to go forwards and backwards and pushing until you get the car to free itself. so that you can move in to where you need to go. Just the same in life, when I get stuck in anger or pain, I know that I need to work my way out of being stuck there in order to get to to a better place where I can find peace and happiness. You seem to have a similar viewpoint and your outlook is inspirational and touching.

          I read something like what you said about needing more this or more that to be just as happy in a book by Pema Chodron. Have you heard of her? This is one of her cites....

          Anyway, in one of her books I remembered that she talks about someone who makes their lives and their surroundings very comfortable with all of the best material things in life and is quick to turn up the heat at the slightest feeling of cold and likewise put the air conditioning on at the slightest feeling of warmth....and then becomes increasingly intolerant to the variety of feelings that we all experience. And then the intolerance spreads to anything that is less than what he considers acceptable and begins to look down on people who he considers to be below him. And eventually the intolerance that he feels when outside his "perfect" environment causes him to be very much irritated, like someone touching his sunburn, and he retreats to his perfect place where he feels no irritation and lives a very lonely life.

          I also could not agree more with you regarding to the need to have control over how we react to our circumstances. When life should throw us some unwanted events, we can either roll with it, or let it roll over us. And like you, I find that when I roll with it, I do become a stronger and more loving person.
      • Apr 14 2014: Thank you Amy, that link reminded me of D. T. Suzuki. A Buddhist master that Pema Chodron should be well acquainted with.
        He did very much appreciate Emanuel Swedenborg and called him "The Buddha of the North." He also translated several of his books.
        This is one of them. being his most popular book.

        One of the most important moments to be in control of how we react it when raising a child. A 2 year old can have a temper tantrum. But the last thing we should do is go down to their level and get just as mad.. That's how kids get killed. That's extreme but it does happen and the best thing would indeed be "to roll with it".
        Thanks for your kind messages.
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          Apr 15 2014: Wonderful link Adruiaan. Thank you. I went though my books and found one by Suzuki on the awakening of Zen. I have read all of Chodon's books and am on the waiting list for one to be out soon. I enjoy her teachings very much and she takes a very realistic approach to finding peace and happiness in this often unkind world. The method is called Bodhichitta. Her message, like most Zen Buddhist, is clear that we must do no harm. I also find her instruction on meditation which she refers to as "learning to stay" (which I call taking a pause) as a wonderful tool to keep calm and grounded. And its funny that I use the comment you made rather often that I will not lower myself to someone elses level. When someone is unkind or unfair, my acting the same way make me no better than they are. Thanks again for the good read.
      • Apr 16 2014: Dear Amy, thanks for making me aware of the bodhichitta. I've downloaded a three page intro by Pema Chodon. The first impression is that the words are different, but the message is identical to Swedenborg.
        One quote from him I use often is "Man[kind] is born not for the sake of himself, man[kind] is born for the sake of others."

        Thanks again and many things to communicate and think about!
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        Apr 20 2014: .
        (To Ammy Winn)


        My answers:

        (1) "Valid happiness" is the short-time feeling of things being a-step-better
        . . for keeping our DNA alive.
        (2) "Invalid happiness" is the short-time feeling of things being pseudo-a-step-better (actually a-step-“worse”)
        . . for keeping our DNA alive.

        (3) "Person has never has a child" will be very "useful" and happy
        while making a-step-better for keeping the DNA alive of the family, relatives, humankind,
        containing certain identical with and related DNA to the person's.
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    Apr 24 2014: no one is saying anything
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      Apr 27 2014: We are here Julianna....saying something. Thanks for being here as well:>)
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    Apr 23 2014: my quistion to everybody is on ideas its say "What would you do on your last day?"! Find it my first question on TED :))
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    Apr 23 2014: ok thanks... :)
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    Apr 17 2014: You know what happiness has NOTHING TO DO WITH SADNESS!!! SADNESS HURTS REALLY BAD! HAPPINESS is not in my VOCABULARY ANYMORE!!
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      Apr 26 2014: Julianna, I did notice your other question about the last day of life. I wonder why happiness is no longer in your vocabulary? Do you not believe that things will change? Are you getting some help with how you feel? Have you ever lost a love before? I have, as I can imagine that other TED readers have, and please trust me when I say that it gets better, it really does. Things take time, and its hard to see what is just around the corner waiting for us. But, Julianna, there is someone out there in this world who longs for a true love also, but you just haven't met each other yet.
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      Apr 27 2014: I agree Julianna....sadness can hurt really bad.

      Based on the fact that you came here to discuss happiness, it seems like it IS still in your vocabulary, and I suspect it is still in your heart.....probably hiding deep within for now.

      As Amy wisely says though.....things can, and probably will get better. I participated in your conversation about the last day of life, and I sincerely hope you are not contemplating something like that for yourself?

      I agree with Amy that talking about the challenge with your feelings is important. Hang in there Julianna, and I'm sending loving energy your way:>)
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    Apr 16 2014: Happiness is full of life
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    Apr 15 2014: You have to know what sadness is to understand the concept of being happy. Have any of you guys experienced real happiness? If you have please reply
  • Apr 15 2014: Cannot you let people be happy before barging into their life uninvited?

    I like great sex and great food. After that great sleep in a big beautiful bed. It is not philosophy for me. It is my emotional side and I care for it as much as dealing with complex issues. Each has its place

    But my preference above is like

    "Making a swing o fa crescent moon
    and zoom in the sky
    watching the stars fly
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      Apr 15 2014: so do you know exactly what happiness is???
      • Apr 15 2014: For me yes. I just speak for me. In final analysis all is vanity; Death is final destiny for everything in the Universe and for Universe it self.
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          Apr 15 2014: have you expericened a tragic event or a sad event??
      • Apr 15 2014: Juliana:

        You are fishing beyond the scope and framework of discussion. This is a place of opinion and personal expression. But it is not a clinical indulgence.

        Thank you and let us see what others can contribute your post
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          Apr 16 2014: look RAJ PATEL ,im not trying to get into other peoples life. Im just trying to make a point. Im sorry if I offened you I did not mean to and my name is Julianna not Juliana. im really sorry
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      Apr 26 2014: Raj, FYI - When you join in a conversation, the scope can widen or narrow as the discussion progresses. It can lead in directions that the parties choose to take it, so long as it is not against the actual rules noted. If you choose to not reply, that is your option. But when you join in a conversation, you ARE inviting others to add their comments. This is no place for being unkind or cruel. You have an option to sit back quietly and read these discussions without sharing your thoughts, or go to another web cite where the rules do not apply.
      • Apr 26 2014: Amy:

        Got it.

        I a not sure what particular post creates this. If you indicate I can understand. Many personal name calling or personal characterization has been directed at me. May the question Julianna asked was not understood in a way she intended. The spelling of her name was not intended. When I entered the post her name came red lined so I corrected it as per dictionary without checking that there can be two "N" in the name. I thing dictionary should allow that option. Many have commented that my English needs work or I must be from foreign country that true originally. But my control of English is good at content bad grammatically. So I depend on dictionary more than others. If it makes mistake I am helpless..

        Bottom line I will be careful in the future future. I will reduce my comments and mos;y read.

  • Apr 13 2014: Happiness is an 'in the moment' experience. People who have experienced enlightenment claim to live in the moment and this gives them great happiness or serenity. So your frame of mind when you are thinking is more detached from the present and thus decreases happiness. Animals cant ponder their situation like humans do and they seem to be quite content with what's going on.
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      Apr 14 2014: //Animals cant ponder their situation like humans do and they seem to be quite content with what's going on.//

      I think labeling an animal's existence as 'content' is anthropomorphizing - and thus wrong.

      We do not know if the animal is content with their lives, all we know is that there is less thinking involved with their lives (than humans).

      But your answer does seem to be the general agreement in this post; you hit both key points: happiness is 1. momentary and 2. the ideal state of enlightenment.
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    Apr 13 2014: Hi again Nicholas, I hope you don't mind if I take the pleasure of adding another comment to this interesting topic. This one deals with the knowledge aspect of your question. My previous comment mentioned a saying that my grandmother often said which was "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have." And with this comment I would like to refer to a saying that my grandfather would say. He would often make the comment... "BOOK LEARNING AIN'T EVERYTHING." This was not to suggest that he did not encourage and support a sufficient education and understand the value of a significant higher education. But he also vigorously advised of the necessity and value of having common sense. I personally find that a person can be highly academically advanced but may not know how to communicate with their friends, or be able to be win over a romantic interest. They may be unable to be charismatic and persuasive when it comes time to negotiate a deal on a vehicle or real estate purchase. Even with a degree from an Ivy League university, if someone can't tell when someone is trying to take advantage of them, or fails to be at least minimally skeptical when being strongly persuaded by someone who may be trying to defraud, exploit or swindle them, then their degree will not save them from the scam artist that can spot someone with a good nature and a kind heart from a mile away. I assume that if a college graduate is not informed and mindful of the broad variety of human nature and neglects to gain a good amount of experience with basic everyday human interaction then they are at risk for being an easy target and is likely to be taken advantage of time and time again. So, I think that being an educated victim may not result in a whole lot of happiness. My point is that knowledge should be broad ranged, well rounded and serve to attain the happiness that you seek.
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      Apr 13 2014: hi, Amy. I am sorry I did not respond to your last comment before the other convo closed on the other convo. I'd still like to try to clarify. If you like, you can change your TED profile so that people can contact you through TED, or send me an email through my profile.
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        Apr 13 2014: Hi Greg, Nothing needs to be clarified. It is clear that you are in your 50s, live on milk, refuse to get a job, take money from your mother and are awaiting for your life to "unfold". In the meantime, you log on your computer as early as 4 am, send as many as 60 comments in a day, but claim that you are not well enough to work. Telling people that you find it gratifying to live on milk is not a job, A job had this other really great benefit called a paycheck which people use to pay their own bills, and help their senior citizen mother if they can. I have news for you. Life is unfolding right now......this is it......there are no dress rehearsals. There are no second chances. But it is unfolding outside of the room that you are in,
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          Apr 13 2014: Well, that's a very negatively spun characterization of me, and it seems a little unfair to do it here publicly where I can't really reply because it's someone else's conversation. The milk diet has enormous value, and I would like to see if I can get any closer to conveying the value to you, but it would have to be done not on a TED convo as no convo is going about it.
  • Apr 13 2014: You cannot find a general definition for Happiness, because there is no one and it depends on person.
    For me, happiness is implementing (or behaving) in the line of my knowledge. We have some facts in our brain that we believe in them, we touch them thousands time, we have some ideas about them. Now, if we try to prove our ideas in our daily-basis tasks, this is happiness. That's what our mind enjoy it. This is an intellectual definition.
    But you can be emotionally happy sometimes, like for the guy you said being in a food line and being close to eat is happiness or listening to music could make you happy and you don't know why. But, I think emotional happiness is in moment mostly. This is my opinion.
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      Apr 13 2014: Well there seems to be a difference between what one identifies as happiness and how we can identify happiness as something objective, which can be measured scientifically in research - to build and question theory.

      But as far as separating the intellectual and emotional aspects of happiness, that seems also like it is just your personal identification. Emotional Intelligence Theory has made great strides to dictate they are not mutual (emotions and reasoning) in the brain but in fact depend on one another.

      Truly "what is happiness" is deceiving... It is more so - when, why and how is happiness [enacted]?

      Which are more so an evolutionary concern and/or even a social-cultural concern...The fact we keep considering it to be a 'individualized' event is why the definition is not easily found, because we believe our perceptions matter in the debate. But, that is why I also think happiness is a cognitive bias in it's own right - it dictates and guides our general thinking without us necessarily rationalizing/recognizing such.
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    Apr 12 2014: What to you is the difference of 'to be' or to 'think to be'? I may be wrong, but it seems that one negates the other to you in a certain way? If so, why?
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      Apr 13 2014: Explain more; what exactly are you asking? What is the difference between 'to be' and 'to think - to be?'

      I am not 100% clear on what you are asking.
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        Apr 13 2014: Actually I don't know how to re-phrase this pretty clear question ...

        But let me try. As you asked this other person who said it was happy if he instead 'thinks' to be in this state, it seems that there is a difference to you in between both.

        This difference is what I asked for. In short: what is the difference when you ARE happy compared to when you THINK you are happy.

        So far I don't see any difference in between both.
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          Apr 13 2014: There is ultimately no difference, until the happiness is challenged. If there was never a challenge it is only being, after the challenge it is 'thinking' because there is a reflection, there is a need to double-back to the reasons of the happiness.

          To be happy - is a state of mind, but to think one is happy is also a state of mind, but conditional.
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        Apr 13 2014: So your understanding of the term 'thinking' is tied to the process of an active and reflective process, correct?

        Which would make an inner, yet unreflected thought process become what in your view?

        So if was at a grocery store and comparing prices of one brand of noodles to another, my inner dialog of naming out the numbers I read from the price tag, and doing some simple and comparative math, was not considered thinking by any means unless I would challenge this banal inner scene at that very moment it happens?

        To be happy is as conditional to thinking as it is to reflect about it, only its perspective, its viewing angle changed. Because if it wouldn't it would allow 'happiness' to exist outside minds just on its own, which at least so far,I haven't stumbled across such phenomenon. Or if I did, I didn't notice.

        Our minds seem to work sequentially in time and are only capable to be in one single state at the very present, like a mathematical circle touches a plane on just one single spot while rolling on it. This may be experienced differently at times and under the influence of certain chemical stimulants, yet judging from my own abilities I am not capable of any form of thinking, unaware or aware, five minutes back in time, or ahead.

        This overall and unavoidable condition is what does not allow in my view for any unconditional though processes and awareness becomes only a matter of focus.

        Yet happiness seems to be of volatile nature anyway, which may have caused the other person you mentioned to loose it the moment he reflected upon it.
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          Apr 14 2014: //So your understanding of the term 'thinking' is tied to the process of an active and reflective process, correct?//

          Well again your question wasn't very clear - to think about being - seems like an innately active and reflective process. There is of course unconscious and subconscious thinking that can create or effect one's state of mind to be happy (or in general).

          // Which would make an inner, yet unreflected thought process become what in your view?//

          Just thinking (I guess just being), but again I still feel your original questions was confusing. I never heard the phrase 'to think to be'.

          And happiness does exist 'outside of mind' that is why we are able to talk about it. It is immaterial, it has form yet does not have spatial existence. You can witness and see happiness, but not know the essence of it - while philosophers have tried.

          // Yet happiness seems to be of volatile nature anyway, which may have caused the other person you mentioned to loose it the moment he reflected upon it. //

          That was my original 'theme' of the conversation, a long with how happiness may be biased in natural thought.

          What has been your point? Or objection you wish to convey?
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        Apr 17 2014: My point is to understand what to you is the difference between:

        to be happy (to be)

        or to:

        think to be happy (think to be).

        As you turned around asking the guy the latter of the two above, it appeared to me, that to you there is a difference in 'validity' in which happiness can be experienced.

        I also have some trouble now to follow your explanation why happiness does exist 'outside of mind' because we are able to talk about it. Isn't talking solely based on the abilities of minds?

        As much as I am aware of, happiness can be deliberately stimulated within our brains by external stimulation of certain brain regions, which could make us laugh for cheer joy without any other cause than that. What I haven't heard of or found myself so far, is any form of 'happiness' outside of any brain or mind, as for its existence it would need to be contained in 'something' or consist out of 'something' for us to be certain about it.

        Also I assume, that happiness is not an universally valid experience, not even in one and the same mind, although I think that the biochemistry behind it works similar on each members of one species.

        Yet back to my original question, did it never happened to you that you were happy and at the same time consciously realized to be in that very mood at that very moment?

        It happened to me many times, which I would consider 'to think that I am happy', because consciousness to me is a form of thinking.

        Or do you mean by 'thinking to be happy' more in a way that optimism could also be perceived as 'just' a lack of information? Meaning, you may feel happy now, but if you would know more details about what makes you feel happy, you wouldn't be it anymore?

        For instance, one is happy to meet ones girlfriend tonight, but if one would now what she was doing right now, one might feel completely different about it?

        So is the distinction you seem to have to me between 'to be happy' or to 'think to be happy' a matter of context rather than the sense of it?
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          Apr 22 2014: I don't think phenomenology is good exercise in philosophy beyond a psychological attempt to label stimuli and their affects on the mind.

          Yes, happiness exist outside of the 'mind' or else we obviously can not talk about it. It's just immaterial, not material. Emotions exist; we can scan someone's mind when they are experiencing Euphoria. There is no question that 'happiness' is real and affects individuals ability to think, but the question is "how is that universal?"

          What makes us 'happy' or makes people 'happy' is based on a variety of 'things' or 'moods' or 'states of mind' at a given moment in time. Dependency-issues shouldn't be the difference between considering something exist whether something exist 'inside' or 'outside' of the mind. Obviously, if there is an experience to denote, it can be quantified from the internal. More difficultly what is 'externally happiness' is a question and concern of the ancient philosophers themselves (Aristotle being one of my favorites).

          Happiness is not in the 'something' as much as the reaction to 'something' so I can see your confusion there.

          // Meaning, you may feel happy now, but if you would know more details about what makes you feel happy, you wouldn't be it anymore?//

          That is a much clearer question, in which I say yes.

          Where we gain moments of happiness -whether is be unconscious (sociability (band wagon), altruism, optimism, confirmation of current knowledge) -or- conscious (positive emotions) - seems to be from places we often do not investigate in great lengths. "Why question a good thing?"

          And I think when one questions a 'good thing' it does not necessarily lose that quality, but the 'question of quality' is re-investigated in a superposition (a process of metacognition) and even if it does not decay/decrease in the quality of happiness, the quality is still being questioned and during which time is not a pleasant state of mind - since it cannot be pleasant while its bewildered.
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        Apr 22 2014: To me, the experience of happiness is without exception a biochemical reaction within brains, as we would not be able to form it, if certain neurotransmitter would not be existent within us, such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc. The stimulus for those transmitters to get produced and injected are numerous, highly individual and situational and can be influenced by our knowledge about things.

        Those chemicals are conditional for this emotion to form and as they get naturally dismantled over time, to reset synaptic connections for further processing, we seem to be able to make and store 'neuronal screen-captures' of this biochemical state, which in itself and when recalled, can cause the reproduction and re-injection of neurotransmitters to experience the emotional response again.

        Both representations of happiness, its biochemical experience as well as its informational image, are tied to matter and its equivalent, energy, such as molecules and electrical neural impulses, which to me makes the concept of the 'existence of happiness outside of minds', another representation of mental imagination.

        The mental concept, that:
        'Yes, happiness exist outside of the 'mind' or else we obviously can not talk about it.'
        would not be existent without the existence of minds, as both, happiness and language are based on minds.

        The biochemical formation of happiness and its informational representation in words are not one and the same, thus happiness can not exist on its own as immaterial felt emotion.

        I can only assume that some schools in philosophy will find their mental constructions by which it appears to be one and the same but then it would only be a matter who follows those line of thoughts and who doesn't.

        As our conscious minds seem to be dominantly serial in time and limited regarding simultaneous emotional responses and cognitive reflections it may be that you refer to our 'focus' when you conclude that happiness 'cannot be pleasant while its bewildered'?
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        Apr 22 2014: On this I could even agree provided, that the level of mental focus on the 'questioning' side becomes that dominant and lasting, that the neurotransmitters which created the former emotional response of happiness get naturally dismantled and therefore begin to fade consequently.

        This is what I call the 'volatile' nature of happiness, nevertheless, at least within me there seems to be times of overlapping of both mental processes, in which I am totally aware about my happiness, its source and at the same time enjoy it while reflecting upon it.

        But there is a reason why our vegetative brain functions, such as breathing, digesting and our heartbeat got mainly disconnected from our conscious brain functions, as otherwise many philosophers would have died the moment they would spend their time and focus pondering about it.

        Quite a clever protective mechanism nature implemented here within us ... :o)
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      Apr 15 2014: what are you asking?
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        Apr 18 2014: Please excuse this late reply on your question.

        In my comment above I tried to rephrase my initial question by adding 'happy' to it, which may help to understand it.

        As happiness to me is exclusively experienced within brains, which does not exclude lateral effects, such as 'butterflies in the stomach', 'tickling in the neck', etc., it is a process of neuronal activity, which we call thinking. Consciously or unconsciously.

        Therefore I'd like to understand what the difference could be in between 'to be happy' or 'to think to be happy', as so far I can not think of any.

        But as you stated, that 'HAPPINESS is not in my VOCABULARY ANYMORE!!' I am afraid now, that the way I rephrased my question may remain unclear to you still?

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      Apr 23 2014: hey Lejan do you think you can teach me how to speak german? and i can teach you italian?
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        Apr 23 2014: Theoretically, yes. Practically, no.

        But to complete your English vocabulary again, you may enjoy the following collectors item I like to return to you. I have two of them, so you can keep it:

        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - cut here

        Happiness : Enjoyable state of mind and heart

        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - cut here

        It can be rare at times, yet as this is only temporary, you should keep a close eye on this one to never loose it ever again. It is self-explanatory so you will understand its meaning next time you have it.

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    Apr 12 2014: Thanks everyone for commenting!

    It has been a treat responding and reading your comments.
  • Comment deleted

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    Apr 9 2014: From one your posts Nicholas:
    "Great response,
    So far the main response is that 'happiness is something momentary' which is an interesting result from asking this question."
    Got me thinking. What if someone did something that made them happy, for example, smoking weed. If they stopped smoking weed, they would no longer get happy from smoking weed. Maybe would miss that happiness.
    If that person did not smoke weed for a certain amount of time, maybe they would forget that certain feeling of happiness, maybe would not miss, or chase after it any longer. Could this lead to being content with life without smoking weed?
    This process of cessation of longing for, and chasing after happiness, is different for everyone.
    Being happy knowing a path is being taken that will dissipate high happiness, and low sadness, may be a path rarely taken.
    It is possible to be too sad, it is possible to be too happy?
    Is it possible to be too content with the way things are?
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      Apr 9 2014: Smoking marijuana already affects your state of mind, so maybe it's not the best example to use here.

      Try another example, or maybe that alternative state of mind is part of your question?

      "It is possible to be too sad, it is possible to be too happy?"

      Yes people have died from "having their heart broken"

      And I do not know if you can be too happy, we would have to re-quality what happiness means and what it is means to be happy before I confirm an answer.

      "Is it possible to be too content with the way things are?"

      What is being content, and what would being "too content" look like?
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        Apr 10 2014: Substitute whatever you like into the smoking weed example, does not matter. Idea is that after longing for happiness fades away, may lead to being content.
        Being content in context of my post, means having no emotional response when realizing; something that once brought happiness is no longer a part of life, the longing for that happiness has faded away, and things are fine without longing for or chasing after that lost happiness.
        I am not writing about being fine without ever being happy. i am writing about considering one thing that once brought happiness, that is now longer a part of life.
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          Apr 12 2014: It's like this... When some people were children they got a toy they really wanted, but, eventually they would get bored of the toy and move on to another one. But, when another little kid would come a long and pick up the toy and begin to play with it, they immediately wanted to also play with the toy that was forgotten about. They were reminded of 'that toy' and then wanted 'that toy' and no other toy...

          What is happening here can happen to someone whom consumes marijuana in large amounts - it becomes a ritual but not one of praise and enjoyment but of duty. However, once a challenger comes a long and say "smoking is bad for you" they will revive their joys of smoking, therefore they have been reminded of 'that reason' and then must defend 'that reason' and express no other opinion...

          No action or event is happiness in of itself - the happiness comes from us experiencing the action or event, or the thought of us experiencing said action or event..

          After those events become a casual thing, they need to be reminded (somehow) of why they held value in the first place.

          Reminding oneself that the goal is not happiness, but to make the path accept happiness will alter one's need to look for events and actions of happiness, but make any event and action they perform something that can be later appreciated - and thus find a more content life that is not fixated on attachments, but why we are making the attachments.

          This is a very privileged instance for humans to experience; the ability to not be as pleased with what was special like it was in history past. Perhaps reminding oneself that this is a privilege many in the world may never get a chance to experience can also help them appreciate that ability to get high with their friends without a care in the world - every moment and every time. For example lol.

          It helps to have an activity that requires physical fitness - like martial arts and rock climbing - to not get so 'bored' or 'use to' it so quickly.
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    Apr 8 2014: Nicholas,
    Happiness is seeing your smiling face:>)
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      Apr 8 2014: That's what mirror neurons do!

      You see a smile, you smile. Empathy drives or whatever they are called.

      There is a chemistry for us being happy, but does that matter when we are just happy? Should it?

      I think it does, what do you think?
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        Apr 8 2014: You are RIGHT Nicholas!!!

        Actually, we can produce the "mirror neuron" effect with a regular mirror!
        Sometimes, if I'm feeling less than energetic, I look at myself in the mirror and laugh or smile, and things start feeling better:>)

        "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused"

        It has been scientifically proven that happiness creates a chemistry, or chemistry creates happiness.....which do you think comes first?

        I think/feel "knowing" more about our self helps us orchestrate our lives in a more beneficial way, and in that way it matters. The more information we have about how our body/mind works, the more beneficial it is for us as we navigate the life adventure......what do you think?
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          Apr 9 2014: Yeah by tricking our body, in a manner of speaking, our hurt arm is actually functional.

          Same thing as for when you see someone's smile and then you smile - your body is telling you to duplicate what you see from witnessing another do it. "Like if you were ever in a movie and saw a man get stabbed and felt pressure on that particular body part."

          The body is making the chemistry for us to be happy, the thoughts to tell the body to begin that process definitely have to come first - otherwise we are talking a sort of precognition.

          Embodied cognition is the real type of condition our body/mind/brain think within.
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        Apr 27 2014: Hello again Nicholas:>)
        Considering our focus here.....are we "tricking" the body/mind with the process we are talking about? Or are we reprogramming? Maybe it depends on how one perceives the process. I tend to think that we are reprogramming, because when we change our thoughts, we create new neural pathways in the brain, which probably influences the chemical reaction?

        Change our thinking, we may change our feelings, which may change our life experience:>)
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          Apr 28 2014: 'Tricking' would be more like it, because in the process of tricking we are reprogramming. Otherwise, to reprogram, would take a lot more effort than simply showing your body 'how your body SHOULD move and function'. At least in the case of using a series of mirrors to repair a hurt arm - in notion mirror neurons are repairing or replacing functions to do so properly.

          But now involving 'trickery of emotions' again, I say yes.

          Consider market advertisers - and how they create commercials for kids with dazzling images, happy people, exciting events and attractive characters. This commercial was designed to be an entire source of positive stimuli to attract the child into asking their parents to buy this candy, toy and/or game.

          A better example is Public Relation Experts - their job is to make their company (or who they represent) to look like the best you'll ever see. They will smile, they will be well spoken, they will care about what you have to say (or seem that way), small talk expert, etc. They were TRAINED to be expert at relating and handling the general public.

          While we talk to this PR we are under 'their spell' they have done everything to bring down our defenses as an individual in order to sell to us, or make their stance look at the more better.

          We reprogram our mind over time, but to go from 'one state of mind' to another, in a few moments is a type of mind trickery.

          "Changing thoughts" is one thing, but I don't think it changes chemistry for the long run unless it's impacting. "Manipulating thoughts" is another, and effects the moment, and after enough time will have a lasting impact.

          I know this all doesn't sound 'positive' but essentially, we are not the most clever creatures - we only think we are. We adapt and respond to our environments far more than we think about how we are adapting and responding.

          Let's put it this way - I put a magnet on the side of your head - you see images. I put a crying baby in your arms you feel.
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          Apr 28 2014: We do not know how to make you 'feel' like that^ with a magnet (yet), but we know that the baby will do things to your body-mind-brain which are empirically founded.

          There is evidence to support we trick ourselves on a daily basis to believe in falsehoods and otherwise straight-our illusions. We do this as a defense mechanism and is no different than what mirror neurons do - except, the more we understand them, the better we can consciously use them.
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        Apr 30 2014: I agree Nicholas, that we may be reprogramming with the perception of 'Tricking', and I do not feel that reprogramming without a sense of "tricking" takes more effort.

        If we want to change the chemistry in our body/mind over a long term, the thoughts which help produce the chemistry need to change over the long term as well. After awhile, with this practice we CAN instantly change our perceptions because we have, over time, created new neural pathways in the brain.

        I wholeheartedly agree with you that "the more we understand them, the better we can consciously use them"...and you ask..."Some say "ignorance is bliss" others will say "knowing is the ultimate enjoyment. What do you say?"

        Personally, I say that "knowing" how the process works and using it effectively can change our perception of happiness or lack of happiness in our lives.

        I don't like using the word "tricking" when talking about this process in relationship to happiness, because according to the definition, "tricking" has an element of deception, and I don't feel that changing our thoughts about something is a deception. It is, for me, recognizing another perspective....another possibility....another opportunity.....etc.

        What we focus on expands.....where focus goes, energy flows. So we can change our thoughts, focus, and perceptions, thereby creating new neural pathways, without deception or my humble perception and experience.

        Perhaps whether we choose to call the process "trickery", depends on our personal intent and understanding of the process:>)
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    Apr 8 2014: So I extended the conversation and will begin to respond to everyone's comments!

    But right away I recommend another scholar Daniel M. Haybron - The Pursuit of Unhappiness
    (originally was a journal than became a book). Here is a link to download the journal:
    (A great summary)

    To quote his work: "The reason is that our basic decisions about how to live, and our views of the good society and the sorts of policies that make sense for us, often depend on broad assumptions about what we are like; an image or metaphor of the human animal that establishes various presumptions about the ways of proceeding that are liable to seem fitting for us"

    I take this quote and confess that I believe, as human beings, we think in an existential-pragmatic order.

    'We start with ourselves to figure out what works best for ourselves and others - from the subjective to the objective.'
    What works for us, can be assumed to work for others
    What we know is vital to use when we want to know others and know how to work with others

    "What works for myself - and - how I view the world - provides the best reasoning to know I am justified in doing what it is I think is best for myself, and perhaps even others."

    I think while I respond to everyone's post here with the mentality we are all working within an existential-pragmatic order (exemplified in the above statements) a more general understanding of happiness can be created for everyone participating.

    Also to note: I am a Zennist. Which means I practice and study the tradition of Zen (Ch'an) Buddhism and integrate those lessons into my already eclectic viewpoints.
    This topic and questioning of happiness is in part a subject for transpersonal psychology - by finding resolutions to 'objective concerns of happiness' we can better think, live and be as a human.
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    Apr 6 2014: Additional Hazrat Inayat Khan quotes:

    "A happiness which is momentary, a happiness which depends upon something outside of oneself, is called pleasure. Very often we confuse, in our everyday language, the distinction between pleasure and happiness. A pastime, an amusement, merriment, gaiety that take one's thoughts away from the responsibilities and worries and limitations of life and give one a moment's consolation-one begins by thinking that these are the ways of happiness. But as one cannot hold them, and as one often finds that, seeking for what may be called a pleasure, the loss is greater than the gain, then one begins to look for something that will really be the means of happiness. It is this, very often, that wakens a soul to look for the mystery of religion, for the sense in philosophy, for the secret of mysticism, in case he can find some happiness there. But even all these things only help one to find happiness; they are not happiness themselves. It is the soul which is happiness itself, not all outer things which man seeks after and which he thinks will give him happiness. The very fact that man is continually craving for happiness shows that the real element, which may be called man's real being, is not what has formed his body and what has composed his mind, but what he is in himself."

    "No soul is deprived of happiness in reality; the soul's very being is happiness. Man brings unhappiness upon himself by holding in his hands the clouds of bad impressions, which fall as a shadow upon his soul."

    "The soul becomes happy when there is happiness in the heart; it becomes miserable when there is misery in thought."

    "When one has been able to find one's happiness in one's own heart, independent of all things outside, the purpose of the desire for happiness is fulfilled."
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      Apr 8 2014: Thank you for the quotes and posting them and participating.

      But more than anything else, I find value the opinions and perspectives an individual mind can create and express. That to me is the ultimate 'crowd sourcing for knowledge' which is a big way I use and have used TED.

      So, please, with all these quotes in mind - respond to the conversation again, by either answering the general question "What is happiness?" or by even responding to the inquiries I have proposed in the summary of this conversation.

      It would be highly appreciated to hear what you have to say after reading the quotes you have selected to post!

      Thanks again!
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        Apr 8 2014: You're welcome, Nicholas. I hesitated to start off with a bunch of quotes, but decided to go with them because they do a pretty good job of presenting some of what I might say in my own words.

        In meditation and in life, it has become apparent to me (and others I hang with) that a significant aspect of our essential nature is Joy. Although we can attain deep inner experiences of that Joy, what we usually experience is a more superficial manifestation that is happiness. This happiness can be evoked by a wide variety of pleasurable experiences that remind us, or help us tap into, or open our insight into the reservoir of Joy within. Other times, the "shell" of our sadness, disappointments, pain and suffering covers over our ability to be aware of our inner Joy through tastes of happiness. We also tend to become very attached to the material realm, meaning to attaining things, to retaining things, and to accumulating pleasurable experiences that we have come to associate with pleasure and happiness.

        But, when our sense happiness depends upon these outer things and experiences, we give them great power over us and, indirectly, we give others great power over us, which means we give up large degrees of freedom and self-determination which, ultimately, sets us up for great unhappiness. So, we're constantly, if unknowingly, working against our own best interests.

        It's only when we realize that the true source of happiness, and Joy, is within us that we can escape our dependence on outer attachments and learn to connect with our inner source whenever we want to, even in the face of loss, injury and pain that we all inevitably experience in life.

        As such, happiness, and Joy, is an inner experience of who and what one really is in the core of one's own being. And, when we realize that at this deep Heart level we are all interconnected and interdependent - we are all one - this sense of Joy becomes extremely powerful because it is multiplied by all who experience this.
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        Apr 8 2014: I noticed the comments about happiness being momentary. Yes, that is true when it depends upon outer acquisitions and stimulations which are all impermanent. Even if they last a long time, our attention becomes distracted from them by other things and experiences and they lose their effect on us. Or we may begin to worry about losing the things we've gained, and that becomes a distraction.

        When one achieves the ability to tap into one's inner source of happiness, it is always there to fulfill one's desire to experience happiness. In fact, one can actually experience happiness, and even Joy, all the time. In other words, true happiness is not a fleeting experience; it becomes one's constant experience of life, regardless of what our life experiences bring us.

        There is nothing like a constant experience of Joy at being Alive!
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    Apr 5 2014: i personally usually know why I'm happy? You don't?
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      Apr 8 2014: Well I do not know why - exactly - I am happy just because I am around other happy people. It involves a lot of chemistry and physiology I am unaware of... But I ask you now: if you do not know exactly why you are able to be happy and what makes you happy (biologically//neurologically), are you actually happy or just responding in a manner which appears to be happy (and able to be labeled as such)?

      This argumentative is loosely based on an emotivism (no ethics, just judgments); judgments do not function as statements of fact but rather as expressions of the speaker’s or writer’s feeling
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        Apr 8 2014: well, i'm usually happy if I'm not starving from lack of food, if I feel okay physically, if I'm successfully doing interesting, worthwhile activities. Those things don't make you happy, Nicholas? They don't seem that mysterious, pretty much anyone would be happy if those things were true, wouldn't they?

        Is this an argumentative, I thought it was a question?
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          Apr 8 2014: My question was a little contentious in phrasing, so yes, it was an argumentative statement - to be contrary to yours.

          My question still remains however: If you are not aware of the chemistry in which makes you happy, is that actually happiness or is it something we just able to label as happiness?
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        Apr 8 2014: well, it's hard for me to answer this, N. You're saying the burger king guy didn't know why he was happy, I find his syntax somewhat ambiguous, it's not crystal clear to me that if you had asked him why he was happy, he couldn't have suggested some reasons.

        By the way, you sure take a pleasant profile photo.
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          Apr 12 2014: No matter why he was happy, whatever the reason it was for him to declare happiness, after my simple statement of "or you think you are happy" it was apparent he was no longer in that state of happiness.

          I never asked him "why are you so happy" I merely state that simple statement. If the happiness was genuine, do you not think my statement would of only made him more-happy and not upset? At least, that is what I think.
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        Apr 13 2014: i'm not sure, Nicholas. Are you assuming that because he stopped smiling, he was no longer happy? It is true that sometimes you can be happy and all smiling and laughing, and then other times you can be happy in a mellower way where you're more reflective and sober? It is conceivable to me that he shifted from mode 1 to mode 2 after your comment? It is even possible that your comment had nothing to do with his change in expression?

        It is also possible that his happiness was based on something very superficial, and thus any question coming from anybody would have shaken him up. But that doesn't mean others couldn't have a larger, stronger happiness that they have questioned and that can withstand questioning. I do tend to think that if you are happy based on healthy, wholesome factors, you have a pretty good idea why you're happy and it's reasonable for you to feel happy. It's also important to remember that there are degrees of happiness, perhaps it's more common to be mildly happy than to be really exuberant.

        Would you say you are happy? Sometimes or most of the time? Do you have an idea why?
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          Apr 13 2014: Agreed, I assumed he was no longer 'happy' due to my statement and the passing of time. However, from what he was (happily outgoing) to what he became (silent and no facial emotions) we can at least determine his state of mind changed. And I can only further assume that my statement affected that state of mind by the change of expression and how he was expressing himself; at bare minimal he became less happy than what he was prior to my statement.

          It is possible my comment had no affect on him but that does not invalidate my conversation's inquiry: "Once we question (seek knowledge of) our happiness, can we be just as happy after that line of questioning? Can we always be happy while we question our own happiness?"

          I questioned him, he didn't question himself, but what if he did? Would he have been JUST as happy, how so? It could either amplify or decrease when one questions the knowledge of something - I cannot see how questioning one's happiness can keep it the same (it being the state of mind).

          I would say I can be happy if I chose to be (at any time), but I do not believe happiness is the most important state of mind to find position in - nondualism, transcendentalism, transhumanism, Buddhism, Daoism.... what these belief systems represent are the state of mind I would definitely rather always be in than 'happy' because then I can know for sure I am less likely to be biased. Which I can also not find argument against - that happiness is not a cognitive bias of sorts (found in confirmation, group-thought, optimism and anthropic principles).

          Why I would be happy is for no-reason, why I should be happy but am not could be for every-reason. It depends, there is no constant. I do not question what will make me happy, I only question what will make me a better human being than I was yesterday - which does not necessarily make me happier in the moments, but imagine a life long contention from such.
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        Apr 17 2014: I do not understand this statement: "Which I can also not find argument against - that happiness is not a cognitive bias of sorts (found in confirmation, group-thought, optimism and anthropic principles)."

        I also don't understand this one: "Why I would be happy is for no-reason, why I should be happy but am not could be for every-reason. It depends, there is no constant. I do not question what will make me happy, I only question what will make me a better human being than I was yesterday - which does not necessarily make me happier in the moments, but imagine a life long contention from such." Can you explain? Also, did you mean the word "contention" in the last sentence?
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          Apr 17 2014: Sorry sometimes I write so quick I am not totally there. It's funny though how content and contention mean totally different things in English, I thought the context would explain: being actively content (contention).

          I have found a lot of scholars discuss happiness in terms of 'altruism' and 'optimism'. Cognitive biases effect/distort our ability to form ideas of the future and our current decision making. Optimism, trying to find the brighter side of things, can also do that; we attempt to make decisions based on what is more pleasant. Also we make choices on what is (not necessarily altruistic) socially altruistic. We will give up, sacrifice, and even surrender freedoms to the groups we identify with and want social-acceptance within (think about fundamentally religious people, or cult followers).

          So between 'helping the ourselves within the pack' and 'looking at the bright side of life' we are also designed to seek self awareness.... But, often the other two prevent that. This is what I have came to discover.

          Now in my search to ask "well is happiness a type of cognitive bias?" No one has really said no. While it is a ;guiding force in our lives' no one understands exactly how so... But, to investigate the matter under pretense it is actually a 'bias' and not a 'guiding force' let's us be more skeptical to the research and develop new ideas about what emotions do to our ability to process information (practically, logically and/or critically). Emotional intelligence theory suffers from these type of questions "are emotions a strain or cushion or neither towards our developing psyche?"

          I choose my own happiness - I practice Zazen and read about theology, religion and philosophy. What brings me my individual joy is learning how others think and what they can possibly believe in. I could be happy for no-reason at times, but at others, I need every-reason to pull me out of a sad state of mind.

          I can come and go to the happiness from the sadness..
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        Apr 17 2014: do you think a person could be at least somewhat happy while recognizing that there are horrible things in the world?
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          Apr 17 2014: I think most do just fine with that already lol.

          Most of the young adults I interact with may discuss the state of the world as being in a constant crisis, but they still stress about becoming an independent - monetarily.

          It has come to the point, for most, where they assume 1. the next generation will be better, 2. it can only get better and/or 3. I'll try to do my part, later.

          Same old issues. It's just a matter of privileges and the education to how and why to aid strangers. In my demographic, people are more often suspicious of others. No trust for the person who has never been met before, and no interest in randomly finding ways to trust them.

          It's not necessarily inhumane to treat others and view the world this way, but it only keeps social-cultural trends indoctrinated for generations before change can be seen by history.

          Take the country-sized piece of plastic in the ocean - our radiation problems in the Pacific Ocean - revolutions in S. America, W. Europe - yet, most of the people I know just worry about becoming a teacher, or just wondering what they should do with their lives.

          I think a lot of issues can be resolved (for individual Americans) is when they realize a simple thought: our government and system has been designed to take jobs away from Americans, we as young Americans should take our B.A degrees (and their debts from them) to other countries that are in need of those skills.

          Do not want to forever leave your family? Ever heard the phrase: 'you need experience to get experience' in response to the job market? Well, that may be the real cost to 1. help the world and settle that inner need to help, 2. learn about the world, and. 3. gain real experience to better yourself for where ever you end up.

          I do think people can be happy, I just don't think they will be happy, without making a life involved with helping others. And not just their families and friends, but with anyone they come across, and by seeking/keeping their options open.
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        Apr 19 2014: well, if people find happiness despite being aware of horrible things in the world, that suggests to me they have thought critically about happiness and still been able to find it.

        It seems worth saying that we can appreciate someone who does a job that contributes to society whether they do it to help others or not. For example, a farmer may only raise food to make money to pay his own bills. But still, the food he raises is something we all need.

        Sometimes people can help others for the profit motive. For example, a farmer who decides to shift to organic food-raising may only do it because he can make more money, yet he is contributing to positive change.

        It seems to me many people have a helpful spirit but maybe don't have the skills or motivation to put so much real help out in the world. You do have to have, or acquire, skills to help on any issue, and you have to be motivated, some people are more going to be leaders on any issue, and some people are more going to be followers.
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          Apr 22 2014: I do not think 'critical thinking' is what prevents a consciously aware individual from not getting dismayed by the current state of the world - I think it's another irrational state of mind; the deluded assurance that things will get better, even without any evidence of such. (Making 'assumptions' more so advanced biases.)

          Like your farmer example: That person is trying to make a living (make wages and income), but, we [not that we necessarily overlook that fact] prize him for the fact he is farming. No deeper concerns for what he is growing, how he is growing, etc. We are content at the fact of 'he is a farmer' because we relate 'farming' with benefit.

          However, expanding such an example, there is a double-edge sword to being a farmer also: If they do not grow corn, for instance, they risk losing their farms due to lack of government aid. AND when they do grow corn, their other crops suffer. Again we are supporting the farmer, but not necessarily supporting his choices of crops (which he had none).

          There are always dimensions of reality which we do not consider, but if considered would change our perspectives and grant a newer (perhaps higher) awareness. And whatever one may call this process (metacognition or enlightenment) it does not seem to be pleasant when pushed 'beyond a certain line or limit.' As if we are programed to limit our desire to investigate the truth when it becomes clear "the more you know, the more you don't know and you get depressed'. It seems to me, at least.

          I think we are naturally social creatures with the drives to be altruistic and become happy from that. However, our systems do not align with that. Religions and politics prevent humans from being human by means of 'capping our knowledge' and not allowing us to be creatively independent, which would result in politics and religions anyways, but ones where they are designed to help people be people and not fill in the gaps of society with their lives...
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        Apr 22 2014: so what is the line one would hit that would make it impossible to be happy? For example, should I be unhappy because there was once a Holocaust that killed six million Jews that took place before I was born?

        Our society is set up to force people to be altruistic whether they like it or not? Because even if you don't give to charity, you do pay taxes, and a lot of those taxes go to social programs that help people. But really, Nicholas, lots and lots of people have an orientation towards helping others already, where are you coming from, are you suggesting there is a high percentage of people who have no orientation toward helping others, what percentage do you think it is? What exactly do you consider helping others anyway, I never for example see a starving person who I could give food to, everyone I see on the streets of America looks reasonably well-fed, even the homeless people.
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          Apr 28 2014: I like to give time before I respond - but since the conversation is ending soon I will respond quicker (or feel free to e-mail me).

          Well you can do a few things Greg, you can create deluded thoughts: "Everything can only get better before they become worse" or "As long as you think positive, positive things will come."

          However, if you are like me and are in constant existential crisis (due to the actual state of the world) you find happiness in knowing people would be better if they were given the opportunity. So I stopped blaming humanity and others (cultures, religions and/or traditions), and I began to blame education systems and how we teach people. And it allows me to misdirect all the angst I would have for life and drive it towards learning how to better educate children (or anyone else). Another outlet is writing and social networks in order to get some thoughts shared.

          In short: Finding a series of procedures, methods and/or interest to benefit others in manners which make you a more well-rounded individual.

          Society (at least Euro-Americana) is not set up to be altruistic - we have designed economies and politics to be lead by capitalism, which is designed to let the winners keep winning (money makes more money). We have chances to develop financially, but the chances of a middle class citizen rising in class status is near impossible - the system is not meant for that to happen, hence 'middle class'.

          A true way to help?

          Start businesses in third world countries. Schools. Factories. Employ the people. Provide products they would not normally get in their areas (nutritionally). Be a social entrepreneur; a mentality where the money you make isn't necessarily 'not for profit' but for profits to allow more people to make profits.

          Your business in Peru or Ecuador won't make you "rich" by first world standards, but, you will be 'rich' by that countries standards. With more ability to help.

          Seeing the world as open-sourced is the key.
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        Apr 28 2014: well, Nicholas, I maintain that most people get some happiness out of life and it is already partly based on helping others. I mean, do you not think a lawyer helps other people? A doctor? A farmer? Do you not think you and I are helping each other by participating in this TED conversation? I don't see why it has to be third world people that we help.

        By the way, what is an "existential" crisis as opposed to just a crisis?

        In your intro, did you claim that our happiness comes from small aesthetic pleasures? Surely you can't think that's the only source of happiness? Happiness comes from a thousand substantial things, how you conduct yourself, who you meet, what you say to them, what you do for them, what they do for you. What is your bio, anyway? What do you fill your time with? I hope that is a source of substantial happiness to you?
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          Apr 28 2014: It must be a situation of 'speaking past one another'

          It's all relative of course and we are speaking in generalities. However, if I were to be a skeptic - no, all lawyers are not helping others unless they are paid. Doctors do not always help others who are high risk and low reward - "health insurance?". A farmer does not necessarily produce to 'help' others, but to provide services for others, they would not have otherwise. Same goes for doctor and lawyer. A job position does not denote their innate desire to help others. While I agree that is in our natural to be altruistic, i does not mean that is the measure of our culture as it exist today.

          Substantial happiness, at least what you made example of, is momentary happiness.

          Indeed I will be happy when I meet a like minded person, but does not mean they will create a platform for me to be happy for the rest of my life - that is up to me ultimately.

          Happiness is both an external and internal dilemma, both a momentary and lifelong concern. At which points and dimensions are we better off being happy than others? When is that happiness biased or misguided?

          These questions are the reason for my conversation. As a person, and what is my own personal happiness, would that not be further biased to add into a conversation about happiness? How can we fairly discuss emotion if we have emotions about the topic?

          I think the knowledge of happiness haphazardly (by being the opposite of sadness, created by fear in ignorance) is what causes some of the most destructive forces in humanity. Involving topics of religious fundamentalism and nationalism - via wars, crusades and politics.

          While I also think knowledge of happiness is what we should all struggle to question and find for ourselves to aid others to do the same.

          While we are naturally designed to be altruistic (social altruism) I argue we do not act on that nature as often as we should. Making a job-choice no more than any other choice we make.
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        Apr 29 2014: well, why does it have to be either/or, Nicholas? Why can't a doctor or lawyer be well-compensated financially and be partially motivated by making money, yet also feel good about and be dedicated to helping people?

        If you are happy in your career, how is that momentary happiness, you are happy 40 hours a week, for 30 or 40 years, why momentary?

        Yeah, the religion question you raise is interesting, I'm afraid at this moment I can't think what to say about it but feel pressure as the convo is slowly closing. I don't understand religion myself, in theory it is ridiculous and yet it seems to give genuine, practical benefit to people. Are you religious?
  • Apr 4 2014: Happiness is feeling energetic?
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      Apr 8 2014: The amount of 'energy' someone has doesn't seem very important for their immediate happiness, but over a life time, I can see how having a healthy amount of energy can lead to longevity and life long happiness.

      But that is just me - I see plenty of lazy people whom are just happy the way they at that moment, but, we can question if they will be 'forever happy' being lazy and sitting around all day, everyday. That seems far less likely.

      So, maybe "keeping energy levels high" is a key to long lasting happiness, but does not necessarily mean momentary happiness.
  • Apr 4 2014: Happiness is absence of pain?
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      Apr 8 2014: Is it?

      Some people love pain - at least physically.
      Some people love being the submissive sex partner and enacting rape-scenes during their sex
      Some people love physically harming others
      Some people love watching others be harmed.

      I don't think pain is a stranger to love, I think pain just becomes less painful when love is involved
      ++ whether it be a normal person or the sadomasochist or the sadist
      • Apr 16 2014: I feel that if we are speaking of "happiness" vs "love" then the word love in these sentences might be better replaced with "find happiness in" I think that love and happiness are very different things. and that using the word love has the capability to lead off the topic of happiness. Thoughts?
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    Apr 3 2014: Happiness is for example when you meet somebody your heart beats fast and its like love at first sight and you are "happy" that you got to meet them, Happiness is also a good feeling , its a feeling that you never felt before.
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      Apr 8 2014: So happiness is the essence of love attraction? Or is love attraction the essence of happiness?
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        Apr 16 2014: happiness is really everything... Everything that you do everything you see even everything you touch. : )
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    • Apr 4 2014: So happiness is wondering exactly when, where and with who you're going to lose your virginity?
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      Apr 8 2014: Chris Kelly -

      I can tell you are responding from a 'spiritual' or 'free-ranged' outlook. Am I over assuming such?

      In Zen I have learned (in text and personally) that being able to laugh from the gut for no particular reason is happiness.

      But your third line is interesting, again, to me. I once asked a little girl whom was a family friend "What makes you happy?" She thought for two seconds and said "seeing my family happy."

      Indeed, what this little girl said (without knowing of course) is that we are prone to smile at other peoples' smiles. Part of that mimetic nature (mirror neurons) and what not. The little girl just made it a point to 'know' this because her mind has not been clouded by an overabundance of information (yet).

      Toy our second line: I think we are happiest when we do not need to think about who we are, but are acting in a way which does not violate any [recognized] social contracts (which we have accepted as valid and useful).

      But ultimately that (and happiness) is all subjective, unlike your first quote - which is objectively true - holding a baby animal will release oxytocin in your brain (granted you are not psychotic) that will calm you down and feel at peace. Like a hug from a scared child. Or the moment the baby calms from you rocking it back and forth. Or any meaningful social contact and interaction.

      Thanks for the thoughts and participation!