Nic Marks

Director, Happiness Works


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Is happiness an emergent property?

Can we become happier? Do others make us happy? Or unhappy for that matter? Is it in our control? Or are we victims of circumstance?

Is happiness like romantic love - in that if we try too hard and want it too much it escapes us? Is Dan Gilbert right in that we stumble upon it - or Srikumar Rao in suggesting it just a revealing process? Or maybe they both are?

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    Mar 1 2011: In order to achieve many things in life it's often but not always a good idea to use a principal called the "indirect effect"

    If you want people to listen to you about a topic don't tell people to listen to you, become an authority on that topic and they'll listen to you without your prodding. Sometimes when you try directly to get something it is very difficult to get it. Try going about the problem indirectly, that philosophy of action always requires some faith that it will work.

    If you want more happiness don't buy more toys, instead spend time with loved ones. if you want more joy don't think about how you're going to get it. think about how you can help others feel more joy.

    I know you think about Happiness often, but don't bother with it because the "secret" to happiness has been enunciated over and over by the wise of history. Selfishness will never work. The trick is to get ourselves and to help others believe that by looking outside ourselves we stand the greatest chance of being truly happy. And the hard thing to do is to live by that truth - its hard because to truly be outside ourselves we cannot be doing it for any external motivation, including our selfish desire for happiness - it must be a part of who we are, we must be sincere.

    This reminds me of a poem I heard years ago. I don't know who write it though.

    I tried to find myself
    myself I couldn't see.
    I tried to find my god
    but he eluded me.
    I tried to find my brother
    and then I found all three.

    a good book which touches on these topics (but not on the pursuit of happiness directly) is "Bonds that make us Free" I think very highly of it.
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      Mar 6 2011: Thanks for sharing the Poem Jordan - how elegant in its simplicity and so true.
  • Mar 6 2011: The happiness is not to be pursued. It is byproduct of fulfillment and fulfillment is byproduct of living purposeful, meaningful, clear-minded life.
    We don't pursue laughter (although they are laughing clubs), we do not seek funny, unless you are comedian, but when we look at life with a joyous heart we suddenly have great sense of humor! And then things are funny and then we laugh. Not the other way around.
    The words to boggle your mind and send you on the path of destruction (like chase of happiness) are found in religious texts, political declarations, laws and constitutions.
    Stay away from it.
    Find what you love, work on it, become good at it, do it every day and one day you will know your purpose, you will be fulfilled... and voila! YOU WILL BE HAPPY!!!
  • Mar 3 2011: Is it happiness or contentment? Happiness is an elevated state whereas contentment is a perpetual state impervious to this highs and lows of daily life. No?
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      Mar 5 2011: Yes, Lydia, I agree. I posted this elsewhere in this conversation, so I apologize if redudant.

      There is no consciousness without contrast. Confucius describes the Chung Yung or "unwobbling pivot" in the "Doctrine of the Mean." It is an unshakeable center that one develops through contemplation. Thus when we are experiencing any heightened emotion, we are simultaneously centered in the awareness that change is the only constant. To be comfortable in this understanding is inner peace or contentment as you name it.

      "Understanding the nature of change, changes the nature of understanding." -Gola Wolf Richards
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      Mar 6 2011: I'm not sure. Is really happiness just a ''high'' state or can it be a residual feeling. Like I am happy every second of my life when I know I am on the right track. I could be miserable about the weather, or cold and damp, or hurt in love - but I am happy because I have that feeling that I live. And experience things, and move forward...
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    Mar 6 2011: I believe happiness is entirely internalized. We have many different definitions of happiness, yet I find that "true" happiness - the form which encompasses all definition - is most independent of religion/politics, social behavior and especially wealth/class stature. This happiness is a state of mind, a feeling. It can be explained biologically, yet it's psychological complexities are vast. This mind structure can increase around others or in isolation. It is heavily personal and it can obtained by anyone. Some ancient Greeks gave pain and sorrow equal emphasis as happiness. Just a thought.

    Edit: I'd like to add an excerpt from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man." He's one of my favorite poets:

    All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
    All chance, direction, which thou canst not see
    All discord, harmony not understood,
    All partial evil, universal good:
    And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
    One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.
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    Mar 6 2011: Of course we can become happier! What on Earth would be the point of living if that were not so?

    Others "make us" relatively happy. I say "make us" because actually outside stimuli activate whatever we already have inside us. You already have it inside you as a potential.

    Absolute happiness, on the other hand, is self-created. It's the simple clear joy of being alive. We sometimes call it happy for no reason.

    We're victims of circumstance if we see it that way. But we can move from victim to victor. A section from my e-book, As You THINK So You Are, says:

    "Circumstances will batter you as long as you believe yourself to be a victim created by outside conditions. But when you realize that you are a creator, and you have creative power, you can redirect the “thought-seeds” of your mind — out of which circumstances grow. "

    Finally, happiness is a by-product. It comes from challenging yourself and growing, from strengthening and deepening your character, from caring about other people, and from comunity building.
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    Mar 5 2011: I became much happier than before because I can enjoy TED in Korea.
    I became much much happier than before because I found out there are so many many good and smart people in this ONE EARTH.
    If we try to share good ideas and make this world a good place to live, we can become happier.
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    Mar 4 2011: Happiness reveals itself but in the end, we need to have acceptance for it. Acceptance when it is emerging and also openness when we are trying to create a circumstance which will lead to happiness.
  • Mar 4 2011: I dont think anyone really can answer this but I have to disagree with the people who feel that happiness is a choice. I can choose to be happy with my situation or I can choose to be unhappy with it? No. Attitude is a choice. I have experienced situations where I have been extremely unhappy with the outcome of an endeavor or a choice, but it is the attitude one keeps about it that counts. I have worked through bad situations with a good attitude and it was a much better situation than it would have been. I have also been in a situation where I honestly tried to convince myself that I was happy when I truly was not, and found that it only made things worse. I think choosing to approach an otherwise unhappy situation with a positive attitude, i.e. "I will learn from this and not repeat it later" or "If I work through this now, things will be better later" are better than actively trying convince yourself you are happy. I think attitude is the choice that contributes to happiness. food for thought i guess
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    Mar 4 2011: What a wonderfully elusive concept--happiness. It is something we take for granted as commonly knowing what it is, but what is it? Is it simply tacit knowledge such that we need not waste time trying to define it?

    How do philosophical approaches such as Buddhism, allow us to approach this question? If life is suffering how can we experience happiness? From this approach, happiness comes through the release of attachment. Attachment to polarity, grounding one's criteria for happiness because either a condition is present or absent. How far does biology play into this? Can we most readily experience happiness when our biological needs have been met and we are in the absence of pain?

    Is happiness the wrong goose to chase? Should we rather be defining satisfaction? How can we be satisfied with our life despite fluctuating moods? It is inevitable that we will experience sadness, grief, anger, and frustration, satisfaction provides a measure that can thread through all of these experiences, whereas happiness is either present or absent, is it not?
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      Mar 5 2011: To me happiness and sadness are closely related fleeting moments - searching for happiness is futile if one doesn't stand still to recognize the precious moments of inner peace and harmony; those rare moments that are completely void of desire because all is perfect as is - aka happiness. Yes, I believe happiness comes through the release of attachment just as sadness is a sense of loss.

      I don't think one can be satisfied without knowing happiness.
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        Mar 5 2011: Yes, but one cannot know happiness without knowing sadness. There is no consciousness without contrast. Confucius describes the Chung Yung or "unwobbling pivot" in the "Doctrine of the Mean." This relates to the inner peace you mention. It is an unshakeable center that one develops through contemplation. Thus when we are experiencing any heightened emotion, we are simultaneously centered in the awareness that change is the only constant. To be comfortable in this understanding is inner peace.

        "Understanding the nature of change, changes the nature of understanding." -Gola Wolf Richards
  • Mar 3 2011: Oh, and what i've just said apllies to EVERYONE :P
  • Mar 3 2011: Hi i am "Carlos" i am 16 and throughout this year i've been trying to analyze why are people happy, because for me it is the main property of the human being.
    At first i thought that it was something natural and irracional but being happy or unhappy is much more than that, i bet that everyone in the world believes in bad days and good days, everyone believes that the world is ruled by problems, work and the "president". Yes that's right, i said it because the world exists for everyone and everyone has their own reality in the same space so we must share that space
    In conclusion i think that to be happy we need to empty our minds, forget the good things and the bad things and fill that empty space with our dreams, our moments of happpiness.
    Enjoy every single second of life because that´s why we're here. I'am the living proof that if we clear our minds happinnes will automatically reach us and spread like a disease.
    Hugs from Portugal :D
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      Mar 6 2011: I'm 18, I've been trying to understand happiness as well.
      My jaw dropped at your advice in all honesty; it makes such clear sense. I had realized(vaguely) that holding tightly to the good things invokes fear of losing them. They become a vulnerability instead of actually helping people become happy. It almost seemed a paradox.
      "Fill the space with our dreams, our moments of happiness." that's essentially what people TRY to do by holding on to 'good things,' but it hurts them and leaves them vulnerable, because good things are always in danger of being lost. You said that so eloquently, and so understandable. Thank you Carlos.
      haha! Hugs from the United States! =]
  • Mar 3 2011: Happiness, surely, is a spectrum from micro-happiness ("I am so happy to see you!") to macro-happiness ("I am really happy with my life"). Does being happy in the macro sense comes about as the sum of a lot of micro-happiness experiences, or is it something qualitatively different? I know that in my life I have always been generally happy, but I am never happy about everything. Right now I am happy, but I'm not happy about too much government intrusion in my life, and I am not happy about what is going on in LIbya, and I am not happy about the way we are polluting our world, and I am not happy about the fact that my business has not been doing well for the past two years, and I am not.... etc etc.
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      Mar 6 2011: I do think it is qualitatively different. Why? I don't know yet. Maybe for most people their overall happiness is a sum of parts. Some people though, it seems they would be happy overall no matter what simply because they are willing to handle anything and bring other's joy. Overall happiness for them seems a way of life...
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      Mar 3 2011: Does it matter to you that you understand what makes you feel unhappy?
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        • Mar 3 2011: "TED: Ideas worth spreading" ;)
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          Mar 4 2011: yes and I turned it round ... quite deliberately because i tend to think people often think that the causes of unhappiness matter but the causes of happiness don't (maybe my bias of course but that is what i think i see) ... does it matter? I am not sure who you asking that question of? For sure if it doesn't matter to you it doesn't to me ... it's an unusual question to pose though ...
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          Mar 4 2011: Nic, if you think about people like Victor Frankl, then it would appear that the causes of happiness matter more than the causes of unhappiness. We can overcome the things that may cause us unhappiness, but only if we know what to focus on. We need to know the causes of happiness, for sure.

          You might like this one too:
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      Mar 6 2011: Yes. Congrats ;)
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    Mar 3 2011: Happiness is a choice. Unhappiness is also a choice. How we react to life is our choice. Often, choosing happiness is very difficult for many of us, but it is still our choice. How I react to anything is up to me. I react badly as a result of my habitual thinking processes and my perception of events.

    I could go to my death on the gallows happy if I work hard enough at it. I could also bitch and moan all the way to the bank because I only won $20 million in the lottery (theoretically). I get to choose, and you get to choose.
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    Mar 2 2011: I'm sorry, but I have just patented happiness.

    Now you guys are going to suffer and pay me big time.
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    Mar 2 2011: I've been a lot happier since i learned to cultivate what you might call the habits of happiness.

    But on the other hand, my dog is happy most of the time and he doesn't work at it. It just happens to him. I know people who use some form of drug to achieve happiness, and again it's a case of happiness being something they 'get' rather than work for. Maybe it's unhappiness, to some degree, that inspires us to make change in our lives and our situation? And 'true' happiness is the result of those changes?

    Incidentally, someone suggested to me once that "pursuit" in the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" refers to an activity rather than chasing something. ie 'leisure pursuit"

    Good question, whatever the answer!
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    Mar 2 2011: People often tell me I was born happy. Was I born any happier then others? I'm not so sure about that, what I am sure about is that my positive mental attitude more often then not allows me to be happy in any given situation.

    Now let's not call out the guards with straight jackets just yet, I don't mean to say that I only experience happiness, nor am I saying I am happy when things are sad or simply suck. But I do mean to say that in most instances I can find happiness sitting on the sideline watching us, and I've noticed happiness has an open door policy that invites us to walk in and embrace it. I've also noticed that happiness flourishes in absence of judgement.
  • Mar 1 2011: Happiness is a feeling. We can become happier. Others make us happy. To a large extent our happiness is in our control. For example, we can engineer our lives to maximize our time in the presence of happy people, positive people.
    We can make positive choices all day long on such things as nutrition, body movement, activities.....all of which affect our happiness.
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    Mar 7 2011: Hi Nic,

    I believe happiness comes from a DECISION inside. However, there are many palpable influences each individual to the experiencer. Surely something so individual must come from inside?
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    Mar 7 2011: Continued from my previous comment……

    It's the same principle with Happiness. So the question is what's the "Right" thing that should occur for having prolonged & authentic happiness ??

    I think the only thing that can bring authentic and ever-lasting happiness, is approaching as close as possible to truth. Now, many might say that truth can be subjective, culture-bound, indefinable, multiple, etc. That's right. So each one can begin to try approaching the truth as one sees it. The final test is how happy one begins to feel and if ones happiness is permanent or temporary. But it's not either-or question. Meaning one does not require to absolutely touching the very truth in order to feel true happiness. The degree of ones happiness and its quality depend upon the degree of ones closeness to the truth. Any single & genuine step towards the truth is also one step higher in the feeling of true happiness. The impact is directly proportional and immediate.

    If this is an accurate analysis, then it's clear that happiness is also a side effect of the truth – a very high-class side effect. But this also explains why the search for happiness as a stand-alone, independent entity is wrong and can never succeed. What should be searched is the truth, not happiness. Happiness will emerge spontaneously as soon as one really comes closer to truth. Happiness is an inevitable side effect of truth.

    Exactly in the same manner also Love should not be searched as a stand-alone, independent entity. What should be searched is a suitable, matching partner for each individually, as Love is a side effect of the interaction with such a matching partner.
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      Mar 8 2011: Assuming that the truth is the reality in which we operate then must we not also acknowledge pain and suffering – that of others as well as our own? I believe this brings us back to the question whether we can be happy without shutting out the sad parts of reality. Is happiness not a fleeting escape from the harsh realities of human existence? And if it is not, when we manage to be permanently happy in spite of the wrongs and injustice around us, are we in danger to become complacent and self-righteous, evoking a status quo and passing judgment on others?

      I agree with your analysis that one can not search for happiness or love and expect to find it. In my mind only if we can find peace in the acknowledgement of both happiness and sadness and dealing with both in a constructive way, by trying to improve our own and what we perceive to be the suffering of others, are we on a true path to a meaningful and blissful (happy) existence.
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      Mar 8 2011: I disagree with your statement linking happiness and truth. If they were directly correlated, we would (in general) be much happier today than people of the past, and I see more evidence to the contrary of that statement.

      In the NFL, for a while they were doing instant replays for any questionable play. This obviously got them closer the the truth, however it interrupted the flow of the game and the fans found it less enjoyable. So now they have replays on a more limited basis. This is further from the absolute truth, but more enjoyable for the fans.

      Also, what about the statement that "ignorance is bliss". While that's not something I aspire to, I have certainly seen situations where a truth has made me more unhappy than happy.

      I do agree with your statement about happiness being a by-product and cannot be searched for directly.
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    Mar 7 2011: The factors you specify in the questions, below your main question, have various degrees of impact on our happiness - depending on the very nature of each one of us separately. But I think, any such factor you named, or others, can bring only temporary happiness. They cannot bring ever-lasting happiness.

    Before I write what I think can truly bring more lasting happiness, I shall specify one more mistake which many make when searching for happiness. The mistake is actually the very SEARCH itself. Because true happiness is not an object to be searched. By embarking for such a search, one gets finally obsessive for finding it, and this fundamentally undermines the possibility to become happy. It's the same with Love. So many people are in quest after Love, but true Love seems to evade them. Because, Love like Happiness, are not objects which can be searched and found and kept in our lockers.

    It's like searching for other feelings like anger, sadness, etc. These feelings are authentic and pure when they rise due to the "Right" event. If we consider sadness, it's truly authentic, suppose, when we lose somebody of our own close family. But if one of our colleagues at work loses someone of his own family, we sympathize him and go to visit him and console him, but we don't feel as much sad as we feel when we lose somebody of our own family. Sometimes we even feel a kind of guilt when we don't feel sad enough when one of our friends lose someone close to him. Then we try to create (to search) some more inner sadness inside us for our friend, but usually it's a futile attempt. So what can be seen here is that there's a need for a truly "Right" thing to happen to create authentic feelings inside us. The other important thing to be noticed here is that these feelings do not exist independently by their own, but they come as side effects to certain events or things.

    Continued on my next comment……
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    Mar 6 2011: It truly is in the appreciation of creation and its representation. Have you sold yourself for a job, friends, etc..? If so you probably will have trouble finding new happiness. Though we need these , we have to trust we will create them and be amongst our own or happiness will only be dictated by the allowable deviation in society during these times.
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    Mar 5 2011: Happiness, though always desired and almost by anyone who can think about it (to whatever extent) is property of mind and it is relative. I will rather say it is report card of performance of a species, while being the question paper too, and for a mind, so contended and bread upon knowledge of not only stuff that affects it but also itself, happiness is final resolution through which the whole species shall benefit. Is not romanticism an essential property of human life? Beside how it works, has not us benefited from it? Selective pairing, learning of virtues and abstractions through art love and wars, sensing beyond knowledge we have attained, understanding how love works, how religion works etc.

    Yes, happiness does imply "others". Nothing can proceed and prosper in isolation. People make people everything they can be. People reflect on people, somewhat like Hegel's hypothesis and anti-hypothesis. It is through exchange, we know about belonging, what is us and what is other. Reflecting on us (for our mind to know and understand) is primary advantage of interaction at all levels. Society, for an individual is WYSIWYG, the most unfit shall challenge and change or parish. This way, society is next level of organism human have attained, just like human with its mind is next level of life all organs involved have attained.
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    Mar 5 2011: Life is a journey and our addiction to happiness may leave us very disappointed if we fail to recognize and appreciate the harmony and peace of mind that constitute the glimpse of perfection until we proceed in our futile search.

    Happiness is a frail state of mind and I don’t think anybody can make us happy, but others/their actions can trigger moments of happiness, as anything we truly appreciate for whatever reason can. We also don’t know happiness without appreciating despair. Happiness and sadness are fleeting, whereas contentment and depression arguably impact us to a greater degree.

    If we are overly content we are at risk to become complacent, self-righteous, and stagnate, failing to learn and grow. If we are depressed we become small and weak. Deriving value from both experiences does not make me necessarily happier, but I like to think that I am more aware.
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      Mar 6 2011: I used to believe happiness was frail as well. I met someone however who had an undeniably enduring sense of happiness. (not contentment, as in an even keel 'good', but he painted the world with a prejudice in it's favor, if that makes any sense) I would challenge anyone or anything to taint his outlook. He did not have a set of circumstances I would envy, but I do envy his life!

      Perhaps, what made him unique was that he didn't fear unhappiness. I like what you said about too much contentment leading to complacency, self-righteous feelings, lack of improvement. That is so so true. What i found incredible was that this person, the happiest I knew, he sought out unhappy people. He changed people's lives, but he never belittled their perspectives. I wish I could say I completely understood what he did and how he did it. What I can say... thanks to him, I know it exists! ;)
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        Mar 7 2011: I'm glad you shared our experience - this person is indeed special and yes, it is certainly worth pursuing ongoing happiness, but without expecting it at as an outcome.

        The only question I would raise is that if sadness and suffering is part of the human experience, can we be happy and compassionate?

        Thanks :)
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      Mar 8 2011: Hello Sarina and Petra,

      I find it interesting that situations (inside and outside of human interrelations) that are disruptive to the status quo can make us feel sad. It doesn't have to be what we might typically think of as something bad i.e. a crime committed against oneself, it could be something as simple as not being able to buy your favorite bag of Mrs. Vicky's salt and vinegar chips from the grocer who has stocked it faithfully since before you can remember.

      Sarina, I think that your friend has exactly the most mature (evolved) and productive approach. Pragmatic Spirituality.

      Nothing has any power over him other than what he gives to it. He chooses to look at his situations as opportunities for positive and constructive growth in what ever aspect of his being that growth can take place.

      It is important, I think to support, cherish and emulate such attitudes (and the persons bearing them) because they bring life; respectful of the pain in the journey, cognizant of the lessons therein yet capable of enduring into eternity.

      Thank you for sharing.
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    Mar 4 2011: Can one be happy if other people are not happy? I don't think so, at least if one is connected to those other unhappy people. If one cannot really be the only happy person in the place, that means that happiness is a social feeling. It is not a state of the individual: it is a state of the social network. If what I've just written were right, then it wouldn't make much sense to ask whether it can be under one's control. What makes a lot of sense is asking what can I do to help other people that are not happy, in order to feel free to search for my own happiness. It makes sense to contribute to the happiness of my social network, in order erase a cause of my own impossibility to be happy.
    • Mar 4 2011: True, happiness is an emitter that effects others in a social network but the amount of impact that happiness or unhappiness has on the individual is dependent on the level of influence the individual allows. I've found that mastering the amount of influence I allow from other's moods has allowed me to improve the consistency of my own happiness.
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    Mar 3 2011: happiness ............I would like to belive that happiness is possible without hurting others ............. but it's imposible
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      Mar 6 2011: What do you mean? I've never experienced happiness via hurting others. I would almost say it's one of the few ways to guarantee unhappiness...
      Are you referring to power at another's expense?
      Perhaps I'm missing something. Explain :) I'm interested!
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        Mar 6 2011: ok.......let's look at it : you , I , anyone for being happier maybe want to get more and ever someone suffer because of that.You know for being happier we want to get more love more money more attention but we are asking all these from our fellwos and in order to make us happy they give us and that make them unhappy............I think it's a balance in everything but we in order to be happier destroy this balance and so we hurt someone........... it's something like you get more and because of that someone compulsory will get less.......that's the clue: there's a balance in everything.
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    Mar 3 2011: We control how we feel. We are people that run on "Bio-Energy" an electric form of energy that runs the body. We as people are able to feel happy whenever we are around certain people while we generate other kinds of emotions around different kinds of people.
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      Mar 6 2011: We don't ''control'' how we feel unless we block all emotions from happening. I'm not saying you can't pick yourself up and through constant work become more satisfied in life, but emotions aren't controllable. And in my view that's what's not working - the control. If we're unhappy, frustrated, angry, happy, if we love - we should just EXPRESS that instead of trying to control it, and know that it is only an emotion. It does not define the completeness of who we are or what we can achieve, but it is an experience.

      And yes, if we hang around positive ppl we are positive and things like that, and the energy level is higher - but does that mean that we are happier? Not necessarily, because if we stop spending time with them, and are left on our own, we become sad.

      I think I idealize happiness a little bit, but then we all do. Happiness is being true to yourself and have that feeling that even if everything you know and everyone you know disappears tomorrow, you can still, somehow, figure out a way to live and enjoy what you have/are doing.
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        Mar 6 2011: I think you're right, Codruta. hahah, you can't just say, 'grrr,' wrestle happiness to the floor and pin it in your life. (The emotion of control and that of happiness kind of tough to keep together, aren't they?)

        I like your point that there is an enduring type of happiness. I also think though that the moment to moment happiness is real and important. But one, kindof of leads to another, doesn't it? :)

        "What is the point of life, if you do not have moments everyday to laugh with, moments you can love tenderly and unconditionally in memory."

        I love love love your last point, "if everything you know and everyone you know disappears..." brilliant. Really shows you what is important, doesn't it? even in death.
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      Mar 6 2011: I think we can steer our thoughts so that we create the circumstances of happiness.
      The happiest person I ever knew had absolutely no reason to be. His outlook still fascinates me.
      Like you say, if we can create this happiness consciously and authentically... wow.
      It sounds kind of silly, but search wikipedia for a subject you hate, one that bores you to tears. You will find evidence of a group of people entirely enthralled and passionate. It seems normal, (to each his own, right?) but its rather incredible when you think that that drastic difference in emotion is simply due to perspective(a perspective you can gain!). You may know every fact on that page, but you are still missing something they understand, right? :)
      I like to imagine a way to translate that appreciation. That is the next revolution in social networking :) Across time, across language: translate perspective so people really understand. I think the world would change socially in a flash. all for the happier and more respectful ;)
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        Mar 7 2011: I'll reply to you here. I somehow think there must be a more efficient way to group replies? Maybe there's an email notification I can enable.

        ''The happiest person I ever knew had absolutely no reason to be.'' - that's exactly right. I have met a lot of people that are happy and seem to have less reasons than me to be so. That's why I respect them, and their strength, to be who they are no matter what the outside world tells them. It's mind-boggling that they can find pleasure in so many things where I take that pleasure for granted...I wish there was a way to go back to reality and learn to be GRATEFUL for everything we have and we've accomplished in our lives. And make sure we're grateful but not complacent, and that we work to do better and be better every second of our life.
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    Mar 3 2011: Research indicates that a least a shot at happiness emerges from socio economic status. Poverty is the best predictor of every negative outcome.
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      Mar 6 2011: that's true for severe poverty. On a correlative basis ;)
      but the second happiest person I ever met was a homeless woman.
      I think that the correlation may have to do with how productive we feel, how competent we feel, and how others react to us. How we think about our chances to succeed. I don't think money (or power) actually leads to happiness. I think the things closely linked to money alter our happiness.
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    Mar 2 2011: Great question Nic.

    Can it be more about less unhappiness and less about more happiness. I feel happiness is a transitional feeling that changes from moment to moment throughout the day. For example, I can have happiness driving home (thinking about spending time with the family), arrive happy and check the mail and find a bill to pay. At that point I am less happy than the moment before but no unhappy.

    If we were to have less unhappiness, would the moments of happiness last longer, resulting in "more" happiness? Or is it about the levels of happiness?
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      Mar 6 2011: I would define happiness as a moment of pure harmony and peace, without the want or desire for anything. These moments strengthen me to make it through times of unhappiness. If I could manage to never find a bill to pay, making me less happy to use your example, I would probably not appreciate or even recognize moments of happiness, in which case happiness would not exist. Happiness is a feeling and if I am unaware that I am happy I am not.

      Is happiness measurable? It depends on how you define it, I would say not, but contentment or satisfaction can be scaled. A score of contentment and satisfaction that is always very high, may leave us self-righteous and without desire to learn and develop. It would also indicate that one is very self-centered simply because the external world demands compassion for nature, for humanity - compassion is hence a form of suffering.
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    Mar 1 2011: I think happiness can be to a large extent an attitude or philosophy towards life. As Rhona says, we have the possibility to constantly choose if we want to contribute or not to it. There are definitely skills that can help us be more happy. See the glass half full vs. half empty, find solutions to problems instead of complaining... Under the same circumstances there are people who are happier than other just because of their different attitude towards life.
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    Mar 1 2011: While I am no expert on the matter, I think that there is something to the idea that happiness is an emergent property. Maslow's hierarchy of needs certainly suggests that it is. Happiness with yourself, or self-esteem and belonging is essential to achieve an even greater happiness, self-actualization.