In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 B.C.E., Aristotle stated that happiness (also being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake, unlike riches, honor, health or friendship. He observed that men sought riches, or honor, or health not only for their own sake but also in order to be happy. Note that eudaimonia, the term we translate as “happiness”, is for Aristotle an activity rather than an emotion or a state. Happiness is characteristic of a good life, that is, a life in which a person fulfills human nature in an excellent way. People have a set of purposes which are typically human: these belong to our nature. The happy person is virtuous, meaning they have outstanding abilities and emotional tendencies which allow him or her to fulfill our common human ends. For Aristotle, then, happiness is “the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason”: happiness is the practice of virtue ( http://www.funkysuccess.com/happiness/ ).
There is an old English saying that goes: “One man’s heaven is another man’s hell.” Simply put, this means that we all know what we see as heaven, or hell for us. We can use the same principle on the meaning of happiness. How our happiness is based on our personal life values and life style. For example, for many people, happiness is to go out, be happy and enjoy life. Others are happy and content just to stay home and do what they want. The latter does not need to go out or somewhere else to be happy. By definition, happiness can be defined as a mood or a feeling of satisfaction, love, joy or pleasure.
There are two basic schools of thought regarding the term “happiness”. One is that our happiness is based on external things like a prosperous life. The other school says that luck more an internal phenomenon. Some philosophers and religious thinkers are inclined to see the idea of happiness as a condition of a relatively “good” natural life. They approached happiness as a condition where one thrives in contrast with an emotion inside that we emit into the outside world.
Psychology tries to define happiness according to a person’s mental condition and a positive outlook. Science on the other hand, attempts to define happiness as something that exists when people move into a state of physical and biological fulfillment.
Although it is difficult to describe happiness as a concrete phenomenon because it is culturally and socially determined, there is general consensus about the essence of the definition of happiness. It is universally agreed that happiness comes down to three things, namely pleasure, engagement and meaning in one’s life. Regardless of the person, place or culture, the universal view of happiness is based on positive emotions and activities of a person’s life that is emitted to the outside world and that are based on the definition of happiness in the culture of which he or she is part. There are certain general characteristics that can be associated with happiness. They are:
4.Extraversion, marital status
6.State of health
7. Freedom in a truly democratic sense
11.To be surrounded by “happy” people.
The order of these general characteristics are not necessarily ranked according to importance. The importance of each is ultimately based on a person’s value system in relation to happiness that is experienced. One person sees love as happiness while another finds happiness in economic security.
Social factors are one of the most important things that make people happy. Their relationships with others are an important source of happiness that flows out of the interaction. A widely publicized study in the British Medical Journal reported that happiness appears to be spreading from person to person within a social network or group. Research was conducted over a period of 20 years and found that happiness tends to spread through close relationships like friends, siblings, spouses and even neighbors.
The research also found that happiness spreads in a given network more consistently than unhappiness. The structure of the social network has an impact on happiness. For example, people in the inner circle of family and friends were happier than those further away on the edge of the network.
This study also concluded that happiness can spread like a virus. When a person is happy in a close social network, that happy state spread also to other persons in the network through their interaction with the source of happiness.
It is safe to say that regardless of the community or country in which you are, only you can just decide whether you are happy or not. In reality there is no such thing as a problem-free life, but you can have a certain degree of happiness in spite of daily problems. Happiness is actually found when we overcome the obstacles and pain that life brings and stronger because of our experiences. The inner sense of fulfillment to perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles are actually the source of true happiness. This compares to the feeling you get with mountain climbing and eventually reach the top!