What Is Happiness? - What Makes It Unique And What Can You Learn From It?

If I asked you and your neighbor to define happiness right now, the two answers would probably be wildly different.

Why is that? What is happiness really? Is it a feeling, a state of mind or just an emotion?

What initially looks like a very simple question turns out to be one of the hardest questions out there.

How can happiness be defined?

Chapter 1 define happiness header

Latest articles

volunteering benefits for happiness featured
Surprising Benefits Of Volunteering (+ Science Says It Makes You Happier)
February 20, 2020

Most people see volunteering as a good and noble endeavor, but did you know that there are science-backed benefits of volunteering for your own happiness? It turns out that volunteering is one of the most wholesome ways to increase happiness in the world. This article shows you why and how you should start volunteering.

Eternal happiness doesn't exist

First things first: It's impossible to be happy all the time.

Even the happiest person alive has been unhappy at some point. Sadness is a vital emotion that we can't turn off. Even if we could, we shouldn't want to. We experience sadness in our lives in order to better appreciate and be grateful for the happy times in our lives. It's therefore good to understand that this guide is not about how to be happy for the rest of your life. It's about how to be happy as often as possible.

I don't believe we can all be eternally happy, but I do believe we can purposefully steer our lives in the happiest direction as possible. That's what this guide is about.

can happiness exist without sadness featured image
Can Happiness Exist Without Sadness? [Answer + Examples]

Happiness and sadness are opposites that are constantly evolving in our lives. Even though happiness is usually considered to be the more important emotion, sadness is a vital emotion that we shouldn’t turn off. This article covers if happiness can exist without sadness, with actual examples and analogies.

How to define what happiness means to you

Here's how happiness is defined according to Google:

Happiness is the state of being happy

Is this the answer you need? I'm going to assume that it's not.

If I asked you and your neighbor to define happiness right now, the two answers would probably be wildly different. Why is that? What is happiness really? Is it a feeling, a state of mind or just an emotion? What initially looks like a very simple question turns out to be one of the hardest questions out there. How can happiness be defined?

What I want you to realize is that your personal definition of happiness is unique. What makes you happy doesn't necessarily make another person happy. In fact, your definition of happiness even changes over time. There is no universally agreed-upon definition of happiness.

You have to define your own definition. What makes you happy is as unique as yourself.

how can happiness be defined featured
How Can Happiness Be Defined?

Here’s something different: Can happiness be defined? This seemingly easy question has a pretty complicated question: yes and no. The truth is that there is no universally agreed upon definition of happiness. Happiness changes from person to person and from moment to moment. But you can definitely find your own definition of happiness, and I want to help you find it!

Be aware of the difference between long-term and short-term happiness

This is a big one.

A lot of people spend their lives not knowing what the difference is between long-term happiness and short-term happiness.

I want you to picture some scenarios.

  • Picture a life in which you spent your youth partying, doing whatever you want to do, using drugs and living life as is, without planning for a better future. Sure, you feel pretty happy when doing these things, but you can probably see how this lifestyle will eventually catch up with you, right?

You might have guessed it, but this scenario is focused exclusively on short-term happiness. It's a fact that pursuing nothing but short-term happiness does not lead to a sustainable happy life.

Now picture the following scenario:

  • You're in your early twenties and want to become the next Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. You have great ambitions and are incredibly disciplined and inspired to become everything that you think you can become. You spend an incredible amount of time working on your projects, and you even make sacrifices just for the sake of your goals. You don't have time for sleep, social activities or relationships. Hell, even your health starts to decline. It doesn't matter though, because you eventually want to reach your goals, and then you'll be happy, right?

This is another extreme example of happiness. You can probably see how this person is very likely unhappy. He is spending the best years of his life making sacrifices in anticipation of what he eventually wants to become. For a lot of people, this sounds like a logical decision. But to me, this sounds like a huge mistake. You might feel satisfied with the progress you're making, but are you truly happy? If you were to get in a fatal car crash tomorrow, would you have any regrets?

Happiness now vs. happiness later

The thing is, these extreme examples are not something that you should want. You can only lead a truly happy life when you actively pursue both short-term and long-term happiness.

It's important to find out what your perfect balance is.

I'm not here to tell you that you should focus 50% of your attention on short-term happiness and the other 50% on long-term happiness. No. I'm here to tell you that you should be aware of your own happiness. Every single person on this planet has a different definition of happiness. You need to find out what happiness means to you, and how you want to pursue it.

They say happiness is a journey and not a destination. I think happiness can - and should - be both.

Why does happiness not last forever?

The hedonic treadmill...

If this term is new for you, here's what it comes down to:

Imagine something that you would really like to do right now.

What did you think of? Taking a long warm bath? Drinking wine with your friends? Going to an amusement park?

Wouldn't it be great if you could do that right now? That would definitely have a positive influence on your happiness, right?

Now think about doing that exact thing every day, for the rest of your life, until the day you die.

Do you think you'd still be happy from doing that same thing after the 10th time? Or the 100th time? Or the 1000th time?

The answer is probably no. Even though this example is extreme, the theory of diminishing returns applies here. When repeated, the effect of the same event on your happiness will diminish to zero. That's because the norms of what defines your happiness are constantly adapting. Your happiness equation transforms with your changing life, whether it's for better or worse.

how long can happiness last featured image
How Long Can Happiness Last?

What sounds like a very simple and straightforward question, is actually really fun and interesting to answer! How long can happiness last? I have researched my happiness journal in order to find a data-driven answer to this question!

You can be happier. Discover how with my free template!

  • Track your happiness every day
  • Learn more about what makes you happy
  • Receive my custom template for free

All articles

50-40-10 rule happiness featured image 1
The 50-40-10 Rule Of Happiness – What Is It?
December 23, 2019

In 2007, professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky published the book “The How Of Happiness”. This book includes the 50-40-10 rule of happiness, which states that 40% of your happiness is determined by your personal outlook. Is this rule accurate, though? Can it be improved? Find out in this revealing article.

factors of happiness featured image
Top 10 Biggest Factors Responsible For Happiness (Actual Data)
December 14, 2019

Happiness factors are a big part of my happiness tracking method. That’s why I wanted to share a little analysis with you here about the factors that are responsible for my happiness. This article covers 2,019 days of happiness factors and shows you how you can do the same thing for yourself!

what happiness means to you featured image
What Happiness Means To You? 11 Experts & 11 Different Answers!
November 28, 2019

What does happiness mean to you? This is one of the most fascinating questions out there, without a universally agreed-upon answer. Therefore, I’ve collected some experts in happiness and asked them this very question. Here are their answers!

can happiness be controlled featured image
Can Happiness Be Controlled? Yes, Here’s How!
November 15, 2019

Even though we can’t control 100% of our happiness, we can still control a fair chunk of it! This article explores how much of our happiness is within our control, and how you can start steering your life in a happier direction.

bubble of happiness comfort zone featured image
Happiness Is Outside Your Comfort Zone: Here’s Why (+ Examples)
September 7, 2019

This is a strangely personal post since I’m announcing that I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone in a year. It will be a huge step, but I’m super excited, because I think more happiness awaits outside my comfort zone. This post is a call to action for you to question your own comfort zone for a minute.

can everybody deserve happiness featured
Does Everyone Deserve To Be Happy? Actually, No (Unfortunately)
July 9, 2019

Unfortunately, some people’s happiness depends on the unhappiness of others. Therefore, I can’t say that I believe that everybody deserves to be happy. Even though the world would probably be a better place if everybody would be happy. This article explores the difficult answers to this question.

pillars of happiness featured
Pillars Of Happiness
June 1, 2019

I’ve discussed a lot of happiness factors on Tracking Happiness so far, but have not yet covered the 5 pillars of happiness. These are fundamental happiness factors that are crucial if you want to build long-term happiness. This article covers everything you need to know about these pillars.

how can happiness be defined featured
How Can Happiness Be Defined?
May 6, 2019

Here’s something different: Can happiness be defined? This seemingly easy question has a pretty complicated question: yes and no. The truth is that there is no universally agreed upon definition of happiness. Happiness changes from person to person and from moment to moment. But you can definitely find your own definition of happiness, and I want to help you find it!