What is happiness?
What is happiness?

But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?
Albert Camus.

There are many different definitions and understandings of what happiness is. I have not only found this when running our happiness programs, but also when looking at researchers’ viewpoints about the topic. This can make it a little difficult to put our fingers on what exactly, we are talking about when we discuss happiness. But I think it is important to have a good understanding of what we mean by happiness if we are to know how we go about achieving more of it in our lives.

While many people have their views, the definition or understanding of happiness I love the most comes from Robert Holden in his book Be Happy. Robert describes happiness as having three main qualities:

  • ‘Sensory happiness’, which is essentially pleasure we get from our physical senses. So it could be something like the feeling of wind in our face or the taste of food in our mouth.
  • ‘Circumstantial happiness’ or satisfaction is the happiness that comes from getting what we want. So it might be a nice relationship, a house, or a new job.
  • ‘Unreasonable happiness’ is joy we can get which is constant, unreasonable (in the sense that we don’t need a reason), untroubled, and enough for us.

A great thing about this definition is that it recognise that happiness is more than the gaining of hedonistic pleasures, or the image of a slightly annoying yellow smiley face. I also agree with Holden that while all forms of happiness are something to be valued, it is really the ‘unreasonable’ nature of true happiness, that sense of joy and inner peace, which is the most important of these. This is because while our pleasures and circumstances may be fleeting, cultivating joy in our lives from within is really the most sustainable and satisfying form of happiness there is.

So, what does the word happiness mean to you?

It would be great if you could write a few ideas down, talk it over with your friends, and consider in particular Holden’s assertion that it is ‘unreasonable’ happiness which should really be our key aim.

All the best,