What is Happiness?

Aristotle said that “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”  Indeed, everyone wants to be happy. But what is happiness, really?

Does happiness mean something different to each one of us, or is there some common denominator?

One day, as I wondering about all this, I decided that it is time to find out.

I took out my “scientist hat,” went to the library, search out the psychology section, and took out a tall stack of book on happiness. As it turns out, scientists have a simple, clear definition of happiness, that’s surprisingly useful!

According to psychologists, happiness comes down to the number of positive and negative moment that we experience.

Whether a moment is positive or negative depends entirely on how we feel. So, for example, if you feel relaxed, excited, joyful, or peaceful, then you’re experiencing a positive moment. On the other hand, if you are bored, angry, or annoyed, then you’re experiencing a negative moment.

Our overall satisfaction with life, or “happiness score,” is simply the number of positive moments that we experience divided by the number of negatives ones. So the more frequently you experience positive emotions, the happier you are.

What does this all mean, and what can we learn from this to improve our lives?

Let’s break it down and find out. I distilled three things that the definition of happiness teaches us.  Read on and find out!

  1. 1.   Happiness Is Valuing Our Emotions

The first thing that popped out at me was the importance of our emotions. Scientists tell us that when it comes to happiness, how you feel is all that matters.

This goes against everything that society teaches us. We are taught that material goods and status will ultimately make us happy.

And when it comes to emotions, at times, our society appears to deny their very existence, never mind validate their importance. We are taught to hide and suppress our emotions, until we no longer even know what they are!

If you want to be happy, the first thing to do is to become mindful of your emotions. It isn’t hard: simply try to pay attention to how you feel at varies point in the day.

When you are practicing mindfulness, don’t try to change or control your emotions in any way. All you need to do is become aware of what they are and acknowledge them.

After a while, you can start to learn from your emotions. If you tend to feel good around certain people or during specific activities, then allow more of these into your life. On the other hand, if certain activities or people consistently cause you to feel bad, then it is a signal that they are detracting from your happiness.

  1. 2.  Happiness is Loving Your Job

We spend so much of our time at work. And we factor in commute time, and the time it takes to regenerate ourselves after work, then hardly anything at all is left.

When we don’t like our job, we collect so many moments of boredom and frustration that it becomes almost impossible to shift the balance in our favor. It is very hard to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative moments when we spend our days disliking what we do.

However, disking our jobs is all too common. A whooping 80% of people dislike theirs!

If you are part of that 80%, don’t despair. There is much hope.

Sometimes, we feel that it is too late to dream a new dream or plan a new life. But think about how much time is still ahead of you!

If you start now, then a year from now, you will be so much further ahead.

Believe in yourself, and trust your desires. Take your destiny into your own hands, and go after your dreams!

  1. 3.  Happiness is A Good Relationship

Not only do our relationships take up a substantial chunk of our time, but they also affect our emotions – even when we are not around our partner! Therefore, when it comes to happiness, our relationships take a front seat.

If you are currently single, choose a partner that will brings into your life many positive moments, and few bad ones. Pay close attention to how you feel around potential partners, and choose one who consistently makes you feel good.

If you are already in a relationship, know that whatever investment you make in your relationship, is also an investment in your own happiness. It is not possible to avoid all problems – rough patches are inedible in long term relationships. When problems do come up – don’t ignore then. Work through your relationship difficulties, so that your relationship can once again contribute to your overall happiness.

And when times are good, cherish your relationship. It is bringing more joy into your life than you may realize.


Happiness is our birthright, and our search for happiness is as natural as our breathing. Understanding what is happiness can make this search that much easier.

To help you on your journey, I put together an e-book about what is happiness and how to achieve and sustain it. It is available for free for a limited time. Get your copy of  Hacking Happiness now.

I wish you all the best on your journey.

To your happiness!


About The Author

Maya Ackerman, PhD. is a writer, researcher and teacher. She writes about happiness, work satisfaction and relationships on her blog www.greatlivingnow.com. Check out her latest book, Work for Love, in which she will show you how to discover and pursue your dream job.



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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