What is Happiness? Short & Simple Definition of Happiness

What is happiness?—If you can’t answer this question, it is that much unlikely that you will ever reach your happiest potential and maintain it in a lasting way.

And so, in my experience, people have many wrong definition of happiness, which is one of the reasons why they are not as happy as ideally they’d like to be.

This is why today we will:

  • Define happiness;
  • Break down happiness into its components;
  • Address wrong or incomplete definitions of happiness.

Finally, by knowing and applying the right definition of happiness, happiness becomes guaranteed today and forever. This may indeed be a big statement, but only for people who are struggling to be happy. The truly happy people will be able to confirm that everything written below is correct.

The Wrong Definition of Happiness

Happiness is a universal pursuit, but many people find happiness to be elusive. They fail to reach happiness and keep it in a sustainable and durable way because they apply wrong or incomplete definitions of happiness.

The confusion starts when we ask what people actually think happiness is. Some people say that happiness is:

  • Being married or divorced;
  • Being employed or unemployed;
  • Having a lot of money or just enough;
  • Having many friends or a few good ones;
  • Living in a big city or in the countryside;
  • Eating ice cream or forgoing sugar altogether;
  • And so on.

As you can already see:

  • Two completely opposite things can lead to happiness;
  • There is a list of things that can make us happy.

It is not surprising that people are so confused. They are trying to do this or that looking for happiness in all the wrong places (or not enough right places!).

It’s almost as if these are 7.9 billion definitions of happiness, as many as there are people on the Earth today. It is not surprising that we call happiness “subjective” and unique to each and every one of us.

However, it is my personal belief that there is only 1 overarching happiness definition, which contains in itself all 7.9 billion happiness definitions, which we can learn, apply, and optimize (hence “Optimal” Happiness). 

Happiness Definition: Short & Simple

I came up with bellow definition of happiness by doing the necessary work:

  • I didn’t just read what other people said (I found that it was never enough);
  • I read over 200 books on topics of psychology and happiness;
  • I read other professionals’ definitions of happiness;
  • I worked with 100s of clients helping them reach their Optional Happiness;
  • I talked to everyday people, asking them why they are happy or unhappy;
  • I’ve put together all of the above information into a pile making sense of it;
  • From the resulting work, we see the Six Components of Happiness (see below).

From the resulting work, I compiled a short and simple answer to the “what is happiness” question, later explaining my choice of words, which is:

Happiness is a positive emotion connected to our overall long-term sense of well-being. It is the difference between what we have and want to have. To feel happy we need to sufficiently address all of the Six Pillars of Happiness (see below). 

Happiness definition by Roman Russo

Now, we will discuss this short and simple definition of happiness in more detail.

The Components of Happiness

1. Emotion vs. Rational Thought

Happiness is an emotion, which is a contrast to logical and rational thoughts. It has everything to do with how we feel and it is only partially guided by our rational thought. Sure, there is always a two-way relationship between how we think and how we feel, as our thoughts dictate how we feel, while our emotions will affect how we think. Still, often we think about things that are unrelated to our happiness, such as the latest celebrity gossip. Yet, how we feel is always either positive or negative (never truly neutral) which is why we are either happy or unhappy on an emotional level. 

2. Positive vs. Negative Emotions

Happiness is a positive emotion, which is the opposite of a negative feeling. Here, we can define happiness in terms of a range of positive experiences (such as excitement and tranquility). Conversely, all of the negative emotions (such as boredom and hatred) are part of this thing we call “unhappiness.” 

This often confuses people, since they believe that happiness is somehow different from all of the other positive emotions, but it’s not. When we say “I want to be happy” we refer to the fact that we want to experience different positive emotions and avoid the negative ones. Here three levels of happiness are possible:

  • Not to feel bad – reduce negative emotions
  • To feel happier – increase positive emotions
  • Optimal Happiness – to feel as happy as we can feel for as long as possible. 

Unfortunately, our desire “not to feel bad” can have similar results to “feeling happier” as it can be infinite, not concrete enough, and can get us into a lot of trouble. It may make us feel like we aren’t enough or don’t have enough, meaning that the quest for the Optimal Happiness experience is often the most reliable way to give us exactly what we want in life—ultimate life satisfaction. It doesn’t hurt that we want to be the happiest we can be from the start. So why not optimize? 

3. It is the Difference Between What We Have and Want We Have 

In this modern consumption-driven world, we are often told to aspire towards certain materialistic achievements. However, our desire to have “more” can get us into trouble, as “more” is limitless, inconcrete, and often unrealistic. As such, when we want to have something that we don’t have we create a gap in desire, which translates into a subtle negative feeling. Respectfully, when we buy what they want, we close this gap in desire, which makes us, by this happiness definition, happy. 

However, the problem continues when we realize that we don’t just want one thing in life, but a range of things. We also want an improvement in virtually every area of our lives, which is again limitless, inconcrete, and unrealistic. By having all these desires, we doom ourselves to feel unhappy, which we can clearly see in the growing global unhappiness levels, which only seem to get worse by the year. 

The cure to this unhappiness can also be found in the definition of happiness. Simply, we need to stop wanting more things and become satisfied with whatever we already have today, which would also make us, by this happiness definition, happy. After all, we already live in the most technologically advanced society the world has ever seen and chances are that most of us already have too much.

4. Short-Term Pleasures vs. Long-Term Happiness

Would you rather have broccoli or a chocolate cake? Researchers who study this question concluded that while a single piece of broccoli or a chocolate cake will not make us healthy or unhealthy, in the short-term, most people will prefer to eat a piece of cake over broccoli as it will provide more short-term emotional pleasure. 

However, in the long-term, eating a lot of cake is likely to make us fat and unhealthy, which will affect our self-esteem and health. As such, in the long-term is it better to eat broccoli, as temporary pleasures are fleeting and shortly forgotten, while having a healthy and lean body will provide us with more lasting happiness (and less unhappiness). Altogether, this means that long-term happiness is superior to short-term pleasure towards our overall sense of well-being.

5. How Definitions of Happiness and Well-Being are Connected

When talking about happiness, we often refer to “well-being.” By this, we mean that our sense of happiness or unhappiness is respectfully connected to how good or bad we feel about our lives today overall. We can even generalize our happiness by the number of such happy or unhappy moments we have in our lives, which on a side note, respectfully, connects to the definition of optimism and pessimism. 

As such, when we teach happiness, what we are really teaching is to have more positive moments and less negative moments, with the happiest individuals able to feel happy 99% of the time. Yes, this figure is realistic and we teach how you too can achieve these levels of happiness in our happiness courses

Happiness Definition on YouTube

Stay positive and test negative!

Roman Russo

Roman Russo

Roman Russo is the visionary founder, senior happiness coach, and Chief Happiness Officer of Optimal Happiness. He has written the revolutionary Optimal Happiness: The Fastest and Surest Way to Reach Your Happiest Potential, a must-read book about achieving our happiest potential. After researching this field for over eight years, Roman is confident that anyone can become happy and invites us to undertake this transformation. Are you ready to start living the life you always meant to live?

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