What happiness really is

Allie Beekman

Happiness. A word believed to originate in the 15th century, it’s something we all feel, something we all consider uplifting, but it’s not something we ever really look to define.

So, it is not surprising that people are often confused when tasked with how to define it considering that Merriam Webster – the leading online dictionary website – has four definitions for the word: “good fortune,” “a state of well-being and contentment,” “a pleasurable or satisfying experience” and “felicity, aptness.” But these definitions fail to include the one psychologists use to describe the emotion.

While most would expect “happy” to mean a lack of negative emotions, that is not entirely accurate in terms of psychology. According to Psychology Today, psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky defined a “happy person” as “someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger.”

Psychologists, therefore, argue that there is no such thing as a truly “happy person” because it is impossible to largely avoid negative emotions.

Still, many people find ways to be happy in their own lives. Each individual attains happiness differently and it holds a unique meaning that is susceptible to change over time.

Junior RJ Franzen of Allentown said some people have more trouble finding happiness than others.

“It is probably tougher for people in rough situations to find happiness than people in good situations,” Franzen said. “I guess there are two types of happiness; there’s short term, like finding money on the floor, and long term, like knowing your future is set. I used to think happiness was only doing stuff like eating ice cream but now I know lots of things can make you happy.”

Sophomore Fran DiMiceli of Middletown said she agrees that the definition differs between individuals.

“For a person to be considered happy, they need to have this inner acceptance of good things in their life,” DiMiceli said. “You don’t dwell on the bad days but find zen in the good. You just need to learn to appreciate the wonderful things around you.”

Despite these differences, senior Jules Andersen of Howell said that anyone can find happiness within themselves.

“I think that everyone has the opportunity to be happy no matter what the situation, with the right outlook on life itself and all the moments it holds,” Andersen said.