Who are the happiest people? What makes them happy? What can they teach us about finding happiness for ourselves?
Since happiness is something we all want, these are important questions which may be illuminated by scientific research.
In his book, The Happy People: What Happiness Is, Who Has It, and 4 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), Jonathan Freedman, reports the results of several questionnaire and interview research projects involving 100,000 people" Dr. Freedman found that the majority of his subjects considered themselves to be happy. Sixty to seventy percent described themselves as "very happy" or "moderately happy."
This is not to say, however, that these people were always happy. They experienced moments of restlessness, boredom, loneliness or depression, although most of the time they were pleased with their lives.
This means that happiness is a relatively enduring state but not a steady state. It would be unrealistic to expect to be happy all of the time. Life is full of too many challenges for this to be possible All of us have our moments of unhappiness.
Nine to thirteen percent of Dr. Freedman's respondents described themselves as "moderately unhappy" or "very unhappy," so there appears to be a small percentage of Americans who are consistently unhappy.
What is happiness? What does it mean to be same states when we talk about being happy?
Not quite, according to Dr. Freedman. His subjects divided themselves evenly in their definitions of happiness. About half described happiness as an active state involving fun, pleasure and excitement. The other half described it as a more passive state involving serenity, contentment and peace of mind. happy?
Dr. Freedman concluded that happiness consists of both active and passive components, and that each is the other side of the same coin. A happy person is one who has both moments of exciting fun and moments of quiet contentment. But what makes for happiness? How can we be happy? Is there a formula that will guarantee our happiness?
Unfortunately, no, claims Dr. Freedman. In his study, he found many factors related to happiness but decided there is no single way to achieve it. A few people who had very little of what is considered necessary for happiness - love, marriage, a good job, money, status or health - still described themselves as happy, while a few who had most of these advantages described themselves as unhappy.
All of these factors are important but they do not inevitably produce happiness. There is no universal recipe that will guarantee happiness for all. Happiness is an individual matter. People find it, or fail to find it, in many different ways, with or without certain advantages or blessings.
Yet Dr. Freedman did find several factors associated with happiness which I will discuss in future articles. Perhaps his results can give us some clues as to how we might be happy ourselves.
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