by George Pitagorsky
Who doesn't want to be happy?
"The pursuit of happiness is enshrined as a fundamental right in the United States and occupies most of us. But what do we really know about happiness? Can we study it? Are we born with it? Can we make ourselves happier? Who's happy and who's not, and why? What makes us happy?" 
What does happiness really mean?
What is Happiness?
You know what happiness is for yourself. You can tell the difference between happy and unhappy people by observing their behavior and the way they emote an aura of pleasant peacefulness and joy. You get a sense of it through personal experience. You know when you are happy and when you are not and to what degree.
Try an experiment for five or ten minutes or longer if you have the time:
- Sit comfortably, sense your body and breathe consciously for few minutes. Breathing in, breathing out.
- Bring to mind an event that made you happy, for example making contact with a joyful child, the sense of fulfillment upon achieving something or getting something you really wanted, reflection on how fortunate you are in your life, a walk in the woods, etc.
- Let yourself re-experience the feelings of that happy moment. Sit absorbed in those feelings until they are no longer connected to the thing that triggered them; until there is just happiness.
- If you see yourself moving out of this state, firmly and gently let go of the distracting thoughts that are taking you away and rest in happiness.
In daily life, when you remember, let yourself return to that state. Let go of distracting thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Rest in happiness. Act out of that pleasant, warm hearted, relaxed, alert state. Over time see if this makes a difference in the way you feel, your relationships and your work.
Wordnet 3.1 defines happiness as a "state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy" and as "emotions experienced when in a state of well-being".
Psychologists have defined happiness as a subjective sense of well being based on a combination of satisfaction with life and having more positive than negative emotions. It is said to be composed of the elements of pleasure, engagement and meaning, focused on the conditions of one's life.
Ayn Rand said, "Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to enjoy. Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy - a joy without penalty or guilt... Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values, and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions... "You might change the word "rational" for wise, virtual, ethical or skillful.
Philosophers' and religious teachings alike describe different types of happiness. Aristotle differentiated between the inferior happiness of the active life and supreme happiness.
Putting the feelings into words, analyzing them, philosophizing, that is useful in some way but it is a distorted reflection of what happiness really is. Drop the words and thoughts and be happy.
Causes of Happiness
What makes us happy? Aristotle's take was that "Though happiness does not consist in pleasure, it does not exclude pleasure. On the contrary, the highest form of pleasure is the outcome of virtuous action. But for such happiness to be complete it should be continued during a life of average length in at least moderately comfortable circumstances, and enriched by intercourse with friends."  But what of those who do not have the ingredients for temporal happiness? Are they simply to be unhappy?
Wisdom traditions say that happiness is unconditioned
"As long as we believe that we need things to make us happy, we shall also believe that in their absence we must be miserable. Mind always shapes itself according to its beliefs. Hence the importance of convincing oneself that one need not be prodded into happiness; that, on the contrary, pleasure is a distraction and a nuisance, for it merely increases the false conviction that one needs to have and do things to be happy when in reality it is just the opposite."
~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Happiness brings pleasure. Pleasure may or may not bring happiness. Happiness is here when we stop grasping and clinging at things to make ourselves happy. Happiness is a natural state that is obscured by grasping after happiness.
This of course is belief, at least until it is validated by personal experience and maybe science as well. If "Mind always shapes itself according to its beliefs," then why not try a belief or mental model that promotes unconditional happiness?
As we get a bit closer to supreme happiness we take pleasure in being kind and compassionate. We take pleasure in the good things experienced by others. Our ability to be kind and compassionate stems from our experience of happiness. In other, words happiness engenders further seeds of happiness.
Try taking on the belief that happiness is a natural state that is obscured by distractions and a false belief that getting what we want brings happiness.
Are you always happy when you get what you want? For how long?
Can you be happy even when you don't get what you want?
Do you want anything when you are happy?
Are you happy when you do not want anything?
"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."
~ Groucho Marx
"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
~ Anne Frank
Be Happy J
© 2012 Pitagorsky Consulting