In the Pursuit of Happiness
According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “happiness is a state of
well-being and contentment” (Merriam-Webster). Arguably, happiness is the ultimate desire of human beings. It is a given that achieving happiness entails increasing pleasure while, at the same time, decreasing pain. While this argument may be, it has also been argued that happiness encompasses experiencing the right emotions (Tamir et al). By right emotions, it means either pleasant or bad experiences. While the relation between good emotions and happiness is appreciable, feeling happy because of unpleasant emotions may be relatively hard to accept. Take an example of an individual who is jealous of another. To such a person, the climax of happiness is seeing his/her enemy fail in life. Given this fact, it is evident that happiness may take different directions in life, either positive or negative. However, in this essay, the primary focus will be on the positive aspects of happiness. Some notable factors that determine an individual’s happiness in life are genetic makeup, income, health status, leisure, and charity.
Is happiness a choice? Just as people have the freedom to make good or bad choices in life, the same case applies to happiness. According to an article published in the Huffington Post, “one has some freedom to choose what will determine his/her level of happiness” (Gregoire). While it is practically impossible for us to choose our inborn happiness because of our genetic makeup, many other aspects in life, like income, health, leisure and doing charitable deeds are possible. Take an example of income; studying hard will pay off and increase the chances of one securing stable employment or initiating a robust personal business. The same case applies to health where one can embrace some habits like healthy eating. Similarly, the way an individual spends his/her leisure time and doing charitable deeds also varies with people. It can be your choice to be happy!
A person’s genetic makeup seems to be the most interesting happiness-determining factor. According to a study by De Neve et al., it was established that the 5-HTT gene might be critical in determining a person’s satisfaction (De Neve et al.). Accordingly, about a third of a person’s life satisfaction can be attributed to genetic influences. Pertaining to the functionality of this gene, it aids in the absorption of serotonin, which plays a critical role in influencing a person’s mental state. In fact, varied studies have established that the 5-HTT gene influences metabolisms and signal transfers between neurons (De Neve et al.). Accordingly, all of these processes have a high potentiality to influence one’s personality. Based on these pieces of scientific evidence, it can be implied that, in addition to external stimuli that determine an individual’s happiness prospects, internal conditions, such as genetic makeup, are also key influencing factors.
Income is another defining factor of one’s happiness. An individual’s happiness level increases or decrease as his/her income level increases or decreases (van Hoorn). Arguably, people with high income can comfortably meet most of their basic needs in life. With being able to meet their needs, their happiness level is expected to be high. However, extreme income can also be harmful. For instance, wealthy people are always afraid that burglars may invade them unexpectedly. In fact, it is because of this fear that they hire security guards to protect their homesteads and property, and even themselves at times.
Health is another factor that can play a significant role in an individual’s level of happiness. Arguably, as opposed to a sick person, a healthy individual is capable of performing most of the daily obligations with ease. Given this ability, such a person develops a sense of personal achievement. In contrast, people suffering from life-threatening diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, are less happy in life (van Hoorn). However, it is worth noting that happiness and health are associated in the sense that either can be a contributing factor of the other. For instance, studies have established that happy people have rare and less chances of suffering from mental diseases (van Hoorn). Based on the information above, it can be assumed that healthy people will lead happier lives than unhealthy people.
Leisure is another external factor that has been associated with happiness. Some organizations and companies are giving their employees some free time out of their daily work schedule and are finding a positive attitude towards work with high employee productivity. Studies have shown that there exists a considerable association between pleasurable leisure activities in a social context, the release of serotonin, and feelings of happiness (Robertson). Many households allocate some time out of their normal family routine also to engage in such activities like going to the gym, hiking, and swimming. All these endeavors are psychologically empowering and work to enhance one’s happiness. Therefore, it can be suggested that leisure time is an essential element in determining an individual’s level of happiness.
Lastly, charity is among the practices that have been associated with happiness of the achiever. While some people find satisfaction by seeking self-gratifying endeavors, others find that contentment in life can only be achieved by helping others. Take an example of Mother Teresa; she is remembered more for the charitable work that she was engaged in than her missionary work. She saw helping the needy as an obligation and the primary source of joy. Her happiness was met through the happiness of others (Athanassoulis). The association of charity and happiness can be linked to Aristotle’s eudemonia. Accordingly, eudemonia is the pleasurable experience that one achieves after performing moral duties (Anik et al.). In the course of research, Anik et al. asked participants to gauge their level of happiness after spending their income on paying bills, buying personal effects, and giving donations. Accordingly, those participants who devoted more money to charitable spending reported greater happiness (Anik et al.). It is evident, based on the discussion above, that doing charitable deeds has a great potential to increase one’s happiness.
At the end of the day do you ever ask yourself are you happy with your life? Do you feel as though you live and have the “perfect” or the “good” life? Is there such a thing as the “perfect” life or the “good” life”? A “perfect” life may be one where an individual experiences all elements or conditions that make a “happy” life. It is possible to attain all the life-satisfying conditions that you want in your lifetime?
In conclusion, happiness is believed to be the core desire of every human being. While many people associate happiness with positive experiences, negative emotions can also be a source of joy for some people. Notably, just as is the case with many other life decisions, happiness is also dependent on your personal choices. Genetic makeup is deemed to be among the intrinsic factors that greatly influence a person’s happiness. However, several extrinsic factors like income, health, leisure, and charity also determine one’s happiness levels. While pursuing happiness can be a large job, it is important that in doing so, people do not intrude on the right of others to achieve the same. That way, it will be possible to build a society that coexists peacefully.
In the Pursuit of Happiness