What Is Happy?


Zoe Krause

Happiness is quite an undefined word or feeling, but it is a goal for each and every day.

Fuzzy warm feelings. A smile creeping upon the face. Maybe a sudden appreciation for everything surrounding others. These may be ways to describe what we call happiness. Happiness, when dictionary defined, is a feeling of pleasure and contentment. And even though its origin is found with the word lucky, happiness can be said to be a level of life in which an individual is flourishing, killing it, on top of the world. Happiness can be life satisfaction and saying, “I am doing awesome, and this wild ride has been wonderful.” 


There are psychology and science principles behind happiness, believe it or not, and many debates on what exactly happiness means or even is. There are a few agreed-upon ideas, the first being that happiness is changeable. It is not a finite state, but something that ebbs and flows. It is considered both internal and external, both how people feel and how people act. 

Subjective well-being, or SWB in the science world, is a term closely tied to happiness. While some say subjective well-being IS happiness, and others argue happiness is simply a component to SWB, even the average joe could say just “being well” means a person is probably happy. 

There are two distinct theories of happiness that speculators seem to fall in, and those include the hedonic theory and eudaimonic theory.


Hedonic theory argues that well being is happiness and experiencing pleasure. It is considered high positivity and low negativity with lots of satisfaction and little pain. 


Eudaimonic theory says well being conceptualizes happiness because of a pursuit of purpose. That happiness is more related to meaning and growing and reaching full potential. 


Nevertheless, we have all felt happy, whether it is hugging the person we love or lying on the beach or seeing a favorite band in concert, but its scope of measurement is not so clear. Happiness and pleasure may get confused, but there is a difference. Happiness is considered stable (yes, I know I just said it was not, but in the context of pleasure, it is simply more stable), but pleasure is a burst, a moment of feeling. They feed into one another, causing each other and intensifying the feelings, but they are not quite the same.

However, one may ask, “How can I be happier? How can I increase my happiness?” Good news, it is not so complicated! There are a few things that majorly contribute to well-being and happy vibes:


  • Positive Experiences
  • Income
  • Physical health
  • Family
  • Moral values
  • Labor market status 
  • And most importantly, healthy social relationships


By focusing on all or one of these factors, happiness can be improved. Maybe it is working on eating habits or going out on the town to experience the city or even self-advocating in the workplace; people will see growth. Vital to being happy is relationships. Rekindling those connections, maintaining good communication, and strengthening a core group of people is one of the best ways to be on the road to happiness. 

Being happy is not just desirable for the feels, but also physical changes. People who are considered happier or in a state of well-being live longer, get sick less and are healthier. They tend to be more productive and have an easier time in life. They also have larger friend circles and hold more engaging conversations. 

If working on these seven happiness-contributing factors seems like a lot to swallow, do not worry. Yale University is currently hosting an online course about the science of well-being and happiness, and it is all for free. “In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits.” Centering around growing skills of gratitude, happiness, and meditation, the course has been taken by over two million people and received astounding feedback. Furthermore, 36% of those who took the class got a new career after completing, and 34% saw a career benefit after. Not only will people get in touch with their inner happy, but even get a pretty cool certificate upon completion!


Whether pursuit, well-being, or purpose, happiness is something that we all could use a bit of in this global pandemic. One thing is true of all, and that is happiness is right around the corner, it is just a matter of reaching out to grab it.