“What is happiness?” To define happiness and live happy lives, we also need to understand “what is unhappiness?” Throughout our seminal work Discovering Your Optimum “Happiness Index” (OHI), we will compare and contrast these two contradictory imperatives. We define happiness as a state of contentment with one’s personal life, generally expressed as spiritual, moral, social, intellectual, and physical well-being. “Happiness” is a prescription for our postmodern era of “unhappiness.”
“We tend to forget that happiness does not come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
— Frederick Keonig (1774-1833).
Happiness is much more valuable to human existence than we might have contemplated thus far. It is not merely a temporary human condition underpinned by feelings and emotions, receipt of gifts, or life’s events such as university graduation, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. When we are happy, every part of our being is in harmony.
FOUR PERSPECTIVES ON HAPPINESS
Happiness is an outward expression of feelings and emotions that transpire from happy memories that imbue personal happiness. Happiness is (1) Personal, and as we interact with others, happiness becomes (2) Interpersonal, (3) Transactional, and (4) Transformational. These four perspectives of happiness provide “new” insights into what makes us happy and how we might help to influence our happiness and the happiness of others.
To clarify these four perspectives, we define “PERSONAL HAPPINESS” as the feelings and emotions that permeate our soul when we invoke memories of happy events in our lives such as our graduation or wedding day. Each one contributes in conscious or subconscious ways to our personal happiness, but we must take ownership of the mistakes we make that bring unhappiness, and we must strive daily not to repeat the same action, and moreover, to be mindful of every action and interaction with fellow beings.
We define “INTERPERSONAL HAPPINESS” as feelings and emotions derived from an interpersonal relationship with a husband or wife, with children, with good friends, and with associates, and their devotion to the happiness of others and ourselves.
We define “TRANSACTIONAL HAPPINESS” as feelings and emotions derived from external stimuli such as the exchange of gifts, receipt of an award, and sale or purchase of a new automobile or home. These transactions ought to bring happiness to each person involved in the transaction.
We define “TRANSFORMATIONAL HAPPINESS” as feelings and emotions derived from being at an opera, or being witness to a daughter or son taking their marriage vows, or watching a father or mother take his or her first steps after recovery from a debilitating illness.
Happiness is to recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate our shared human heritage (the oneness of humanity). Any divergence from this fundamental premise can lead to unhappiness, evidenced by the political, religious, racial, color, and cultural divides between people and nations. Genuine happiness is to find contentment, avoid resentment, and foster love for fellow human beings. Happiness is to rise beyond life’s existence as a daily routine to a life of purpose, to building a legacy of hope and happiness for the future.
Although one cannot theoretically store the happiness of one day and then recover it another day when we are in a state of gloom, happiness means that today is more hopeful than yesterday, and tomorrow is more hopeful than today. Nevertheless, happy experiences are stored in the labyrinth of our mind, no different from the memory of a great poem we read as a child or a song or scenery that comes to mind vividly.
For instance, in June 2014, Marjorie attended a wedding on the beautiful Fiji Island of Viti Levu. A beautiful sunset lit up the magnificent landscape. The scenic view left her with a lasting memory of the happy event and happy feelings. Likewise, Marjorie and I will never forget the experience we had visiting the Spanish Steps (Scalina Spagna), “built in (1723–1725), Rome, Italy, Roman Baroque Style, a gathering place consisting of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas, and terraces. A great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere, the magnificent mixture of people from diverse countries and backgrounds and cultures, overshadowed by [beautiful] views of the Eternal City” (http://romeonsegway.com/7-facts-about-the-spanish-steps/).
Likewise, some experiences infuse unhappiness throughout some of our lives, such as being at the scene of the fatal accident of my father and the untimely passing of Marjorie’s dad, creating a lasting memory of the incident and unhappy feelings. These experiences etched in our minds evoke happy and unhappy feelings. It is a cliché, though, to say, “No one can make us happy,” or “We alone can make ourselves happy.” Happiness is not merely about the personal desire to be happy but also about how we contribute to the happy or unhappy state of others, and how they contribute to our happy or unhappy state as well.
A son or daughter who brings home an excellent school report brings happiness, but a suspension report for truancy brings unhappiness, not just for himself or herself, but also for his or her parents, siblings, family members, and friends of the family. Each person faces a unique set of circumstances in his or her life that contribute to his or her happiness or unhappiness. Happiness is not “generic emotion.” What makes one person happy may not inspire happiness in another.
A fatal automobile accident may cause unhappiness for all who witnessed the particular tragedy. The loss of investment, employment, or material possessions may cause a person to be unhappy, though the unhappiness might be temporary. Some may have the financial means to overcome these circumstances. Others may seek solace from God (a divine being) for their loss and the resultant suffering, and thus maintain a tranquil state. Tranquility and happiness are co-equals because tranquility can lead to happiness, and happiness can result in tranquility. Tranquility also leads to contemplation on another age-old question, “What makes us happy?”
Whether we are mindful of the fact or not, we depend on each other for our source of “happiness nurturing.” When we love, care, and share with each other, it makes us happy. Our Creator made us fellow beings hence we thrive on human interactions, which is the lifeline for a “happy existence.”
The words of Mary Baker Eddy put happiness in its broadest perspective: “Happiness is spiritual, born of truth and love. It is unselfish; therefore, it cannot exist alone, but requires all [humanity] to share it.”
― Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)
What makes Marjorie and me Optimally Happy? The answer is fundamental to our survival because happiness is a “mutual human survival proposition.” Happiness brings contentment, but unhappiness brings discontentment. Most, if not all, of humanity desire to be happy, but not all people are aware that a change in their circumstances informs their “pursuit of happiness.” Following are the twenty attributes, behaviors, and activities that make Marjorie and me happy, engender contentment, and help to elevate our “Happiness Index” (HI) level.
TWENTY ATTRIBUTES, BEHAVIORS, AND ACTIVITIES THAT MAKE MARJORIE AND ME HAPPY
- Taking responsibility for each other’s happiness.
- Knowing and trusting God’s guidance.
- Nurturing a friendly marriage.
- Reading books together.
- Loyalty in marriage.
- Sharing dreams.
- Reliable friends.
- Peaceful home.
- Peaceful living.
- Common vision.
- Sharing research.
- Cooking together.
- Optimistic future.
- Intelligent conversation.
- Practicing healthy eating.
- Laughing out loud (LOL) regularly.
- Traveling companion (>1,000,000 KM).
It does not matter how strong and independent we are; we need spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical connections to make us happy, not merely for ourselves but for others as well. Happiness in the world hinges on human relationships, but where do we begin the process of transformation into a world of happiness? We can strive daily to uphold the bond of marriage, to maintain family and community relations, to be loyal to employers and employees, and to be patriotic to our nation, compelled by a mutual need to be happy.
The greatest benefit of happiness is that it is not strictly a material imperative, but it is first a “spiritual imperative” of the highest order, manifested as “joy.” Marjorie and I espouse “joy” as the essential form of happiness, but it begins with a “new” understanding. Bolstered by understanding, love is the most powerful human resource that can transform human lives from (1) Very Unhappy, (2) to Unhappy, (3) to Happy, (4) to Very Happy, and (5) to “Optimum Happiness” (OH). Happiness is a global necessity that can improve the state of humankind and help to improve the lives of millions.
Writers, Errol A. and Marjorie G. Gibbs are avid readers, inspired researchers, and mentors. Their journey, which began with their “search for happiness,” led along paths to “Optimum Happiness (OH),” which is a “higher value proposition” for human survival as a viable species. These same paths await on your “journey of discovery.” “Discovering Your Optimum ‘Happiness Index’ (OHI).”