What is Happiness? Why Is It Good to Define Happiness?

December 15, 2011 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

'What is happiness' is a sort of question that has not one answer, but as many as there are people to answer it. But let's define happiness on a personal level.

What is happiness? It's a rhetorical question like those I've avoided since University classes. I don't like questions that have no answer. It seems ridiculous: Why would a question have no answer? Good question. So, let's dive right in. What is happiness (and why do we have to find it anyway)?

Before we continue, let's refer to the Mecca aptly known as Wikipedia:

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply. Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to think about what the (often obvious) answer to the question must be.

Great, thank you Wikipedia. What would we do without such a great resource? Ah, another rhetorical question. The goal of this blog? To explore what happiness represents in our lives. To throw away the idea that happiness is easily defined as a feeling that life is fantastic. All the time. Is there such a thing as happiness, or are we just chasing a dream posed as a bad rhetorical question?

The Definition of Happiness

Here's the kicker: There is no definition of happiness. I suppose you are not surprised by this and either am I. So, what is happiness? Can you, can I, describe the experience with words or is it strictly something we can only feel? I believe, and feel free to debate, that it is both of these things.

I am on a bit of a roll, I admit, to referring to my thesaurus when writing these blogs. I try not to, honestly, I do, but it's interesting to see how the world of words describes a complicated word like happiness. So, what does my 20lb paperweight define it as?

  • To be pleased (no points for creativity here!)
  • To feel happy (no kidding)
  • To be wreathed in smiles...hmm
  • And finally, among other repetitive words, I find this: To look like the cat that swallowed the canary.

Wow, I wish I could tell you I were joking--particularly about that last suggested definition. I sincerely desired an answer to the rhetorical question. I sincerely did not expect a reference to a cat or damn canary.

Happiness is Contentment

Happiness is a feeling of contentment. It is the feeling we get when we move forward in life; when we achieve goals we have set for ourselves. Large and small. Working hard to obtain stability, that can create a feeling of content, and it should. Working to recover from relapse--that too is a huge accomplishment. The things we tackle in life, the things that challenge us, these are the things that spur a feeling of happiness (How to Appreciate Success, Even When It’s Scary). Feeling like we have achieved something that is important to us makes life shine a little brighter, it might make us smile, and make us feel proud.

It's the little things. Sometimes, the smaller achievements in life, things that can occur on a daily basis, create a feeling of content. Visiting with friends and family. Helping others. Learning something new. Growing as a person. The small steps we take to maintain or find a stable life make us feel good.

What Is Happiness to You?

Happiness, having no exact definition, is hard to explore. It's like writing a research paper with no resources. What is happiness? Happiness is as simple as it is complicated: the pursuit to create a life that we feel comfortable living in, that we feel content exploring, it is a feeling that we can apply words to define. But words that have a personal meaning to us.

What makes you feel content?


APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2011, December 15). What is Happiness? Why Is It Good to Define Happiness?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Jacki M SeiWell
December, 16 2011 at 7:48 am

Wikipedia: Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Though what makes some people happy is not what others feel. It's an internal feeling that I still strive to find some days

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