Happiness is the core deal. People do things in the name of happiness. Even, things that cause unhappiness. Such as taking things that will add to your happiness, away from people. Even, killing in the name of whatever cause that makes you feel good, useful. Cheat, lie, rob and bully. Whatever, in the pursuit of satisfaction now.

Those subtle fleeting moments of 'positive feelings' have been the focus time immemorial. Aristotle and all the luminaries of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience have spent ages of professional time, researching how to make human beings happy or how humans achieve happiness. It seems that Aristotle had concluded that happiness is the core deal. Whatever we do, we do for happiness. But then, there are lots of differences in the definition of happiness. Joy. Sense of well being. Positive feelings. Flourishing. Enough to make you unsure if you are happy or not. "Is this happiness?" you ask, judging that feeling against your favorite definition. "Ah, what the heck, at least I am not feeling sad and I know what sad is."

Are you really happy...really?

Even, "are you happy?" is tough to answer accurately, never mind quantifying the feeling with, "How happy are you?" Is the normal, happy or sad? The answer could be, it depends on what circumstances you are in and what circumstances you have been brought up in. And, a lot of other things. Your developed expectations. And your gut feel about the feeling of happiness. Is there a feeling such as neutral. Is neutral happy? Is absence of sadness, happy?"

This is made more "hard to grasp" when the default answer to ,"Are you happy?" is "yes" for most folks. based on my experience. Sometimes with the '!' and sometimes muted. Infrequently, some answers sound sad. From the efficiency point of view, which our brain prefers, let's take it this way; when people say they are happy, they are happy.

As an ice-breaker, when people ask you, "are you happy?" they move on to important points (for them) of  the discussion quickly. However, there are people who are really concerned and they move to ask, "How happy are you?" "How happy are you with this accomplishment?" "How happy are you with this rating?" "How happy are you with your neighbors?" "How happy are you with your life?"

Can you be a ton happier?

This is a easy and tough question. Easy if your habitual brain is answering. Usually it's , "I am very happy!" "Quite." And the boss, the priest or the community busybody would be satisfied with the answer. I guess most askers are taking the answer as, "Good. He is not sad." They are looking for 'not sad, rather how happy.' The unit of measurement for happiness has not been defined, so it is hard. I have not heard of people answering, "I am six tons happy."  Nor, trying to make sense by comparison such as, "I am as happy as the bird on the tree near my bedroom window, chirping every morning in joyous twits." " I am as happy as my cat when it catches a mouse at my neighbor's house." All answers I have heard to this question make no sense. What I thought was a good, "I am as happy as when Johnny proposed to me." But then, this answer begs further examination. "How happy were you when Johnny proposed?" "I felt like walking on air." Have you walked on air before? How do you know what's like to walk on air? There is always a lazy brain temptation ask, "Are you as happy with Johnny now?" But it's better not to go into that space. Allow your PFC (prefrontal cortex ) control.

Okay, let us take happiness as happiness. And, don't try to measure it. So, it's okay to ask, "Are you happy?" to determine that the person is not feeling otherwise. Whatever is otherwise. However, asking "how happy are you?" is just a time filler. It's takes away a few precious seconds.

Aristotle and his disciples of the past and brain/emotion scientists of the present have found a meaningful and important differentiation for happiness. Short term and long term happiness. Very roughly, in the olden days, they were known as hedonistic and eudaimonic well being. The former is good feelings derived from instant gratification or satisfaction of desires.The latter is meaningful or value based happiness.

Squirts or dinners?

The instant gratification type of happiness comes from ' I have gotten what I want.' Short spurts of achievement which result in tangible rewards. Current scientists are very..scientific. They even found out that the longest this type of happiness last is maybe two to three years. Such as winning a lottery. Most, however last even shorter. How long were you happy with your new squirt gun? The shinny Honda and the new android 4K TV?

Values based happiness are based on personal values and life meaning. Commonly it is from 'becoming,' 'sharing,' 'caring,' 'giving,' type of ventures. Such as achieving positive personal changes, sharing an enjoyable time with loved ones, caring for something or someone, volunteering for greater good and such. The initial positive feeling may last shorter than even two years but you can summon the satisfying feeling as long as you are alive and well, just by recalling the events. Scientists call it savoring the good times. The event will feel as new whereas your squirt gun, Honda and Panasonic may degrade with wear and tear.

This is why the experts say happy money is money spent on sharing than buying. Sharing a dinner with your family. Sharing some of what you have with the poor. Travelling together. Enjoy a good movie together. Spend money with people who are around you, people you care. Especially. if you are a bean counter. More people will enjoy the good feeling. This is value for money spending (pun intended.)

It is not that short term happiness is bad. Unless it becomes an addiction to something, where you will lose control, and be led to do all sorts of things that will lead you to long term unhappiness. Short term happiness is also happiness. It is just that it is hard to sustain. values based happiness is...well, er of better value. So, if don't spend time in futility trying to figure our how happy your friend is. Find out, 'which happy.'

Don't look for happiness

One more thing before I cannot find happiness. Happiness finds you. When you are doing things you love, when you are doing things that are meaningful to you. Beran Wolff observed in the 1930s...'you cannot find happiness like a loose button that has rolled under a radiator in your room."

 And, other thing (why am I seeing Peter Falk in that ragged detective role?)...don't worry about being unhappy once in a while. The brain detectives have found what they called, a 'happiness set point." There is a natural level of happiness for you. When you are unhappy for a certain time, you will naturally bounce back to your natural level of happiness.You have a happy insurance cover automatically, just like one of those group insurance scheme. Aren't you  happy to know this?


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