What is Happiness?

My college roommate had a collapsible umbrella with black polka dots and a wooden handle carved into a duck’s head. I never saw her use it, but I would always smile when I saw it hanging on the back of our door, imagining all of the adventures one could have while kept dry by a duck and some polka dots.

Philosophers, writers, psychologists, have all tried to define happiness. I can say with confidence that none have succeeded, because like most experiential things, no sentence can completely embody what happiness means. Stendhal, a realist writer from the 19th-century, wrote, “To describe happiness is to diminish it.”

I do not know that telling a friend about a happy experience diminishes it, but it surely doesn’t capture it in its fullness and complexity. But to define happiness, a type of description, surely subtracts dynamism from the concept and experience.

(the) happy spaces project has asked its users to “describe why a space makes them happy” in order to understand the spatial elements of happiness, but not to define happiness completely. Everyone has interpreted “describe” differently, some posts never even mention the concept of happiness, but their seems to be an implicit understanding that happiness is central to their association and comprehension of the space.

 The associations that users have made between happiness and other concepts has been quite interesting to watch develop. Many speak of family, well-being, friendship, sharing, light, growing up, view, relaxation. Even if happiness is “the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” as Aristotle proclaimed, perhaps it is not happiness itself but rather what makes us happy that should be of focus. Perhaps through the acknowledgment of that which makes us happy, and integrating those things more deeply into our lives, we can achieve happiness.


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One thought on “What is Happiness?

  1. psychevida says:

    This is both a delightful image and a delicious thought! – To more integrated happiness!

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