We all have the right to know happiness first hand but, in general, we do not know how to explain what it is, what it consists of and what it is for. This is an absolutely personal and subjective concept, and therefore, each human being will define it differently.
What makes us happy? What common parameters can we use to talk about this feeling so longed for by society since the beginning of time?
Let’s go deeper.
What is happiness?
The conceptualization of happiness has varied according to sociocultural factors, evolutionary cycles, theoretical perspectives, areas of science, etc. All have tried to provide a definition that can clarify and make understand what it is to be happy, from Chinese and Greco-Roman philosophy to ethologists, neuroscientists and psychologists.
Perhaps one conclusion is that happiness – like other abstract concepts such as love, loyalty, honesty or generosity – is difficult to give a general definition, since each person elaborates their own definition under absolutely subjective parameters and personal.
The origin of the term happiness derives from the Latin felicitas, which translates as ‘fertile’. It is still a successful concept, since this word implies development, project, growth, progress …
Happiness, therefore, can be understood as a state of mind in which the human being feels satisfied, content and joyful. It is associated with pleasure, but also the feeling of being happy:
- Concatenates neuroendocrine biological factors.
- It involves the limbic system in the brain.
- It involves emotional factors, since happiness is clearly a feeling that is partly based on joy (one of the 6 basic Darwinian emotions).
- Links with cognitive factors: leads us to think in a positive way, undermining negative and automatic thoughts and sociological factors.
Does money give (or not) happiness?
In the happiness scales consisting of protocols with different variables , the following has been detected :
- In countries with severe and medium economic problems and significant levels of poverty, the value of money is relevant for happiness.
- In countries where the per capita profit is assured, the economic level is not relevant; that is, it is not one of the variables that ensures happiness.
A living wage in the first world countries allows a good roof, food, education and fun. Exceeding that income seems to be directly proportional to the obligations involved in earning it ( more time spent on work, more taxes, change of property, acquisition of unnecessary material goods, etc.) and, with it, less time to enjoy.
Earning more money also creates a greater complication.
Material goods or ostentatious goods
In capitalist countries, material goods are transformed into ostentatious goods. For example, a striking home, a luxury car, or designer clothing are items commonly purchased to display a certain status .
The saying “money does not give happiness ” is a phrase used to counter the strength of the myth of the importance of money (money as a passport to the acquisition of material goods that report supposed happiness).
We live (or have built) a society whose success variables are, among others, fame and social recognition. We are biologically relational beings who establish links and who seek to be accepted and included in groups.
The question is, under what parameters do we build inclusion and acceptance? If a strong pillar is placed in the material, we are making a strong mistake and moving us from the right direction.
Need and want: the big difference
What is not put into evaluation in this crazy race to generate money and prestige is that what cannot be bought is time, that which is destined to produce money to sustain an idealized pleasure. A pleasure that is not achieved because there is no time and the sick rhythm to which the human being is subjected to produce. A beautiful and sadistic paradox.
In this sense, we can think that a middle or lower class family with projects can be much happier than a wealthy couple without vital prospects. Socially, one of the great aspirational engines is the wish and it is the lack of something that causes this to be established.
Both the middle classes (mainly the middle and lower middle classes), as well as the upper lower classes, tend to be short-term desiring classes. They worry, for example, about changing the car for another in better condition, painting the house or taking out a loan to buy their own and stop renting.
They are not apparently ostentatious aspirations, but they are great goals for these social classes.
Fame, beauty and money: b ad destiny
As we see, happiness is an absolutely subjective concept. However, the higher the social class, the higher the level of success and, therefore, of banality.
When you have economic power, desire is suppressed, aspiration is naturally lost because there is no struggle to obtain. In addition, attention is focused on the recognition made by the environment, nullifying personal values.
A good example is the Hollywood stars who, despite having achieved fame, beauty and fortune, end up suffering addictions and serious depression.
This was already demonstrated in research carried out by a team at Harvard University since the late 1930s, using a sample of 268 people who were investigated and followed over a period of 75 years.
The conclusion they reached was that Affective bonds (such as parenthood, partner, children, and friends) are what provide true happiness. Money is always in the background.
The important thing is what is not seen
As can be seen from this approach, what truly makes for a happy and satisfying existence is good personal relationships. This does not imply that fame or prestige are a bad thing, but it is important not to give them an importance that they do not have.
Being happy goes further, it is a philosophy of life, it is knowing that there is a good side to life despite the catastrophe and that there will always be people who are emotionally close to us who will support us in difficult moments. AND Love is one of the deep components of happiness.