Happiness, yuck. That word that makes some people cringe. Some are repelled these days by the word happiness and all it connotes.

People have strong opinions about happiness.

Some are so turned off by the word happiness that this post probably won’t get many views.

Some think it doesn’t exist. My happy place, what’s that? Some are just simply to “cool” to be happy or to strive for happiness; they would rather be miserable, so they try to outsmart happiness, “Hey, if I don’t have expectations, I can’t be let down. Happiness doesn’t exist anyway. I’m too cool to be a pollyanna.”

Happiness is simply a mind trick. And unfortunately for the cynics, happiness does have an essential role in our lives. Happiness has a positive effect on our health and can allow us to live longer.

Happiness can make a big difference in how we live our lives.

What is the definition of happiness?

Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness” is a simple one: “The state of being happy.”

OK. Not helpful, deeper dive.

Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happy”: “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.”

OK. That’s better. Happiness is a feeling or contentment.

Happiness is a trait, or as I like to say, a state of being. It doesn’t last long, but one can experience moments of feeling “happy” or content.

Happiness is not to be confused with pleasure.

Pleasure is a more visceral experience, as in sensory-based feelings we get from experiences like eating great food, drinking an espresso, having an orgasm, or getting a facial. I like pleasure also. However, pleasure is more fleeting, while happiness usually sticks around longer than pleasure.

Happiness happens when you are satisfied with your life, in a good mood, feeling positive emotions, and feeling enjoyment.

Psychologists agree that happiness is a state characterized by contentment and general satisfaction with one’s current situation.

In my research, I found the word for “happy” in most languages came from the word for “lucky.” So, perhaps our ancestors believed that happiness was mainly a by-product of luck.

“Hap is the Old Norse and Old English root of happiness, and it just means luck or chance, as did the Old French heur, giving us bonheur, good fortune or happiness. German gives us the word Gluck, which to this day means both happiness and chance” — McMahonn

The origin of the word “happy” is interesting to me because I see happiness as a mindset, like positivity, a choice I make. When I’m consciously choosing to find happiness day after day consistently, I do find myself creating my luck. Meaning, things usually work out for me, and I do experience “luck” quite a bit, which keeps the happiness going.

Within the psychology of happiness, there are many different theories of happiness, but they fall into two main categories:

1. Hedonic happiness/well-being is happiness conceptualized as experiencing more pleasure and less pain; it is composed of an affective component (high positive affect and low negative affect) and a cognitive component (satisfaction with one’s life);
2. Eudaimonic happiness/well-being conceptualizes happiness as the result of the pursuit and attainment of life purpose, meaning, challenge, and personal growth; happiness is based on reaching one’s full potential and operating at full functioning (AIPC, 2011).

Many factors can contribute to one’s feeling of a happy life, but research has found that good personal relationships are a vital part of feeling happy. Not surprising. It is one area in my life I give a lot of attention. I don’t have a lot of close relationships, but the ones I do have, I work hard to find connection and meaning in those relationships, which in turn, brings me happiness when I spend time with those people.

As Positive Psychology says:

“When we are happy in our most important relationships (usually our spouse or significant other, our children and/or our parents, other close family members, and our closest friends), we tend to be happier.”

It stands to reason that we have some control over our relationships, so we have some control over increasing our happiness.

Choosing your friends wisely is one of the most important factors related to happiness say researchers at Harvard.

Eliminate time with those friends that zap your energy, those friends who complain a lot and have a negative thing to say about almost everything — you know the ones — they are draining you and decreasing your happiness. Replace them with those friends who are optimistic and who make you feel energized after spending time with them.

June Silny at Happify outlines 14 answers to the question, “What’s so great about happiness, anyway?”

  • Happy people are more successful in multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health.
  • Happy people get sick less often and experience fewer symptoms when they do get sick.
  • Happy people have more friends and a better support system.
  • Happy people donate more to charity (and giving money to charity makes you happy, too).
  • Happy people are more helpful and more likely to volunteer — which also makes you happier!
  • Happy people have an easier time navigating through life since optimism eases pain, sadness, and grief.
  • Happy people have a positive influence on others and encourage them to seek happiness as well, which can act as reinforcement.
  • Happy people engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations.
  • Happy people smile more, which is beneficial to your health.
  • Happy people exercise more often and eat more healthily.
  • Happy people are happy with what they have rather than being jealous of others.
  • Happy people are healthier all around and more likely to be healthy in the future.
  • Happy people live longer than those who are not as happy.
  • Happy people are more productive and more creative, and this effect extends to all those experiencing positive emotions.

So if you want to increase your happiness, work on those areas in your life where you find meaning.

Happiness is a feeling that exists, and one can cultivate more happiness in one’s life by giving awareness and energy to those areas they care about.

Embrace happiness. It can exist for you.