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Why Am I Happy? Essay

1973 words - 8 pages

Why am I happy? This is perhaps one of the most common questions that the average person asks themselves. Our society has become obsessed with happiness. Even in our very constitution it is written that citizens are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (constitution). Advertisements abound that tell consumers how much more happy they will be if they were to buy a product. In this quest for positive well-being, people take many different paths. In this paper I shall be discussing three separate and distinct ways in which people pursue pleasant experiences, as well as what makes a person more likely to agree with any one perspectives. This is not a paper about happiness; this is a paper about the road to it.
Before discussing the three directions a happiness seeker may take, we must first create a working definition for happiness. Defining happiness is more difficult than one may think, however, due to the huge differences in the perception of what happiness is. Most of these differences can be accounted for by differences between hedonism and eudiamonism, as well as the different levels of happiness. Hedonism, which is defined as “temporary pleasure attainment and pain avoidance” incorporates sex, drugs, and adrenaline rushes into the causes of happiness. This perspective is diametrically opposed to eudiamonism, which is defined as “long-term well-being, sense of meaning, and self-realization.”( Ryan)

The difference in levels of pleasure refers to the subtle variations that result in a person perceiving, for example, that they are content as opposed to being overjoyed. This can be represented as a sliding scale on which 1 is suicidal depression, 5 is ambivalence or detachment, and 10 is euphoric joy. We will use a broad definition incorporating both hedonism and eudiamonism as well as all levels of happiness. One widely held definition, as outlined by Layard, states that “happiness is feeling good as opposed to unhappiness which is feeling bad and wanting things to be different,” or more simply put “happiness begins where sadness ends.”(Layard) For the purposes of this paper, this definition is very suitable. It takes into account both schools of happiness as well as all levels of happiness.
The first cause of happiness is from “unexpected positive events.” (Lewis) According to this school of thought, happiness arises due to specific positive instances such as being given a gift, receiving a promotion, or winning the lottery. Interviews suggest that this is a large factor in creating happiness. While most agree that this does not really create day to day happiness, all agree that they are happy after an unexpected positive event occurs. (All interviews) The unexpectedness of the event is key. Evidence shows that people in generally are not very good at estimating how much happiness that an event will produce. In fact, almost...

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