What Is Happiness?

What is the meaning of happiness?

The pursuit of happiness is an eternal human instinct. We are very familiar with short-term fixes that seem to provide happiness but quickly fade leaving us feeling empty and propelling us to search for the next quick fix. But what if there is another, more lasting kind of happiness? A peaceful fulfillment that is not found in external circumstances. Its roots lie in psychological wellbeing. How can we improve our psychological and emotional wellbeing for a longer term, more stable happiness.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Aristotle

Why have we not discovered this lasting happiness before? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the way we are educated where there is plenty of focus on the brain and less attention on developing the heart: qualities like kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts. – The Dalai Lama

Over the past hundred years, we have made huge advances in technology designed to make our lives easier, yet we see that unhappiness still exists in all levels of society. Perhaps our levels of happiness do not depend on external matters. Scientific research into what makes us happy is now showing that happiness depends on positive emotions such as compassion and love and feeling connection with others. This means that while it’s important to educate our minds, it is also vital to educate our hearts. Being guided by the emerging sciences of happiness and positive psychology, we can teach our children inner tools for happiness. By moving away from seeking happiness from external quick fixes and then coming into conflict with others in pursuit of those, this inner approach can have long-term impact in addressing the mental health issues we see in our world.

What is the definition of Happiness?

We all want to be happy and not experience any pain in life. We want our life to have meaning and purpose. By developing strong inner resources and positive emotions like compassion, we can deal with difficult events in a more emotionally intelligent manner. This brings a more tranquil state of mind (or “mental wellbeing”) that is less upset by daily irritations and setbacks. Values such as compassion can bring us more connection with other people and develop our social relationships. A key phonemona of the modern age is loneliness. By feeling more connected with others, our wellbeing is nourished.

Happiness Defined

A happiness definition in the Oxford English Dictionary says: “the state of feeling or showing pleasure”, another says “the state of being satisfied that something is good or right”.

How the Ancient Greeks defined Happiness

The Ancient Greeks had two different words for what we would today call happiness: eudaimonia and hedonia. Eudaimonia” is literally translated as the state of “good spirit“, and is more commonly translated as “happiness”. “Hedonia” is a happiness that comes from pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction; and the absence of distress, arguably a more temporal form of happiness. The Greeks distinguished between these 2 different types of happiness, the first a sense of psychological well-being, eudaimonic happiness, and the other an emotional state of pleasure or enjoyment, hedonic happiness. “Hedonia” or hedonic happiness is what we usually mean when we speak of happiness today, the good life.

What is Compassion

Compassion is the feeling that arises when you notice your own or others’ difficulties and want to help. It could be considered the “how” of happiness. The Dalai Lama often explains that compassion is the cause of happiness whereas a self-centred attitude, the opposite, is the cause of suffering or pain. Compassion is an integral part of human psychology – we are born with it. Our innate human nature means we have a natural disposition towards compassion, kindness and caring. We can develop and build on this innate instinct so that it arises naturally and more often in response to our daily life. A good way to generate compassion can be to consider some of its many benefits.

What are the benefits of compassion:-

1. reduces our fear:

Compassion is often considered a positive emotion that we feel toward others, but it can also have a powerful effect on our own well-being too.

Numerous studies have shown that compassion reduces fear and anxiety which are two of the most common mental health problems. One theory is that compassion helps to counterbalance our fight-or-flight response, which is triggered by fear. When we feel compassion for others, we are more likely to see them as unthreatening and safe, which in turn makes us feel more relaxed and secure. Compassion also helps to boost our self-esteem and sense of self-worth, both of which can be undermined by fear. In short, compassion is a powerful tool for managing fear and reducing its impact on our lives.

2. boosts our self-confidence:

The ability to be compassionate is one of the most important traits a person can have. Not only does it allow us to show empathy for others, but it also helps to boost our self-confidence. When we are compassionate, we can see the best in ourselves and others and genrate a sense of life satisfaction. We also feel more connected to the people around us and more positive about our own abilities. As a result, compassion is a key ingredient in self-esteem, self-compassion and personal growth. By showing compassion, we can build a foundation of confidence that can help us weather the ups and downs of life.

3. brings inner strength:

Compassion also has the power to transform lives. When we see the world through the lens of compassion, we are motivated to act in ways that relieve suffering. We become more altruistic and more concerned with the well-being of others. We become less focused on our own desires and problems. As a result, we experience a state of well-being and contentment that comes from making a difference in the lives of others.

Inner strength comes from many things – our values, our beliefs, and our connections to others. But perhaps no other quality contributes more to inner strength than compassion. When we open our hearts to others, we open ourselves up to a world of possibility and hope. We also discover a deep well of strength within ourselves – a strength that can weather any storm and endure any challenges. Compassion brings inner strength because it reminds us of our shared humanity and gives us the courage to stand up for what is right, even in the face of adversity.

4. reduces mistrust of others

It has been shown that compassion can play an important role in reducing the mistrust of others. This is because when we feel compassion for another person, we are more likely to see them as being like us and therefore, trustworthy. Furthermore, compassion also makes us feel more connected to others and less alone, reducing mistrust. Compassion can increase our ability to empathize with others, making us more likely to trust them. Therefore, it is clear that compassion has the potential to reduce mistrust of others and create a more trusting world.

5. opens us to others and brings a sense of connection:

Compassion is more than just feeling sympathy for someone; it is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. When we are compassionate, we are able to see the world from another person’s perspective and feel a sense of connection with them. This understanding can lead to a desire to help, whether it is simply offering a kind word or lending a helping hand. Additionally, research has shown that compassion has many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. For example, studies have found that more compassionate people have lower stress and anxiety levels and are more resilient in the face of adversity. Furthermore, compassion also has positive effects on physical health, such as reducing inflammation and improving cardiovascular function. Ultimately, compassion is a powerful emotion that can bring people together, improve our social relationships and improve our well-being.

7. gives us a break from our own problems:

It is easy to get caught up in our own problems and issues and feel like we are the only ones going through them. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and even hopelessness and despair. However, reaching out to help others who are going through difficulties can give us a much-needed break from our own problems. Compassion allows us to step outside ourselves and see that we are not alone in our struggles and has a positive affect on our state of well-being. It also allows us to feel more connected to others and build meaningful relationships. When we are more compassionate, we are also more likely to receive compassion in return. As a result, compassion can help us increase our personal happiness, reduce stress, feel more connected, and even improve our psychological well-being and physical health.

Compassion united with Wisdom

To cultivate our compassion, we also need wisdom. If we are truly wise, we must first be compassionate towards ourself. Otherwise there is simply no basis for being compassionate towards others. It is like we are pouring from an empty cup.

It is also helpful to remember how connected our lives are with each other. We are all sharing this human experience. Thich Nhat Han refers to this as “interbeing.” We are completely reliant on others for our well-being. It’s easy to see how interconnected the world is by the commonalities we all share – from governmental systems to social media, from ecosystems to global food chains.

But also, the commonalities of being a human being – we all want to be loved , we enjoy being with friends and we need affection. As there innumerable factors responsible for all that we experience in life, taking a broader view makes sense. We should be open to a variety of perspectives to avoid getting stuck in tunnel vision. For instance, if one problem affects us adversely, we may be inclined to focus on a single player or factor rather than recognizing all the myriad factors that have led to this particular unpleasant predicament.

Uniting compassion with wisdom gives us the ability to understand a situation more clearly. As we work on understanding our own minds more deeply, we become more skilled in perceiving what others are going through. We feel more empathy. We naturally know how to act so that we can best help them. Together, compassion and wisdom give us the drive, the empathy, the knowledge and the skill to help ourselves and others move towards happiness.

We can take our innate capacity for warmheartedness and using our intelligence and conviction, expand it. It is easy to behave compassionately towards friends and family. But universal compassion is not rooted in any self-regarding element, just the simple awareness that all others are human beings who just want to be happy. So genuine compassion is directed not at people’s behaviour but at the people themselves. – The Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion


The Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom

At FDCW, we believe that compassion and wisdom are essential for a happy, meaningful life. Compassion brings courage, warmth, open-heartedness and a sense of connection with others. Compassion needs to be wise. By developing our wisdom we develop the skills of how to help ourselve and others experience more happiness. For example, let’s say you lost your job. By loooking at your circumstances with the lens of wise compassion, you might see an opportunity to start fresh and focus on what you feel passionate about. You might also be more likely to help others who are facing the same thing. On the other hand, if you act out of fear or anger, you may make decisions that are not in your best interests and that could actually make your situation worse. So, the next time you face a difficult situation, take a moment to pause and reflect on how wise compassion can help guide you.

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