Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
What does Happy Mean to the Individual?
Happiness is an elusive thing. The dictionary defines it thusly:
1.delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.
2.characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.
3.favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: a happy, fruitful land.
Definition one and two are closely linked but number three is distinctly separate and somewhat misleading as "fortunate" and "happy" aren't necessarily linked. Contentment on the other hand is an even vaguer subject. One doesn't really need to be joyous in order to be content, in fact some people are content in situations most wouldn't want to live a day through. An inspection into the individual's mind and personality is needed to probe further into the mystery of happiness.
The Biological Roots of Happiness and Depression
It's long been known that hormones and various other bodily systems play a large role in how people feel and behave. Sometimes personality can interact with these systems at a level we're only beginning to understand.
Genetics play a large part in everyone's lives. Not only are positive characteristics passed on through the generations so too can negative ones, be they physical or mental. Hormonal and chemical imbalances are caused when something's amiss with the systems in the body. This is a defect that like any other defect can be seen strongly in family lines. This can be the first thing to look into when considering an individual's depression (or happiness.)
There are natural ways, besides the common pharmaceutical treatments, that can be used to affect the happiness in one's life. Research has been done on laughing and smiling that conclude that both these activities raise positive feelings in an individual by altering the chemical systems within the body. Now there are actually therapy groups, which try to use these facts to their advantage. Whole gatherings of people all clustered around just to share a good deep laugh. The harder the laugh and the longer the better these people feel. Laughter also brings people together and cements bonds. It's believed now laughter is an adaptation to living in social environments and should be used whenever possible.
The Personality - Happiness within Misery
It's been known for a long time that some people are just impossible to bring down while others seem to wallow in a depression that doesn't really fit their situation. Why is this? This could be for several reasons.
Some people may be content in their existence (even when it's a miserable one) because they've known nothing better in their life. Other times it's a conscious decision to be content with their keep, perhaps because aspiring to a better lot in life could potentially cause more harm than good.
So if some people can be happy in bad situations then why are other people miserable in good situations? I have a theory that some people are actually happy within misery and depression, that they actually like chaos and malcontent in their lives. There can be several reasons for this. I think the most important one would have to do with the responses they get from other people. Sometimes complaining about life can bring these people attention from others around them. It doesn't matter if the attention is good or bad, these people just tend to like attention period so they continue the chaos of their lives, continue to complain to whomever they see, and do nothing to fix either their social situation and fractured ego, or their mood which may or may not be genuine in the first place.
All in all misery and happiness needs to be studied on an individual basis, their sources identified, and dealt with accordingly. Otherwise malcontents can drive you up the wall when you yourself are happy or you may want to mow down every smiling enthusiast you see on a bad day. Remember everyone is entitled to both good and bad days. No one born on this planet can expect to have only good days. At some point in our lives we will all have to deal with the biggest reason for situation depression: loss. Whether the loss is physical (as in death) or more metaphorical (as in a break-up) we will all go through several of mood roller coasters in our lives. It's how we get back to our daily existence that counts.
Vuyo on April 26, 2012:
This attacle is chonge my life complete thanks
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on April 12, 2012:
Dave: I am sorry to hear about your misfortunes. I grew up in extreme poverty too and still maintain relationships with people are in awful situations and it always surprises me how positive some of them stay despite all hardship. There are people who just see the positive in everything and there are even more people who can see the good even in bad situations. You may not have much food on the table but is your family around you? If they are then that's something to be very happy about. It can be this way for almost anything.
CarriD on July 30, 2011:
Before you get out of bed every morning you have two choices...will I be positive, or will I be negative. Touch on this thought through out the day...it will make a difference.
Dave on May 28, 2011:
I hear often it's a choice to be happy or unhappy.
I've lived in poverty my adult life, no $ means no medical/dental care. I failed to get anything in life I needed nor wanted.
While my tooth is rotting and falling out, how can I be happy? How can I be happy living for months without electricity?
How can one be happy without any of his needs being met?
Naina Marvaha on January 27, 2011:
I Loved your piece. I think it's amazing!
Infact, I did a presentation about a month ago as a small class project on " Happiness is a choice " :)
And while I researched about it , I came across a wonderful concept... This is what I found on the web,
" In the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness(2006), Will Smith’s character makes the observation that the US Declaration of Independence includes in it’s short list of “unalienable rights”, the right to the pursuit of happiness..
“Not the right to be happy, but the right to pursue happiness” – Why was it worded that way he questioned?
His conclusion was that its author, Thomas Jefferson, must have understood that Happiness is something we all desire and strive for but it is also something that not all will find or be able to hold on to… "
I think acceptance of situations, loving yourself and being grateful is what makes a happy person.
I'm huge believer of happiness and I still say that it is a CHOICE.
Life is too short to be anything but happy :)
innerpower4u from Sunny California on July 24, 2010:
I too think laughter is a key element in staying positive. They say people that laugh a lot live longer lives:) Good article thanks....
Misanthropist on November 24, 2009:
I like this article too, I myself am miserable most times. This is for a variety of reasons. The main thing that makes me miserable is people. The woman of my fucking dreams is getting married to an asshole ( who is also my 'friend', which is unfair because we connect on so many levels. maybe I should go to the wedding with an 'I fucked your future wife' badge. My friends are all assholes though probably not by their own doing. People never speak their minds and expect you to know how they feel? what is up with that I'm nathan not david blaine. The world in general is just wrong but there is no point in trying to change it because that'd be just short of global international terrorism. I believe that being miserable after a certain time becomes a choice then the misery and misanthropy evolve to a point where it is not a choice but autonomous much like blinking.
2nd good read in such a short time, keep posting.
Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on November 25, 2007:
That's an informed and well-spoken answer! Thanks!