Sadness had been close as my next of kin,
Then Happy came on one day, chased my blues away,
My life began when Happy smiled,
Sweet like candy to a child,
Stay here and love me just a while,
Let Sadness see what Happy does,
Let Happy be where Sadness was…!
The soft and gentle voice of little Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5 reminds us of the pleasure of being happy while listening to the beautifully touching song “Happy” from Motown 1973. But at the same time it makes us feel doubtful whether we are really happy or not. Whatever makes us happy? To answer this question, I acknowledged other people’s opinion as well as my own feelings but to be honest I am not positive that I will receive a clear and satisfying answer that pleases each and everyone since happiness is a very personal issue.
According to scientific research, by Lilienfield, happiness depends on external circumstances and this does seem to make sense. For example I felt extremely happy and pleased with myself when I got offered a place at the Royal Ballet School by Gailene Stock CBE AM. This was an extreme achievement for me as a competitive dancer as thousands of dancers apply yearly to get a place. The feeling of realising that I was one of the 20 selected ones could be what comes close to being truly happy. Yes, this depended on Mrs Stock’s opinion of me and therefore this was an external factor. So in this case (as well as other people’s experiences in job interviews, relationships or even exams where the result highly depends on the exam question that one can not control) external circumstances may strongly influence success or failure and therefore be real factors in determining your level of happiness.
But what if your view of happiness does not have anything to do with success? What if for you happiness is defined by simple and independent moments in your life that make you feel comfortable. For example the smell of fresh coffee in the morning. Even the fact that you can afford fresh coffee depends on external circumstances and therefore supports Lilienfields study.
Another study by author Dan Gilbert suggests that friendless people are not happy. While it is true that human beings often want to share their experiences with others because it is a human instinct to seek help from others in order to be stronger together. Gilbert’s conclusion could be questionable because there are individuals who do not appreciate the presence of others and feel more relaxed by themselves. Many people are able to fit in socially when in fact they prefer to be on their own. So for them happiness is not dependent on friends and they can be happy alone. Let’s distinguish between lonely and alone. According to the Oxford Dictionary the definition of lonely is: Being sad because one has no friends or company. So loneliness is associated with sadness and this supports Gilbert’s assumption. However, the definition of alone is: Without any other people. There, the aspect of sadness is not involved. So Gilbert’s assumption really depends on whether you define friendless people as alone or lonely.
Another attempt to define the source of happiness comes from a study by Albert Ellis. Ellis claims that happiness depends on our own interpretation of events. This could be considered controversial when applied to the fact that sadness also depends on our own interpretation of external events. So I am actually not the most pitiful and poor person in the world when I am having a bad day. It just seems like that from my perspective at this instant moment. Ellis view is also supported by some scientific evidence with brain research which shows the diversity of peoples prefrontal cortex. People have different degrees of development and activity in this part of the brain, which is involved in complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision-making and moderating social behaviour. These differences in physical development and appearance strongly suggest that we do in fact interpret things differently.
So happiness is a very personal thing. People behave differently even though we are from the same biological species. As I mentioned before I am unable to give a clear definition of what makes us happy but I can say that a happy person thinks he or she is happy when positive things, whatever they may be, happen to him or her. Again to bring it back to the beginning of this article I would like you to imagine Michael Jackson as a small boy when we see how happy he seemed to be on stage. But as he later stated he went through hell in those days. So when you seem to be happy, are you really happy? Can we really believe all that we perceive?
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