“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” –Norman Vincent Peale
What is happiness? If money can’t buy it, can you ever be truly happy with no money? People have troubled with these questions for centuries. Let’s begin at the beginning: a definition.
Happiness, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a state of well-being and contentment: joy” or “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
Okay, so happiness is a pleasurable emotion with relatively good connotations according to the dictionary, but the word can actually take on numerous definitions for each person. Every individual has a different way in which they derive pleasure. But this definition raises some red flags. I generally feel “happy” when I’m trying some delicious new food at a restaurant, but the emotions felt in the moment don’t last. It simply becomes a meal that I later digest. This is “pleasure” and it is fleeting.
If happiness, as a whole, is about the amount of pleasure I feel, then should I just stuff my face with the most delicious foods at all times? No, because if I have these joyful experiences all the time my brain would adapt and turn this pleasure into a routine (and my pants would miraculously shrink until I could no longer close them). Chasing pleasure is not happiness.
Happiness – rather than a feeling of elated joy – is a feeling of contentment that life is happening the way that it should be. That being said, much like Brandy Melville’s clothes, there is no true “one-size-fits-all” answer that fulfills everyone. Our needs are complex.
Happinessinternational.org has identified “nine universal and overlapping human needs” that we can all agree are necessities in life. They boil down into the acronym “we promise.” These are wellbeing, environment, pleasure, relationships, outlook, meaning, involvement, success and elasticity. To explain these nine needs, happinessinternational.org uses the example of a roller coaster: “the thrill of a roller coaster ride is a mix of: fear (Elasticity), joy (Pleasure), adventure (Outlook), shared experience (Relationships), safety (Environment), upset tummies (Wellbeing), the courage to ride (Involvement), and the reward of having done it (Success).” This module can be applied to any experience in anyone’s life in order to throw it on a happiness scale.
You’ll notice, none of these necessities are money or financials. Although money is helpful in providing for an empowering and bolstering environment which in turn can affect your happiness, it isn’t a requirement. Like we were discussing earlier, pleasures and happiness are two different things. With money, I could go out and buy the latest and greatest iPhone and have that pleasure in my hand all the time. But as time goes on, Apple makes a new product that replaces the once great phone I had and then I yearn for the new. Money provided me the original pleasure, but it has since left and been replaced.
Volunteering can prove this point. Go and lend a helping hand at your nearest soup kitchen. Although not everyone who seeks a hot meal at a soup kitchen is homeless, many are, and these people are oftentimes the happiest. Although their material needs are not met, they can find what they need. Sit down with a couple of people. I promise they will be more than happy to chat with you about their life and you’ll end up sitting there for a couple of hours and might have to be dragged out of your seat (true story).
Happiness is a mental state. Take a look towards the sky and smile. You woke up this morning, you have people around you who love you, and you have the ability to make your day whatever you want it to be. When every person starts to realize the beauty of living and loving those around them, happiness becomes clear.
Brooke Stiles is a rising junior at Denison University and a contributor at GlamSalad.com. When she is not in a costume shop or thrift store, she can be found snuggled up with her puppers watching Gossip Girl for the thousandth time.