For so many centuries, philosophers, psychiatrists, sociologists, and even psychologists have struggled to define the seemingly difficult to define concept of happiness. From where does happiness begin and end? And can confusion on how humans perceive happiness be the cause for the previous mention of the emotional increases in the number of sad people? Is happiness really an emotion or simply a state of mind? To answer these questions, we must first understand what exactly is meant by the word “happiness”.
According to Webster’s dictionary, the word “happiness” means “exquisite delight”, “pleasure attained without effort” or “having great pleasure”. All definitions suggest that happiness is a positive emotional state and not necessarily an outward show of wealth, fame, romance, etc. Some definitions are more specific by suggesting that true happiness is reached when there is no struggle, no need for material possessions, no limitations to your creativity or personal growth, no physical illness and no negative interactions with other people. However, this definition is the most narrow since it only requires enjoyment of one’s personal relationships. The other two definitions, being more specific, imply that happiness must also be attainable through accomplishment of one’s career, health, or spiritual wellbeing. The three definitions all support the general idea that happiness is not a subjective feeling but a state of one’s affairs.
In addition to the above mentioned definitions, many psychologists and other researchers have concluded that happiness is actually a biological function of the brain. There is a neurotransmitter called serotonin that is primarily responsible for regulating moods and assisting in focusing your attention. However, other neurotransmitters also contribute to our moods as well. Neurotransmitters like dopamine are released when you are happy or sad. Other neurotransmitters that affect a person’s happiness include epinephrine, glutamate, acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin.