HUMAN HAPPINESS - ITS NATURE & ITS ATTAINMENT
VPLUME I: THE NATURE OF HAPPINESS
CHAPTER 1

 

THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINESS

 

There is a wealth of scientific knowledge about human happiness, yet few have heard about it...

This scientific knowledge is based on decades of patient research which has been building since the early 1960's. In the beginning, only a handful of researchers devoted themselves to this calling. Yet as the years have gone by, more and more researchers have joined this scientific effort to search for a greater understanding of this, the "ultimate human goal" of human happiness.

The growth of knowledge in the field has been quiet, and generally unheralded. But it has been building steadily over the years, and today the scientific knowledge regarding human happiness is so well-developed, it has recently come to be considered as a separate field of significant research in Psychology. In fact, this isolated field of research has grown to the point, that, currently, there is enough in the collected research data to proclaim that a true "Psychology of Happiness" has come into being.

It is this emergent, "Psychology of Happiness" that is the focus of these two volumes of "Human Happiness."

 

THE ULTIMATE PURSUIT

Happiness is generally considered to be the ultimate goal in life. It's attainment has been the focus of philosophical, psychological, and theological writings since the dawn of recorded time. Indeed, as one of the pioneers of happiness research, Gordon Watson, stated back in 1930: "no quest can claim a larger following than happiness" (129)

It's undoubtedly true! Happiness has to be the single most sought after thing in the world. It's a commodity that's valuable to everyone - no matter who they are, where they live, or what their station is in life. Everybody wants happiness! It's one of the most fundamental aspects of being human. Since the dawn of recorded time, happiness has ranked at the pinnacle of all human goals.

Aristotle believed that "human happiness is so important, it transcends all other worldly considerations". Plato observed that "Happiness is living well." For Kant, happiness was the "end all men sought in life." The Utilitarians, too, considered happiness the ultimate goal in life. Indeed, virtually all schools of philosophy have seen happiness as being the foremost of earthly concerns.

In psychology, as well, the importance of happiness has always been paramount. Sigmund Freud had no doubt that men sought happiness above all other goals in life. Indeed happiness has been cited as the overriding goal of human behavior from the early days of William James who observed that "...happiness is for most men, at all times, the secret motive of all they do and all they're willing to endure." Or as Eric Fromm put it, "Happiness is the criterion of excellence in the art of living."

Indeed, the very first President of the American Psychological Association,  Raymond Dodge, made it a central concern of modern psychology:

"...the fact is uncontestable that happiness is an important, if not the most important, aim of human endeavor." (36)

Because happiness is such an important human concern, an enormous amount of material has been written about it. The great philosophers have tried to understand it; theologians have pondered it; psychologist and sociologists have theorized about it; and famous poets, playwrights, and novelists have made it one of the most enduring themes in literature. Hundreds of books have devoted themselves to an understanding of human happiness. Thousands of intellectual treatises have tried to analyze its deeper nature. Countless folkstories and parables have come down from centuries past to give us guidance in happiness-matters. Hardly an month goes by that we cannot find an article in a popular magazine, or an expert on a television talk-show, that doesn't have something new to say about happiness. Even the Declaration of Independence professes the pursuit of happiness as one of humankind's inalienable rights.

So how can this book be anything new?

It is a book based entirely on scientific research findings, and that makes it quite new indeed!

A few decades ago, these two volumes on human happiness could not have been written. Before that time, the scientific study of happiness had not even begun. As wise and thoughtful as many of the classic treatments of happiness have been in the past, none of them were based on any research evidence -- for, until recent decades, such scientific evidence was simply nonexistent.

Yet, today, things have changed dramatically. Currently, a wealth of research-based findings concerning happiness exists. Now, for the first time in history, we can go beyond nonscientific conjecture, philosophical theories, personal belief, or superstition into the realm of scientific fact.

Today, we can explore the nature and attainment of human happiness from an objective perspective, as we examine something our forefathers only could hardly imagine: a truly scientific and research-based understanding of human happiness.

 

WHAT'S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT HAPPINESS?

Why is everyone so concerned about happiness, anyway?

We'll be dealing with this question often in our exploration of human happiness; for it is indeed one of the central issues of this book, and we intend to examine it more thoroughly in future chapters. Yet, for now, suffice it to say that without happiness, human existence, as we know it, would have no meaning. According to the surveys we have conducted, happiness is considered by the vast majority of people to be the most important thing there is in life. Psychologists know that happiness lies at the very core of all human motivation -- it is at the center of every human action and every human goal.

In personal terms, however, happiness is easiest to understand when one imagines that it is gone...

What would life be like without happiness?

Without happiness, life would succumb to little else but pain, sadness, anger, and fear. Without happiness there would be little value in success and accomplishment. Without happiness, none of the "good things" in life would seem very good. Without happiness, you could find that proverbial "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," and it wouldn't matter at all. No wish, no dream, no amount of money in the world would mean much if it didn't make you feel happy.

Without happiness (or the hope that it might come in the future) there'd be little point in going on.

With happiness, however, one's life is transformed...

With happiness, the wealth and gifts of life seem full and ample. With happiness, life's failures and disappointments disappear. With happiness, even meager conditions can seem contenting. With happiness, life appears meaningful and worth living. With happiness, the world is joyous and complete.

Happiness is the ultimate blessing of life!

After all, what worth would all the success, fame, fortune, and love in the world have, if it didn't make you happy? And what difference would all the success, fame, fortune, and love in the world make, if you were never happy?

 

WHAT PSYCHOLOGISTS KNOW ABOUT YOUR HAPPINESS

Clearly, happiness is important. Yet once the topic of happiness arises, a thousand questions come to mind...

What is happiness? How can you define it? What is its nature? Why does it exist? What function does it serve in human psychology?

How does it it feel to be happy? What is a happy mood like? How do people behave in a happy mood? How do they think in a happy mood? Where do happy moods come from?

Why are some people happier than others? Are happy people different than other people? How can you identify a happy person? How do researchers study them?

What are happy people really like? Do they have special characteristics? What kind of occupations do they choose? What kind of social life do they have? What's their family-life like? Are they married? Do they make more money? Are they more successful?

Is there such a thing as a "happy personality?" Do happy people possess particular "happiness-traits?" Are happy people well-adjusted? Are happy people mentally healthy? What kind of childhood did they have? Were they always happy, or did they struggle to get that way? Does happiness occur in individual patterns or biological cycles? What are the happiest ages in life? Do values and attitudes make any difference in happiness? Are ambitious people happier? Are religious people happier? Are women happier than men? Are intelligent people happier? Can one be too happy?

How happy are most people, on average? How much happiness is there in our society, or in the rest of the world? Does happiness differ across cultures and nations?

What are the actual causes of happiness? Are there any "secrets" to achieving happiness? Can one do anything about their happiness?

These are the questions which have intrigued happiness researchers over the years, and, thus, these are the same questions to which these two Volumes of "Human Happiness" are addressed.

 

A PREVIEW OF VOLUME I

In the present Volume, we focus on "The Nature of Human Happiness."  To begin with -- before you learn anything about the research on human happiness -- you'll be introduced to the major findings in this field of psychology through a short, personal quiz which focuses on your own "happiness traits." This quiz is provided in the next chapter (Chapter 2). Here, you'll gain a much better idea of how you relate to the basic areas of happiness, as studied in the research. This background should add a good deal of personal relevance to the topics which will follow.

Armed with your own quiz results, Chapter 3 will deal with some of the most fundamental questions regarding happiness. There we will define human happiness and explore its profound importance and necessity to human existence.

In Chapter 4, we'll turn our attention to the historical background of research in this field. We'll not only review the methods and techniques used by the searchers (in other words, how psychologists have "captured" happiness in order to study it), but we'll also reveal some of the commonly-held myths and ideas that, unfortunately, thwarted the serious study of happiness for years.

Chapter 5 deals with the happy mood. There, we'll see what it is like to really feel happy, and what happens to people when they're in a happy mood. Surprisingly, researchers find that happy moods tend to change us quite radically -- seemingly for the better in every respect...

In Chapter 6, we are introduced to the "happy person." In that chapter, you will get to meet the kind of individuals who have achieved the highest levels of personal happiness, and learn about the variety of demographic, situational, and life-style characteristics which statistically separate them from unhappy people. There too, we will present the "Eight Laws" of personal happiness which have been derived from the research.

Chapter 7 will deal with happiness on a deeper, psychological dimension. There, the topic will be "the happy personality." It will focus on the many. well-established personality traits the research has found in happy people.

In Chapter 8, we'll explore the concept of happiness as generally applies to a better understanding of human psychology.

The final chapter to this Volume (Chapter 9) will make sense of human happiness in a larger perspective. There, we'll examine "the big picture" and discover the role happiness plays in societies at large and in the evolutionary understanding of human existence itself.

The end of this Volume, however, will just be a beginning for you. With the background Volume I supplies into the "nature" of human happiness, you will be able to move to Volume II (Human Happiness; Its Attainment) with a solid foundation. That volume builds upon everything presented in this book, and will introduce you to a detailed, step-by-step program to help you learn to be a happier person yourself.

What lies before you, therefore, should be new and fascinating learning! But let's begin at the beginning. Before we explore any of our topics on happiness, why don't we introduce you to some of the "basics" by quizzing you about your own happiness...

 

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