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Are You Happy? Why It’s Difficult to Tell

Here’s a difficult question: are you happy?

It’s difficult because it partly depends on who you compare yourself to. Most people compare themselves with those around them. Am I happier than my colleagues, my friends or my family?

We also compare ourselves with real and fictional people we’ve never met. When we do so, there seems to be a fascination with the sadder aspects of other people’s lives. The media continually serve up stories about disasters both global and personal, whether it’s celebrities in rehab or people coping with natural disasters.

The desire to see sad events depicted dramatically has a history as long as humanity itself. Shakespeare was a master of tragedy. What could be sadder than the story of Romeo and Juliet? Here was a couple whose love is thwarted by their families, who both eventually die by their own hands, each believing the other already dead.

It’s not that we take pleasure in seeing other people’s misery, but still we seem drawn to it. This article is about why.

6 Comments to
Are You Happy? Why It’s Difficult to Tell

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  1. For me-
    Happiness is so transient.
    Happiness is so many moments.
    It is watching my daughter smile,
    It is listening to my son chuckle
    With the rustle of the pages of a book.
    It is cooking Chettinad Chicken
    Waiting for it to be eaten
    Without spills only slurps.

    Happiness is remembering Amma,
    While she came out of her coma.
    Smiling at her son and her daughter,
    Each one holding her hand.
    It is watching Achan caring for her
    With no inhibition
    Only loving devotion.

    Most of all happiness is
    Being alone, in silence.
    Watching the Laburnum,
    With its brilliant golden blossoms.
    When the hot winds blow in summer,
    Remembering the holy Ganges,
    Floating in its cool waters,
    Feeling the swirling currents.

  2. Happiness is a function of neurochemicals , these same neurochemicals are also responsible for thought processes . These neurochemicals have self facilitatory circuits, meaning that certain thoughts can be re-enforced and brought about repeatedly . Without changing the external environment , one can choose to be happy or sad depending upon one’s thoughts , thus it is a matter of mind over matter.

  3. I love this post. It’s true, we do forget that everyone has their happy face on in public. Adding to that is the fact that I would argue we tend to “hermit” more when we’re sadder or feeling down. Being happy gives us the energy and motivation to go out and do things, spreading our happiness and positive energy with others who are out and moving about. Being down on the other hand tends to make us tired and reclusive, it’s terribly draining. That isolation leads to further sadness, but also a time to regenerate and perhaps “purge” in some way – art, music, writing, etc.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article :) Well done!

  4. Well, it’s true about me. After reading this post I’ve realized it’s true about everyone. Thanks for the really nice and inspirational post.

  5. The article asserts that “most people” gauge their own happiness by comparing themselves to those around them, and that that “we” (implying everyone) compare ourselves to people we have never met, also to tell if we are happy. Is there any evidence for this? The research described only showed that we are not good at gauging other people’s emotions, not that we use those perceptions to determine our own. I ask because it doesn’t seem to be true of me. I determine my own level of happiness/unhappiness through introspection.

  6. For me………..
    happiness is watching my loved ones most happy! By watching my friends and family, I feel great happiness. I believe that whatever the situation is some or more extent, we ourselves are responsible for that1 Only what we desire and think, we truly become that!

  7. We always said: “If I can’t be happy – then I’ll settle on content.” Good advice I reckon.
    We hide depression/sadness for the same reason anyone hides it: in a predator’s world, weakness can mark you as prey. Being an abused child, it’s important not to show weakness – it opens you up to potential abuse. Walking with the head down and a dismal look in family got you a hard knocking; walking the same way later in life – still prey. We’ve learned, but not so much: we hide our depression now to keep from hurting our loved ones.

    Jeff & Friends



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