About Happiness

Western psychology generally talks about three aspects of happiness:

  1. Happy people have a preponderance of positive feelings.  They experience emotions like joy, enthusiasm, contentment, peace, and love frequently and deeply.  (On this site and in my book I use joy as a shortcut word to describe this constellation of positive feelings.)
  2. They also have a relative absence of negative feelings.  Sadness, depression, bitterness, negativity, jealousy are rare.  (I’ll use the word misery henceforth to refer to this group of unpleasant feelings.)  Surprisingly, this is somewhat independent of the presence of positive feelings.  Some people feel a lot of both, some people don’t feel much of either.
  3. Finally, happy people are generally satisfied with their lives.  They aren’t disturbed by a lot of wants, or feelings that they’ve missed out on important things or failed in important areas.  They feel they have most of the things they need, they’re happy with the relationships they’ve got, and they tend to be optimistic about the future.

            Besides these three, there is another dimension to happiness that I will call meaning. This other dimension of happiness has got something to do with self-expression, with making a contribution, with creating something that will last, or feeling connected to something bigger than yourself.  This “meaning” dimension of happiness complicates everything, and science certainly doesn’t know very much about it.

            These four dimensions of happiness give us a great way to organize our thinking about the subject, and in fact that’s how I organized Happy at Last and how I’m organizing this website.  After we spend some time understanding why happiness isn’t normal or easy, we’ll return to these four subjects and how you can become better at each of them.


The roadblocks to happiness

Most children born into a safe and loving home have the capacity to become happy as adults. But there can be huge obstacles in the way. In Happy at Last I put these obstacles into four categories:

  1. The brain, with its preset programming
  2. The mind, and all the wrong ideas we learn
  3. Our society and culture, and the many surprising ways it interferes with the pursuit of happiness
  4. The Hedonic Treadmill and the Happiness Thermostat, which put limits on how happy we can feel.




Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, therapist, or other healthcare professional.  You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any treatment, or for making any lifestyle decision that may have serious negative repercussions.