For decades psychologists have focused on the negative aspects of the human being, such as illnesses or diseases. However, in recent years, self-described “Positive Psychology” has worked more on the positive characteristics and qualities of people. An example of this is happiness.
Sense of humor, affection, resilience, love, harmony or gratitude are psychological and emotional states that help us achieve our goals and make us carriers of positive emotions. But how many emotions are there and how intensely do we have to feel them to be happy?
Positive emotions: the main ingredient of happiness
Some authors define positive emotions as those in which pleasure or wellbeing takes the lead. They allow us to cultivate strengths and personal virtues. And these always lead to happiness.
However, categorizing emotions into positive or negative has its risks. For example, sadness does not always have to have such a negative connotation. Feeling sad about the loss of a loved one, besides just being natural, is adaptive, necessary and shows a person’s maturity. Although these types of emotions are not always harmful, they are unpleasant. Experiencing them often places us in an unwanted emotional state.
How can we define a “happy person”?
Happiness is a state of mind, an emotional state and a mental state. But how can we define a happy person? We can look at their emotions and the degree of pleasure or displeasure that they cause.
In eudaimonic (“happiness”) terms, the happiest people are not those who experience pleasurable emotions more intensely. Instead, they are those who have positive emotions with moderate intensity on a frequent basis. High-intensity gratifying moments are unusual, even for the happiest people. So, happiness is linked to a feeling of inner fulfillment and psychological well-being.
If we ask the people around us if they are really happy, they will probably mention specific events that have made them feel momentary ecstasy. For example, the birth of a child or a grandchild, the purchase of a new home or winning the lottery are events that are usually associated with moments of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment.
But beware! These types of events do not happen often. Therefore, basing happiness on a hope for extraordinary events can end in unhappiness.
We are talking about people who treasure positive emotions with moderate intensity on a frequent basis.
Constant change makes us unhappy
Looking for the sublime or the pleasant constantly and in any aspect of life leads us to error, even when we achieve desired results. People who seek “maximum happiness or maximum pleasure” at all times tend to change partners or jobs repeatedly and compulsively. They do not engage in long-lasting friendship relationships.
They live on the idea that “it’s not enough” and “there will always be something better”. It is exactly this incessant search for excellence and that addiction to change that makes them desperate and bored.
However, searching moments of maximum well-being should not be confused with refusal to experience happiness. Many people do not accept strokes of luck because they think that life must always have balance (“karma“), based on a law of cause and effect, in which the good always follows the bad.
Something similar happens with experiences that cause a lot of pleasure. Experiencing extreme enthusiasm can be a disadvantage if it compares with other positive experiences. That is, something that is a pleasant event a priori can become a mediocre event when contrasted with a spectacular past event. Let’s not forget that we inherited a way of thinking that associates pleasure – especially intense pleasure – with sin.
Women are more emotional than men
Between men and women there are also differences in expression and the way of feeling of emotions. Various research has shown that women experience more emotions, as well as emotions of greater frequency and intensity than men do. As for negative emotions, they tend to feel more fear and sadness than men.
It is interesting to analyze how many arguments in relationships are related to complaints about the other sex. These revolve around how men do not express their emotions enough and how women are too emotional,”I’ll never understand you if you don’t tell me how you feel” or “it’s not so bad, you’re too sensitive”.
Therefore, knowing that men do not express their emotions because they literally do not experience them as often or as intensely as women can help us meet in the middle. It can help mutual understanding and to solve conflicts.
How to maintain happiness
When we reach a goal, we feel satisfaction. But if we don’t know how to handle it, it can only be immediate and momentary. It can vanish at a tremendous speed. For example, the joy of receiving a raise can be pushed to the background if we take a long time to find parking for the car and allow ourselves to feel negative emotions..
In order to achieve happiness and maintain steady emotions of moderate intensity, each event must be given its due importance. Moderation, balance, prudence and relativity are key aspects to properly managing our feelings.