International Day of Happiness was on the 20th March, so we asked: can people feel happiness every day?

For thousands of years, humans have been on a quest for happiness. Whether through Ancient Greek or Roman philosophy, the Buddhist path to Enlightenment, the Middle Ages, or Modern and Contemporary ideas of happiness, much time and thinking has been dedicated to it. It’s what we desire in life, because, let’s face it: it makes us feel fulfilled and it feels great. So after all these years of philosophical pondering, have we got any closer to understanding how to be happy? Here’s a brief walk through the history of happiness, and an original modern step-by-step guide for reaching happiness, from yours truly, Smiley, the happiness brand.

happiness smiley hat

History of Happiness

The origin of the word, ‘happiness’ comes from hap meaning ‘chance’ or ‘fortune.’ This suggests that happiness is something that’s down to luck (…not looking too great so far then). But thanks to time spent sitting and thinking, philosophers and psychologists have come to understand happiness in different ways now.

Through Plato’s, The Republic, Socrates is the first known figure in the West to claim that you can obtain happiness through human effort. He argued that a moral life leads to happiness: being good = feeling good (hurrah!) However, it wasn’t just Socrates who believed this: lots of Ancient Greek philosophers said that being virtuous leads to happiness.

So, step one!

Be good, honest and principled in everything you do. #HowToBeHappy Click To Tweet

The Ancient Romans’ take on happiness, on the other hand, was around love. A lack of love leads to suffering, which is the opposite of happiness. Since God created the world with love, and we gain the most happiness from actions driven not by a sense of selfishness, but of love, then happiness is found through acting with pure love.

Step two!

Do something with love for someone. #HowToBeHappy Click To Tweet

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

The Buddha understood Enlightenment, or happiness, as the end of suffering. He saw suffering as coming from cravings, but understood that cravings can be eliminated. To do that, he said that people need to follow the Eightfold Path where they practice and, through that, have:

Right understanding
Right intentions
Right speech
Right actions
Right livelihood
Right effort
Right mindfulness
Right concentration

He strongly believed in the importance of meditation for this, creating peace of mind and engagement with the world and yourself. This Buddhist thinking is believed to be a strong influence for the popularity of today’s practice of mindfulness.

Step three!

Have the right view, intentions, speech, actions, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration… Click To Tweet

happiness meditation

The Middle Ages focused on the use of intellect in reaching happiness. Knowledge of yourself, of God and of this world leads to happiness.

Step four!

Listen to yourself, and truly understand yourself and the world you're in #HowToBeHappy Click To Tweet

Now let’s hop over to the Early Modern thinkers, Michel de Montaigne, Jeremy Bentham and Arthur Schopenhauer. Their take on happiness arguably continued on from one strand of the Middle Ages: looking more at the self’s actions. Montaigne argued that happiness is totally subjective, and will be different for each person. He believed that people need to have a separate private life, away from society’s interference, to understand their own form of happiness. In a similar stance, Schopenhauer defined happiness as satisfying your own wish, claiming it is egotistical. However, Bentham, the man behind the thinking of utilitarianism, believed that the most moral action is one where the greatest good is achieved for the greatest number of people. He saw happiness as very much linked with moral actions where the more people that were happy from something, the more moral that action was. So, being happy for him can be argued to be about helping others.

What can we take from this?

That we should look inwards for our happiness, as it’s very different for each of us. We know what makes us happy, as we feel satisfied from it. But it’s important to also remember Bentham’s idea that as many people as possible should benefit from an action. And it’s true that helping others makes us feel happy! When was the last time you put a smile on someone’s face after helping them, either through a kind act or in general when you were considerate of others, and how happy did it make you? Our guess is very happy! Smiles are contagious 🙂

Step five!

Ask yourself: what gives you satisfaction in life and how can your actions help others? #HowToBeHappy Click To Tweet

happiness together

Modern thinking has looked at mindfulness, genetics and happiness as a way of life. Instead of seeing happiness as a goal, it encourages people to see it as a journey; it’s not the destination, it’s changing your frame of mind. It’s letting go of how you think your life should be, and celebrating it for everything that it is. Connecting with ourselves and our lives has paved the way for mindfulness as a means of  being happy. Today’s ideas around happiness are about feeling grateful for what and, more importantly, who we have in our lives. Dr. Amit Sood has recently developed some fantastic techniques for people to reach happiness. He calls it the 5-3-2 encouraging people to follow this plan: your first thought when you wake up should be about five people that you’re grateful to have in your life; then for the first three minutes that you meet your family or friends, meet them as though they’re a long lost friend; and finally, for the first two seconds when you see anyone, think to them in your head, “I wish you well.”

Step six!

Be grateful every day, and connect with the moment you're in. You'll never get that moment again! #HowToBeHappy Click To Tweet

So there we have it, our six steps to happiness. Try them today, and see if it makes you happier.