Happiness is an emotional state, which is characterized by feelings of joy, fulfillment, or satisfaction. But did you know there are different types of happiness? That’s right. Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all emotion.
All happiness is not the same, and there are even stages and levels of happiness. In this article, I will share with you five types of happiness, the stages of happiness, and most importantly, specific actions to create a plan for your happiness.
Table of Contents
- 5 Types of Happiness
- 5 Stages of Happiness
- Creating a Happiness Plan for Your Life
- Final Thoughts
5 Types of Happiness
Knowing which type of happiness you’re experiencing can help you better appreciate your life, other people, and the things that you have right now. Here are the five types of happiness that you can experience in your life.
Have you ever completed a challenging project? Or have you ever volunteered for a worthy cause you believe in? These events probably evoked a sense of pride within you.
Pride is a form of happiness. Often, we associate pride with over-competitive negative emotions. However, pride in one’s accomplishments is a great form of happiness to savor. You can take pride in your work, your family, or anything which provides a sense of accomplishment.
2. Fostering Relationships
Many firmly believe that money is a secret to a happy life. However, a group of Harvard researchers launched a study in 1938 where they followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates for 75 years.
The unique Harvard Grant Study collected data on the men’s lives through surveys and interviews. They looked at all aspects, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use—and they found surprising results.
According to Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and a professor at Harvard Medical School, the study showed that “our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.” He added that “[t]aking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.”
Waldinger, in a TED Talk in 2015, also said that “people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier. They’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well-connected.”
You can learn more from his TED talk below.
In his book about the study, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, and study director from 1972 to 2004, writes: “There are two pillars of happiness. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”
He says that many of the things people thought mattered when it comes to happiness don’t. For example, many believe money and social class are vital to success. These two things were at the bottom of the list.
Contentment means to be happy with what you have, who you are, and where you are. It is respecting the reality of the present. It is appreciating what you do have and where you are in life.
Contentment does not mean the absence of desire. It just means that you are satisfied with your present and believe in the best possible outcomes.
Many people today think that life is an absolute race where you must be the best at everything. We must have a fancier car, a bigger house, a better-earning job, or more money. The moment we achieve one thing, the race for the next thing starts. Rarely do many individuals spare a minute to just sit back, relax, and be grateful for all they have achieved.
Contentment brings peace of mind and positivity that can facilitate growth and self-improvement. This does not mean you don’t have dreams and aspirations. But you can accept the present and still wish for a better future.
Contentment only means to be at peace with the present, not complacent.
Therefore, contentment promotes happiness. When one accepts their situation, you are allowing yourself to experience a type of happiness. Being grateful for everything you have instead of spending your time thinking about what you don’t makes life more joy-filled.
Just because we’re adults, that doesn’t mean we have to make life all about work. In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped having fun.
When we carve out some leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun. Fun can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you.
Fun brings about positive feelings like excitement, pride, and hope, and of course, positive feelings make us happy.
Most people have hobbies. Hobbies help us cultivate fun in our lives. It doesn’t matter what we do, as long as it provides us with a reasonable amount of fun daily or weekly.
It can be sports, cooking, collecting, etc. Either way, it’s a simple way to spice up your life and take a break from the mundane tasks of life.
Many enjoy travel as a form of fun. From enjoying new, unique cultures to sunbathing or skiing, it all comes down to great fun in the end.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, often known as G.K. Chesterton, is a prolific English writer, poet, philosopher, etc. who coined the quote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Choosing to be thankful may well be an easy and accessible way to boost your happiness. Gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being as well. It increases self-esteem, enhances positive emotions, and makes us more optimistic.
Dr. Amy E. Keller, PsyD, a marriage and family therapist, doesn’t leave out the purposeful aspect of building happiness. When you feel joyful and that your life has meaning, you’re more appreciative of what you have.
She says, “When I talk about happiness with clients, I emphasize feeling purposeful and connected and cultivating satisfaction and self-worth, as well as simply feeling pleasure—which of course is also a factor! Gratitude supports happiness in ways related to all of these.” 
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude supports happiness in our lives.
5 Stages of Happiness
At different stages of a person’s life, the principal sources of happiness change. What made us happy when we were five probably won’t at 25 and changes again at 35, 45, and so on.
Therefore, it is important to understand what stage of happiness you are in and why something in your past doesn’t bring you happiness anymore.
Stage 1: Early Happiness
Our first experiences with happiness are when we are children. As infants, our joy is natural and expressive.
Of course, not many people remember those experiences before we learned to talk. However, when we look at children, we see their joyful nature.
The expression of joy, love, and happiness is the normal and natural state.
Stage 2: Socialized Happiness
From the time we are able to talk and understand the word “NO!”, we begin to get socialized. Growing up as children, we learn the rules of our parents, school, community, and world. We also learn to accept the emotional punishments and rewards of those rules.
When we do tasks, we receive emotional acceptance in the form of praise and approval. When we don’t follow the rules. we get negative emotional feedback in the form of reprimands and criticisms.
We learn to think about ourselves and judge ourselves the same way others think about us and judge us. We also learn to give ourselves the same emotions that others did with their punishments and praise
We receive negative emotions from others through criticism, and then we learn to create and feel those same emotions about ourselves as well.
Stage 3: Conditional Happiness
When we are completely socialized, we no longer need anyone telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. We have acquired a vast library of rules and have the verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical, conditioning of punishments and rewards so that we no longer need anyone reminding us.
We keep ourselves on the track of “shoulds” and avoid the “shouldn’t”—the conditions of our perceived happiness.
In a self-socialized state, we still enjoy it when we are recognized or praised. We get an emotional boost when someone is attracted to us and desires us. We also react emotionally when given negative feedback. Our happiness is based on these conditions.
Stage 4: Transition to Happiness
Similar to the rebellion we had as a teenager, now we are rebelling against socialized beliefs and behaviors. We aren’t rebelling against what another person says. We are rebelling against what our mind is repeatedly telling us and being taught. It also differs because it is a conscious rebellion as our emotions have become reactive.
Another difference is that much of what our mind offers us is useful, helpful, and necessary, so we need to keep that part intact. However, we long to rid ourselves of the judgmental negative thoughts holding us back from our natural expression of love.
A person may begin meditation, yoga, reading self-help books, and practicing mindfulness, all in an effort to get rid of negative thoughts and change their core beliefs.
Stage 5: Authentic Happiness
The person that has transcended the conditional happiness modes they were socialized with and can express themselves genuinely experience authentic happiness. This authentic expression has a similar joy and freedom that a young child has.
At this point, feeling joy, gratitude, love, and respect is no longer dependent on the condition of external triggers. It is a mindset, perspective, and emotional state that has been practiced and internally maintained.
Creating a Happiness Plan for Your Life
Just as you follow a recipe for cooking success, one can also cultivate more happiness through intentional, deliberate actions.
1. Growth Mindset
Develop a growth mindset that focuses on creating a life you love. It’s about believing that you can achieve and overcome challenges even if it takes some patience. Having a growth mindset is believing you will get better over time.
Volunteerism can be a way great way to gain a sense of purpose and create more happiness. Volunteering has been shown to give you a sense of accomplishment and increase feelings of happiness.
3. Find Joy Everyday
Happiness is sometimes found in the smallest, most ordinary things. You should try to pay more attention to them and understand that getting exercise, enjoying the smell of that first cup of coffee in the morning, spending a little time reading, or even doing a work project with a high chance of success can give you that feeling of happiness.
4. Practice Gratitude
Spending time writing about what you appreciate is a great way to spark happiness from within. Even five-minute journaling can make a difference positively impact your mental wellbeing and health.
5. Disconnect: Power Down Your Gadgets
By disconnecting from email, text messaging, and social media, you can increase your connectivity with the people around you. And you’ll feel a heck of a lot better while you’re at it.
6. Try Something New
People who participate in bold, new activities and collect unique experiences are more likely to retain more positive memories than negative ones. The more positive memories we keep, the lighter we become. So, go ahead and sign up for those guitar lessons. Book that trip to Antigua. Do them in the name of happiness.
7. Practice Self-Love
Self-criticism is self-defeating. But if you’re compassionate toward yourself, you can make yourself more productive, stronger, and more relaxed. The next time you think negatively about yourself, write down that negative thought. By seeing how hurtful those words appear on paper, you’ll begin to train yourself to stop saying them in your head.
8. Stop Saying “I’m Sorry”
Science tells us that those who avoid apologies are happier than those who own up to their blunders. Refusing to apologize gives us a sense of power and entitlement, research shows.
9. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Nurture your relationships. Losing touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets people have on their deathbed.
10. Have Fun!
Start living in the moment, and stop waiting for the perfect time—be spontaneous, and have fun! Take a break, and stop waiting for all the work to be done, the house to be clean, the dog walked, and go have fun! When you think that genuine fun just happens on huge occasions or planned activities, you’re denying yourself the small pleasures of life.
All in all, creating a happy life is a simple matter of putting more of what we enjoy into our lives. You have to cultivate it intentionally if you choose to do so.
Begin today by taking the steps to live a happier life and creating a legacy of joy.
Featured photo credit: KAL VISUALS via unsplash.com
|||^||The Harvard Gazette: Good genes are nice, but joy is better|
|||^||The Harvard Gazette: Good genes are nice, but joy is better|
|||^||Verywellmind: How Gratitude Makes You Happier|
|||^||SpringerLink: Does Volunteering Make Us Happier, or Are Happier People More Likely to Volunteer? Addressing the Problem of Reverse Causality When Estimating the Wellbeing Impacts of Volunteering|
|||^||TIME: Health and Happiness|
|||^||Smithsonian Magazine: People Who Never Apologize Are Probably Happier Than You|
|||^||The Guardian: Top five regrets of the dying|