Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Various research groups, including positive psychology, endeavor to apply the scientific method to answer questions about what "happiness" is, and how it might be attained. It is of such fundamental importance to the human condition that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were deemed to be unalienable rights by the United States Declaration of Independence. Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics. Happiness economics suggests that measures of public happiness should be used to supplement more traditional economic measures when evaluating the success of public policy. Research has produced many different views on causes of happiness, and on factors that correlate with happiness, but no validated method has been found to substantially improve long-term happiness in a meaningful way for most people. Sonja Lyubomirsky concludes in her book The How of Happiness that 50 percent of a given human's happiness level is genetically determined (based on twin studies), 10 percent is affected by life circumstances and situation, and a remaining 40 percent of happiness is subject to self-control. The results of the 75 year Grant study of Harvard undergraduates show a high correlation of loving relationship, especially with parents, with later life wellbeing. In the 2nd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2000), evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby say that happiness comes from "encountering unexpected positive events". In the 3rd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2008), Michael Lewis says "happiness can be elicited by seeing a significant other". According to Mark Leary, as reported in a November 1995 issue of Psychology Today, "we are happiest when basking in the acceptance and praise of others". Sara Algoe and Jonathan Haidt say that "happiness" may be the label for a family of related emotional states, such as joy, amusement, satisfaction, gratification, euphoria, and triumph. It has been argued that money cannot effectively "buy" much happiness unless it is used in certain ways.[full citation needed] "Beyond the point at which people have enough to comfortably feed, clothe, and house themselves, having more money - even a lot more money - makes them only a little bit happier."[according to whom?] A Harvard Business School study found that "spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves". Meditation has been found to lead to high activity in the brain's left prefrontal cortex, which in turn has been found to correlate with happiness. Psychologist Martin Seligman asserts that happiness is not solely derived from external, momentary pleasures, and provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology's correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have Pleasure (tasty food, warm baths, etc.),
Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity), Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness), Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).
There have also been some studies of how religion relates to happiness. Causal relationships remain unclear, but more religion is seen in happier people. This correlation may be the result of community membership and not necessarily belief in religion itself. Another component may have to do with ritual.[full citation needed] Abraham Harold Maslow, an American professor of...
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