The Pursuit of Happiness
The issue of happiness has become a topical field of investigation and researches, from both emotional and scientific points of view. The release of books about happiness has increased dramatically from 200 to 2008, raising from 50 editions to 4,000. A range of educational institutions, including Harvard University, offer the classes in positive psychology and related disciplines as ones of the most prominent and successful topics. Analogically, it is possible to find plenty of happiness seminars, workshops and lectures, available for all social groups and classes. Thus, it is possible to surmise that the question of happiness gains special attitude and position, in the modern society.
In the late 1990s, the psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania started investigating the issues of the psychological emotional well-being and health in the opposition to the mental disorders. In his opinion, the key to understanding the emotional health is as important as the examination of mental illnesses and pathologies. Later, the entire psychological school based their research on the investigation of the mental wellness and examination of the positive emotions, traits and peculiarities. To a great extent, the studies in neurobiology helped to amplify the scientific knowledge on happiness and define the reasons, condition and mechanisms of the happiness as the mental phenomenon. The same is true in relations to the behavioral economics, which has strongly contributed to the comprehension of happiness, its influences and roles in the human life.
However, the researches of happiness have not been limited to the mere scientific examinations and discoveries. In a short run, the issue has gained the attention of the mass market and become an essential element of promotions and sales. The so-called experts used the concept of happiness in nearly every situation, appealing to the consumers’ ethics and emotionality. As a result, the very notion of happiness and its further investigations have been threatened by the rapid outburst of attention from the passers-by.
Nevertheless, such an attention to the concept of happiness was not spontaneous. The statistics shows that the society as the entity tends to become more depressed, despite the numerous attempts to discover the keys to happiness. Even the classes in the positive psychology are not the prerogative of the happy people. Rather, at least 15% of its attendees are students with the reported clinical depressions. Thus, there is a definite paradox between the research of happiness and actual emotional conditions of the society.
Another movement, worth paying attention to, is the tendency against happiness, as described in the researches of the notable psychologists. Particularly, Jerome Wakefield of New York University and Allan Horwitz of Rutgers claim that the searches for happiness underestimate the role of the natural sadness, which is equally important for the mental wellness. In their book The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder, the psychologists argue that overwhelming interest in happiness distorts people’s attention from the importance of depression or sadness, creating an evident emotional dissonance and instability. Analogically, the study, conducted by Eric Wilson, states that excessive attention to the happiness may be harmful for the adequate and appropriate perception of the mental health and its components.
The psychologists point to the fact that the emphasis on happiness usually make people hide their emotions of sadness or depressions in order to meet the requirements and standards of social behavior. However, it is not always the right strategy, as the natural experience of the negative emotions is essential for the human health and well-being. Correspondingly, the redundant attention to happiness does not really contribute to the emotional health of the nation. Rather, it underestimates the role of the opposite emotions and experiences.
The matter with all these movements indicate the national tendency to achieve the immediate calming effect by applying to any new offers and proposals. The practice shows that many Americans are ready to try themselves in different activities for the sake of the immediate happiness, despite the long-term consequences. However, the effects of such pursuits can be quite negative for the personal well-being and happiness.
It is also important to realize that the happiness is not concerned with mere smiling all the time or hiding bad moods. Neither is happiness related to the avoidance of the critical judgements or absence of the depressions. The thing is that the happiness is the complex mental phenomenon, which indicates the personal acceptance of the situation and comfort with the current events. Respectively, it should not be a national or social obligation, identical for all citizens.
The neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists and other experts are certain that the happiness deals more with the “self-satisfaction” and “self-respect”, rather than actual happiness in it literal meaning. It is an elaborated and profound phenomenon, which is not limited to the mere experience of the positive emotions. Thus, the ideas of happiness should not be underestimated or overlooked by the popular culture and mass researches.
The concept of happiness can be fully implemented in the society. It means that only affiliation to a certain community and awareness of this connection can raise the feeling of happiness. The pursuit of it can be quite continuous and difficult, though the result is worth aspiring to. The happiness is not an immediate and short experience of the delight and gladness. On the contrary, it is a long-lasting feeling of comfort, self-satisfaction and pleasure.
To sum up, the researches of happiness have undergone different stages and reflected various social, cultural and scientific aspirations. Nowadays, the society moves toward the better and more comprehensive explanation of the happiness and its role. Apparently, happiness is the very concept to be investigated. The thing is to make this research as reliable and prolific as possible.