Happy Notes

Hi again, and here's the third "Happy Note". This one tries to define the three main types of happiness, which I'll be analysing in more depth as the happy notes continue, along with short stories illustrating types of happiness in action. Again, while you're more than welcome to read Happy Notes without sending me feedback, I'd like to thank those who have done so and if I haven't yet replied to you personally, I'll do so soon.

Stay happy,


:-) ... I love life and, each moment, I gratefully strive to live as I would on my last day alive ...

Happy Notes No. 3 (The 3 Types of Happiness)

What is happiness anyway? Is it not different for everyone? And does studying and pursuing happiness simply make it less attainable? Well, depending on how we define happiness, the answers to the other questions are both yes and no. Certain kinds of happiness are different for each of us; other kinds of happiness are common to many of us. Certain kinds of happiness we can study and pursue; other kinds of happiness can only catch us unawares. What then are these different kinds of happiness? I like to imagine them in three main categories...

The first type of happiness is immediate happy feelings, such as pleasure, joy, arousal, hope, desire, excitement, relief and gratitude. Happy feelings are short-term, lasting approximately as long as the events that cause us to experience them. Two key happy feelings are pleasure and joy. Our physical body is a tactile cornucopia, a potential pleasure scale ranging from the first tinglings of arousal to the extremes of ecstasy. We eat and drink meals that tantalise our taste buds, enjoy literally thousands of detectable scents, listen to music we love and look at aesthetically pleasing images. Pleasure mixes physical, emotional and mental stimulation. Joy adds a spiritual dimension: something magical suddenly happens inside us that makes us (consciously or unconsciously) grateful for the inestimable miracle of our very existence. While we can actively seek and attain pleasure, joy seeks us - and often springs upon us when we least expect it.

The second type of happiness is happy moods, which can develop when happy feelings and thinking are in harmony with each other. Two key happy moods are flow and contentment. Flow is high intensity happy harmony. You are actively doing something that you really love doing, with no interruptions to distract you, and you are so comfortable with the mechanics of doing it that you can do it without having to think about it. You can become so fully absorbed in the activity that you lose track of time and the outside world. Everything is going just right and the experience of the moment is its own reward. Contentment is low intensity happy harmony. You are physically rested and emotionally satisfied, and inwardly reflecting on successful outcomes to activities in which you have engaged. The activities themselves may have involved frustration, stress, anxiety, pain, fear, anger or worse, but you have achieved a successful outcome while acting in accordance with your spiritual beliefs and moral values. If regularly experienced, contentment can intensify into an ongoing temperament of high self-esteem.

The third type of happiness is a happy temperament, or being a happy person. This is a constantly evolving journey of experience and reflection, with your feelings creating and being influenced by your moods, all combining to shape and refine your spiritual beliefs and moral values. This, when applied to an overall balance in your life activities, brings you an ever increasing level of self-esteem, self-knowledge, wisdom, meaning and ultimately inner peace. The further you are on this increasingly empowering journey, the more effectively you can react to the new challenges you will face today, continuing the cycle of further experience followed by further reflection, further refining your spiritual beliefs and moral values, and further increasing your level of self-esteem, self-knowledge, wisdom, meaning and peace. At a certain stage on this endless journey to ultimate happiness, you may reach the unreachable destination by coming to believe that the journey itself is happiness...

Copyright Michael Nugent 1997

Feedback optional but welcome. If you know anyone else who might like to have future "Happy Notes" sent to them, please email me at mnugent@iol.ie