In fact, defining happiness has always been hard and has eluded many. The definition I like most is the subjective interpretation of the experience. What makes Bob happy may displease Mary. What has made Bob happy today may displease him in a few years time. Essentially what we are saying here is derived out of theories of emotion which postulate that emotions are the end result of a complex interaction between the event, physiological response and the interpretation of it all. The physiological response is the home of the neurochemical interaction and the physical reactions experienced in the body. The important part of it is how we make sense of the physiological response in the particular event. The feeling in the body of muscle relaxation, accelerated heart rate, and affected breathing can be present after a workout, as well as when I win the lottery. The same feelings I experienced when I almost fainted on the airplane! I may say that I am happier when I win the lottery but not as such when I finish a workout. So, what matters is whether the person sees the event as positive or not. Removing this part from our definition of happiness may undercut our ability to understand emotion deeply, as I feel that neurochemical explanations of emotions only show a facet of what is truly going on.


Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on

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