Happiness: universally searched for, yet seldom found. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, reformers, politicians and the like, have pondered the question, “How can we control happiness?” since ancient times. Now, modern psychology has made significant discoveries in the area of well-being, finding that happiness may be more within our reach than we think.
Hannah Woods, master of counseling psychology student, shared her personal and academic insights on the topic.
Woods said she defines happiness as “the presence of fulfillment that is derived from different areas of life, including relationships, accomplished goals and significant events.”
Woods listed many of the different factors that contribute to our happiness, many of which are areas of life within our immediate control.
“Personal happiness is affected by things such as those closest to us, our ability to connect with others, our own personal ability to succeed at what we set our intentions on, our spirituality, how we view and identify ourselves, our self-esteem and confidence and ultimately how we respond to our environment,” Woods said.
Woods said she believes happiness is, in fact, within the control of each individual.
“I believe for the majority of it all, individuals have the ability to manifest happiness in their lives,” Woods said. “As individuals, we get to choose how we respond to challenges and negative circumstances. Choosing a growth mindset and engaging in well-disciplined, positive responses is a recipe for potential happiness.”
Woods views finding happiness as both an ongoing and holistic journey. Along with her academic insight on the topic, Woods shared how she personally seeks to find greater joy within her day-to-day life.
“I engage with those who are significant in (my) life, partake in activities I find enjoyment in like watching shows and seek encouragement from my daily Bible readings,” Woods said.
Dr. Virgo Handojo, professor of psychology, has researched the concept of happiness. Within Handojo’s research, he defines happiness in two concepts. One focuses on pleasure and decreasing pain, and the other focuses on self-sufficiency and purpose.
“There are two different concepts,” Handojo said. “Hedonistic is (seeing) happiness from the subjective point of view, focusing on pleasure. The more you experience pleasure, the higher your happiness. Eudaimonic (is) how high your spirit (is). We measure it through whether the person can live independently, whether they have purpose in life (and) whether they can be self-contained.”
Handojo shared that peer-reviewed literature reviews have shown about 50% of our overall happiness is predetermined by genetics. About 20% is affected by circumstances outside our control and 30% is within our control through intentional activities. His research showed that 15% of our well-being is affected by how we love God, ourselves and others.
“In my study, I try to operationalize love (of) God — spirituality — love (of) other people and love (of) yourself,” Handojo said. “The largest factor that makes you happy is to love yourself, so you have to take care of yourself.”
He shared that he uses two instruments to measure how individuals can love God in a way that also contributes to overall well-being. These include our religious participation (church attendance and spiritual disciplines) as well as how we involve God as we cope with hardships. If we can view God positively as we cope, we are more likely to feel happier and more content in life.
Handojo also shared practical advice on increasing happiness in day-to-day life.
“The most important factor is having close relationships — how you build community,” Handojo said.
He explained that we must feel close and secure to those around us and secure in ourselves to flourish.
Intentional gratitude is a way in which we can also take care of ourselves and increase our happiness in daily life.
“You can nurture yourself by thanksgiving, feeling gratefulness,” Handojo said. “Every day, you can open a journal and then (you) can write down what good things happened in (your) life.”
Handojo also stressed the importance of goal-setting and finding purpose in life. Goal-setting allows us to live intentionally and adds meaning to our life, which is vital to happiness. He explained that our goals must be challenging yet not too difficult to obtain. Accomplishing goals boosts our sense of fulfillment in life.
Handojo said that overall happiness is something we can control and continually grow and develop in.
“Happiness is not like an object you can achieve,” Handojo said. “It is a process.”
Alyana Placencia, freshman psychology major, shared how she finds happiness and maintains well-being within her own life.
“I make plans with at least one friend for a meal or a study session so I can interact with others and not be isolated and alone with my thoughts,” Placencia said. “It helps me maintain a positive mentality while engaging with my friends. I typically end my day with reading the Bible. It is not only calming but reassuring reading the word of God and applying it to my daily life.”
Placencia’s advice illustrated the significance and legitimacy of Handojo’s research findings. If we love God, others and ourselves within our own lives, we can control our level of happiness from day to day.