Happiness is surprisingly difficult to define. Most people accept the psychological definition: a pleasant feeling of well-being that can range from contentment to joy.
Greek philosophers, by contrast, defined happiness more broadly as “eudaimonia” or “flourishing.” They saw it as an activity rather than an emotional state. A happy person was somebody who led a good and fulfilling life. As can be seen by the following quotes about happiness, many people had opinions about what happiness was and how one could become happy.
Quotes About Happiness
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – Aristotle
In 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote the “Nicomachean Ethics,” in which he declared that happiness was the only thing people valued for its own sake. They valued other things like love or riches, because they believed such things would make them happy. Aristotle also believed that the best and happiest life was one governed by reason.
Quotes About Happiness and Purpose
“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” – Joseph Addison
“Give a man health and a course to steer, and he’ll never stop to trouble about whether he’s happy or not.” — George Bernard Shaw
Many believe that people need a sense of purpose in order to be happy. They need to feel that their lives have meaning and that they are contributing in some way to their family or community. A person who feels they have a purpose is under less stress than somebody who sees their life as pointless. As Shaw stated, the former may be too busy following their passion to even worry about happiness.
Happiness Quotes About Absence of Pain
“Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Happiness? That’s nothing more than health and a poor memory.” – Albert Schweitzer
Both Jefferson and Schweitzer describe happiness in its most basic form as an absence of pain. It is very hard to be cheerful if you’re ill and feel physically wretched. Schweitzer’s sarcastic comment about a “poor memory” is actually true: Happy people do not brood on misfortunes or slights.
Attitudes That Lead to Happiness
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
One reason that philosophers tend to view happiness as an activity is because it takes self-discipline to keep yourself from fretting or brooding over things outside your control. A happy person has learned better than to worry about things they can’t change.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
The above quote comes from “The Hobbit,” and the speaker is the dying Thorin Oakenshield, who regrets both his greed and his treatment of Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit. Thorin realized, belatedly, that gold is less likely to lead to happiness than are the simple pleasures of spending time with friends.
“If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu