In 1825, when Noah Webster assembled his first dictionary, he defined happiness as “the agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good.”
Today, Princeton’s Wordnet Web site defines happiness as a “state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy” or “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being.”
According to those definitions, happiness is a positive emotion that is the result of your current situation.
But is it the byproduct of someone’s disposition? Is happiness something that exists against sadness?
NPR correspondent Eric Weiner also thought those definitions fell flat and decided to hunt down happiness in his book, “The Geography of Bliss.” His first visit was to Ruut Veenhoven director of the World Database of Happiness.
It might come as a surprise to you–as it did to me—but Veenhoven’s research indicates that most people in the world are happy. Weiner worried, however, that the way researchers gather data is suspect. How did they test whether or not people are happy? They asked them!
Instead of hooking up test subjects to monitors or bugging their homes, researchers simply asked people, “How happy would you say you are these days?”
Weiner was skeptical. Rest assured, Veenhoven advised, “You can’t be happy and not know it. By definition, if you are happy, you know it.”