When people are asked what is their ultimate goal in life, they often reply: “to be happy”. So it’s a no-brainer why parents often say that their main goal is to raise a happy child. But what exactly does it mean to be happy? Is it an emotion, a positive subjective state, or a state of being? The answer is not as easy as it seems. Many parents – and scientists alike have tried to get the answer right. One scientist who has spent years studying the notion of happiness is Daniel Gilbert, from Harvard University, and he proposes three definitions to happiness: emotional, moral, and judgmental.
- Emotional happiness is a feeling related to an experience. For example when your child is excited by a movie, by a trip to an amusement park, or even delighted by a cookie.
- Moral happiness is more related with virtue and philosophical views. It is thinking that when your child lives a good and proper life full of moral meaning – then he or she will feel deeply satisfied and content. Dan Gilbert uses the Greek word eudaimonia to exemplify it, and it translates to ‘good spirit … human flourishing … [and] life well lived.’
- Judgmental happiness is making a judgment about the source of potentially pleasurable feelings – in the past, present, or future. This type of happiness is usually followed by words such as “about”, “for”, and “that”. For example, your child might be excited about getting a dog or might be happy for going to the park.
Knowing this information clarifies what happiness means, but the question remains: what makes people happy? And Is there a formula we can follow?