Why Is Happiness Hard To Define? (A Full Guide With Examples)


A group of people showing their happiness.

Happiness is hard to define, yet it is something that everyone is looking for. Part of this has to do with the significance of happiness in your life. This emotion plays a crucial role in your wellbeing and lifestyle. Generally, if you are happier, your life has more meaning and brings you more joy.

Despite the importance of happiness, it remains hard to define in concrete terms because happiness is not linear or experienced in the same way for everyone. How you experience and define happiness will be completely different from how others define it. Your unique interests, past experiences, relationships with others, the society you live in, and the struggles you encounter all play a role in how you define happiness.

There are many other factors that influence how an individual experiences feeling happy, which is why happiness is so hard to define. Throughout this article, we provide more insight about why it is difficult to define and find happiness, some factors that are influencing your happiness, and why they are so different for everyone.

Keep reading below for further insight on how you can more easily define happiness for yourself in the long term.

Why Is Happiness Hard To Define?

So why exactly is it so hard to define your own happiness? Again, there are a multitude of reasons why happiness is hard to define. However, starting with the obvious explanation: happiness is not linear.

People like to make happiness simple. They say that happiness is a state of contentment or pleasure. This is a reasonable and straight forward explanation. But it doesn’t fully define the depth of happiness.

Of course, creating a definition of happiness that encompasses all people isn’t easy. Not everyone experiences contentment or pleasure in the same way.

In fact, each person experiences happy feelings in different ways due to individual factors. This includes things like upbringing, culture, and values.

Your unique personal history is what makes you who you are. But due to these differences, you might define happiness for yourself on our own terms, which makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact definition of happiness.

A man playing the guitar and being happy.
What You Define As Happiness Is Often Different Than Others

Even if you bring things down to an emotional level, it is hard to measure and define happiness perfectly. Scientists still have trouble figuring out how to describe a state of happiness and what it means to be happy.

This is because happiness is not a constant state, it’s a fluctuating emotion. It’s getting easier to understand this emotion with new technologies and better scientific measures.

Still, defining this state in personal terms has not been made simpler with time. Philosophers, poets, artists, and people from all walks of life have their own take on happiness and what it should mean. Thus, the definition of happiness is in constant flux.

How Can Happiness Be Defined? 

Happiness is hard to pin down in absolute terms. But most people, and scientists, agree that happiness is a state of being in which you feel good or content.

As previously discussed, this definition can be seen as vague, generalized, and simple. But more specific definitions don’t satisfy everyone’s definitions of happiness. This hasn’t stopped psychologists and many researchers from coming up with a more in-depth definition of happiness, though.

Not everyone agrees with scientific explanations of happiness, but you have to start somewhere. Psychologists, for instance, define this emotion more comprehensively.

Happiness can be defined in a number of different ways. Take the time to realize what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Try to remove yourself from situations that have made you unhappy in the past. Likewise, put yourself in more scenarios that have previously made you happy. You can only do this if you take the time to self-reflect.

They choose to look at happiness in a multitude of situations. Similarly, they see how this emotion affects multiple areas of your life in order to define happiness. This is known as a global assessment of happiness.

Various aspects of your life and emotions are compiled and analyzed. You look at your levels of happiness from day to day in various situations. Then the sum total of these moments and emotions are assessed to determine your overall levels of happiness.

This isn’t a perfect way to define happiness. But it is a more measured method of doing this. Still, this might be too impersonal a definition for some people.

Alternatively, you could just define happiness through your past experiences on your own. You don’t need a therapist or a formal assessment.

Looking back at past happy moments, and deciding whether or not you felt happy can help you define your own happiness as well. And differentiating between happiness and other moments of bliss can help as well. Really, however you choose to see happiness is up to your discretion.

Why Is It Difficult To Find Happiness? 

It’s no secret, happiness is elusive and hard to find. It would be nice if there was a standard way to find happiness, but this just isn’t the case. Each person has to find a satisfactory definition of this emotion for themselves.

Life is not so simple, and because of individual differences, you have to search and experience life to find true happiness.

Some people try to make it easier for themselves by copying other people’s definitions of happiness. It’s true that you can look at the people around you to find and define happiness.

Still, this might not satisfy your personal needs. Society and your culture have their own definitions of happiness that may or may not align with your interests.

For instance, on a whole, popular culture defines happiness in terms of status and monetary excess. People will tell you that you will feel happy when you are making money, or when you have nice things.

Pop culture often portrays the image that happiness means wealth and material possessions.

To some people, this could be happiness. But this might not be the right definition of happiness for you.

Finding what makes you happy and defining that for yourself takes time and effort. It’s hard to define happiness, and it can even take a whole lifetime to define this emotion.

However, you have to go through many hardships and many experiences to discover what brings you happiness. When you are more aware of the things that don’t bring you happiness, you can work to eliminate those areas from your life.

What Factors Are Important In Achieving Happiness?

It’s hard to define happiness and give anyone a concrete and complete definition of it. But there are many factors that can lead to greater amounts of happiness in your life.

Of course, different things will work for different people. But there are some common similarities that can lead people to lasting happiness in their life.

One of the biggest influences on achieving individual happiness is social connections. Countless studies have researched the effects of relationships on levels of happiness. The results of these studies have shown that better social ties will improve your happiness.

A happy couple sitting on a couch.
Your Relationships With Other Individuals Plays An Important Role When You Define Happiness

Good friendships, a stable marriage, and positive family interactions will make you happier. These relationships are especially important to happiness in older age. Therefore, you don’t want to neglect this aspect of your life.

Another factor that plays a role in happiness is money. You don’t need to be super rich or amass a ton of money to be happy. In fact, continually chasing after money can have the opposite impact and negatively affect happiness.

What you can instead aim for is a baseline level of wealth that keeps you above the poverty line. Such requirements include food, clothes, shelter, and some extra to do the things you enjoy. Money helps you feel secure and content which can lead to happiness.

When you are stuck in poverty though, you become depressed and hopeless. Again, you don’t want your life to only revolve around making money. But aim to have a comfortable life to help improve your happiness.

One final factor that influences happiness is the society you live in. If most people in your country are happy, feel safe, and are able to live freely, you will be positively influenced.

Many past and present factors can influence your happiness. Some examples include your culture, the views others have instilled in you from a young age, the struggles you have encountered, what you do for a profession, the stability of your personal life, etc.

On the other hand, if you live in an unstable country, your happiness can be affected. Living in war-torn regions, poverty-stricken countries, and societies that are more pessimistic has a big effect on your perception. If society at large is going downhill, so will your happiness.

Why Is Happiness Different For Everyone?

The world is full of different people from different cultures, backgrounds, languages, and beliefs. Because of this, each person experiences their own happiness separately.

Really, it is hard to generalize such a complex emotion to the whole world’s population. With so many different types of people, you are bound to have different types of happiness, and different perceptions of happiness.

For instance, one person could say that happiness is being around family and friends. To this person, happiness is felt when they are around others. They feel something good spark in them in these moments.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, another person might define their personal happiness as having peace and quiet alone. They enter a state of pleasure when they can be with themselves, which is in direct contrast to the previous happiness we talked about.

Therefore, you and the people around you will all feel happiness in different ways. And even if you boil things down to an emotional level, you won’t get similar definitions or experiences of happiness.

Each individual person will perceive their emotional state in a different way. Some people might describe happiness as a bubbling sensation.

Happiness is a very complex emotion. Everyone experiences happiness in their own unique ways. This is why it is so hard to define.

They might say they feel light or free. Or maybe they say they feel energetic or focused. In truth, there are a million different ways you and other people could describe or feel an emotional state of happiness. Again, this has to do with your environment and other cultural factors that influence your perception of the world. 

Adding to this complexity is the experience of happiness itself within people. Sometimes, happiness lasts for days and days in some people. Sometimes it lasts for hours or mere seconds.

You can’t tie down this state of mind because it changes so rapidly and looks different in each person. Part of this has to do with basic biology.

Some individuals are born with higher levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that induce happiness. So they will be happy in a different way than someone who is born with a lower capacity for happiness.

With other people, their circumstances have led to greater unhappiness. This has shaped their experience of happiness in a completely different way.


The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?

eightysixfourhundred, make them count


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James

Hi, I'm James! I want to help you make the most of your day by providing helpful tips and informative articles on motivation, time management, productivity, and happiness.

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