Society and Happiness

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
- Abraham Lincoln

So if happiness is so important to us, and its what everyone seeks, then why aren't there any classes on how to be happy? No society, past or present, has put any emphasis on teaching people to experience what we all yearn for. You'd think with the magnitude of the role happiness plays in our lives, that there would be some type of education on the subject. Ever seen "A Study in Happiness" offered at school? No, of course not.

I've racked my brain trying to figure out why we don't teach people about how to help themselves feel good, and I think it comes down to one reason. Society, as a whole, has some pretty big misconceptions about what it means to be happy. We have passed down from generation to generation the belief that happiness, or unhappiness, can be attributed to external causes. We've been told that other people and the circumstances make us happy or unhappy. That our happiness is outside ourselves. Here's what Richard Evans has to say about happiness and society.

"The Pursuit of Happiness"

There are some fine distinctions to be found in the now immortal phrase, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Life is eternal; liberty, an inalienable right, but with happiness - we are offered only the right to pursue it! We can give a man his liberty but not so his happiness. We can help, but ultimately he has to help himself to happiness. This all men have in common, we are searching for happiness. No one wants to be unhappy; no one deliberately sets out to try to make a muddle of his life.

Among the many misconceptions concerning this thing so much pursued are these: (One) That money makes happiness. False. It may help or it may hinder. Some men have sold their happiness, but no one was ever able to buy it. (Two) That pleasure is the same as happiness. False. You can wear yourself ragged in pursuit of pleasure and still wake up in dull despair. (Three) That fame brings happiness. False. The record eloquently indicates otherwise. (Four) That happiness must be found in far places. False again. We carry it with us.

If there were no reasonable chance of finding happiness, we had just as well ring down the curtain on time and eternity, for happiness is properly the chief business and ultimate aim of life. "Men are, that they might have joy." But there is no point in pursuing it where it never was and never will be found. No one ever over took anything -- including happiness -- by pursuing it on the wrong road. If we want it, we had better look for it where it is."

Since society believes happiness comes from things and events, it's focus is on classes that help you get things and events. The most important lessons are left up to you to sort out. Who am I? What do I believe? How can I be happy?

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 7). Society and Happiness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: August 6, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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