On air: Is Happiness a natural state ?

….and therefore if you aren’t happy, then you’re ill ?

Here’s an article that has got a lot of people talking from the New Yorker.

Louis Menand reviews a couple of new books which deal with the subject of  depression and writes :

“what has changed is not the number of people who are clinically depressed but the definition of depression, which has been defined in a way that includes normal sadness.”

It’s worth reading the article- of course- to do it justice but it it’s got people blogging on the nature of depression and whether millions and millions of dollars are being spent on “returning” people to a state that isn’t natural .

Or to put it a better way, that depression is a sane response to a crazy world.

So, is happiness “normal” and it’s the rest of us who haven’t been – or aren’t – that are abnormal? (to declare an interest, i have been treated on and off for many years because of depression ).

Even people who say they’re happy and contented might wish for something they can’t have, a time they’ve left behind or someone they miss.

So is happiness a natural state ?

Here’a a New York Times article on the upside of depression in case this piece has, well, depressed you.

147 Responses to “On air: Is Happiness a natural state ?”

  1. March 3, 2010 at 14:25

    i believe Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. not forgetting A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have has more to define happiness and identify its sources, i therefore belive that hapiness is a natural state.

    • 2 Lisa
      March 12, 2010 at 19:45

      I think happiness and sadness can be intrinsic states of mind. I have had clinical depression – characterized by complete lack of positive thoughts, lack of energy or interest in anything, sleep disturbance, vision changes, chronic pain, and so forth. This persisted for a couple of years. Though not actively “sad,” I had a distinct inability to experience joy during this time. I took prescription meds for a year and a half and now manage with non-prescription supplements. I find that a general positive outlook can be trained through prayer/ talk therapy.

      Regarding creativity – I experienced an almost total lack of creativity, and I am a person who usually has more ideas than time for making them.

      I also agree with other posters that people in wealthy societies perceive a lack of superficial “happiness” as a necessity of life. They are not willing to take any bumps in the road of life and want to medicate to produce an artificial happy state. I think “contentment” is a more useful goal.

  2. 3 patti in cape coral
    March 3, 2010 at 14:34

    When my husband had to leave the country I was very sad for several months, not sleeping, not enjoying anything, so I guess I qualified as depressed. My doctor wanted to prescribe something for me, but I felt that medication was for people who are in a chronic state of depression, either because of chemical imbalance or trauma. I thought that my depression was situational and not a part of my general character so I didn’t need them. In fact, I think there would have been something wrong with me if I wasn’t depressed at that time.

  3. 4 steve
    March 3, 2010 at 14:40

    In the US, the wealthiest states are also the most “unhappy” states, such as CT and NY. My personal belief is that materialistic people are incapable of being happy because nothing is ever enough.

  4. 6 Cabe UK
    March 3, 2010 at 14:41

    It depends what your definition of ‘Happiness’ is? – is it the same as ‘Contentment’ ?
    – I don’t think we are born happy. We seem to be *made* happy by other people and things so it seems that to attain happiness you have to work at it. I have known people on bereavement workshops and in prison teach themselves how to be ‘happy’ by looking in mirrors etc every day and poking their face and lips lips into a smile, or visualising/ chanting / saying – that they are Happy etc, etc… – so No, just like *Goodness* – I don’t think being happy is a natural state. But I think we all aspire towards it.
    (well at least there seems to be lots of popular songs about it anyway) !! LOL 🙂

  5. 8 steve
    March 3, 2010 at 14:42


    The exceptions are the rust belt states, there simply are no jobs in those states.

  6. 9 Roy, Washington DC
    March 3, 2010 at 15:32

    It’s a combination of chemical balances/imbalances and personality. Some people are just naturally cheerful; they’ll give you a cheerful “Hello!” when you enter the room. Some people are the opposite. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t happy, just that they treat life differently. Happiness is subjective.

    As far as depression being sane or having an upside — HUH?

  7. 10 T
    March 3, 2010 at 15:36

    I think it is. Because look at it this way. Do you really believe that every person is “destined” to be miserable because that’s the purpose of life? That doesn’t make sense.

  8. 11 T
    March 3, 2010 at 15:39

    What could really help more people cope with being unhappy? Doctors and therapists being willing to use more holistic treatments instead of instantly pushing meds on you.

    How much holistic training do doctors and therapists get? Very little. Why? Because there’s no profit in everyone being happy and healthy.

  9. March 3, 2010 at 15:49

    Wow, I do like this topic alot… I do feel sad most of the time, I do exactly remember every small detail of my moments of happiness because they are actually very few in number… Anyway, I do believe that a single very important factor in tackling depression is having a supportive and loyal network of your loved ones around you who are willing to stand by your side when you’re feeling down… From my own personal experience, most depressed people feel that they’re like this huge burden on everyone they know, because after all the common concept is that nobody wants to be around someone who’s sad the whole time, and the feeling of being a huge burden on everyone you know greatly increases the magnitude of depression… So I’d be happy if I get to be with people who want me to be with them… Winston Churchil used to suffer from depression, and he used to call it ”his black dog”, so inshallah my black dog will leave me soon… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad… PS, Mark, is there any chance this topic could be discussed on air ?

  10. March 3, 2010 at 16:11

    Depression is a normal state,it is a reaction to something that did,or did not happen.Happiness is also a normal reaction to something that did,or did not happen.Deep depression is totally inward looking.A feeling of very sorry for ones self.We all get depressed,but most of us battle our way out of it,without medication.

  11. March 3, 2010 at 16:22

    Well, my happiness is natural. I need not to take medication to become happy. I wish that my happiness come automatically. There is no need to use catalyst (medication).

  12. March 3, 2010 at 16:41

    Happiness is both natural and transient, people have problem when they expect happiness to last. This is not say sadness(depression) is anymore permanent, it is the alternation of these factors that make life what it is.

    • 16 patti in cape coral
      March 3, 2010 at 18:45

      Hi j.ifeme – You took the words out of my mouth! I was going to say that happiness is a natural state, as is sadness, anger, etc. It’s just not a permanent state. Our emotions are always in flux.

  13. 17 Ibrahim in UK
    March 3, 2010 at 17:30

    It’s scientifically proven that happiness comes from chocolate. Umpa Lumpas must live ecstatic lives, even if they don’t look it.

    Do we even know what the definition of happiness is? I can be happy at something, or unhappy at something… is my level of happiness the sum total? Maybe it’s the contentment at living life to the best of one’s abilities?

    I think it’s determined by the amount of love you have. The closer we are to what we love, the happier we are. (add a religious aspect to it, being “close” to a Creator with boundless love can be very uplifting)

  14. 18 Robyn Lexington, KY USA
    March 3, 2010 at 17:33

    Can depend on your definition of Happiness. I tend to be a glass is half full type of person and that has served me well. Was working in France for a year and broke my ankle. Lost my job and place to live. I had a new friend take me in and let me sleep in a spare room until my ankle healed. When I asked him why, he didn’t really know me that well, he said it was because I always had a smile on my face. I think if you can enjoy the small things in life along with the big things it can give you a bit of happiness.

  15. 19 teej
    March 3, 2010 at 17:56

    The redefining of depression is much too blame for increasing dpression as is the changing demands of dealing and living with life in the 21st century. Clearly what would have counted for happiness for say, a rural peasant in the 16th century is going to differ from a suburbanite in the 21st. Happiness and sadness are normal states of being. Our ability to deal with the lows has a lot to do with the environment you live in and what is going on around you. During 25 years of travel in many of the worlds countries, my own observations are those who live in simpler and poorer environments certainly know how too appreciate their happiness and good times, probably because the alternate is pretty miserable. But here in the west, we typically are guided by media and popular culture as too what should define happiness.

  16. 20 pendkar
    March 3, 2010 at 17:58

    Can happiness be a natural state? No, I dont think so. May be in some settings where people live in close knit communities, with set expectations and stable, unchanging conditions, there could be an illusion of bliss – that too as long as individuals dont face direct, personal misfortunes.when that happens, these blissful, simple individuals may have had a harder time dealing with their hardships. Such living conditions are hard to come by, and we, living in the typically not so blissful conditions are better equipped to handle what life has to offer.Most of us have a range of tools to deal with the complexities of life – convictions, pursuits, beliefs, work. A see-saw battle with disappointments and the resulting sadness should be considered normal – if life makes sense once in a fortnight it should be enough. A downward spiral is another thing.

    • 21 pendkar
      March 10, 2010 at 19:25

      We can believe in a happy realm – an idea, a belief that motivates us to seek happiness (and perfection).The absence of such an ideal makes us cynical.

      But we cannot pursue it in a worldly manner – not as an ambition. What is given to us is to bear the daily ups and downs with fortitute, and with imagination. while we are busy doing that, we catch glimpses of that perfect realm – a peek here and a peek there. That is all we are entitled to.

  17. 22 John in Salem
    March 3, 2010 at 18:03

    Absolutely NOT!
    We are still psychologically unchanged from what we were 20,000 years ago when we lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers and our primary motivations were hunger, fear and boredom. It is our dissatisfaction with life that drives us to improve it.

  18. 23 Anthony
    March 3, 2010 at 18:12

    I HATE HATE HATE the way depression and anxiety has been portrayed in America. Oh, you can’t sleep? Oh, you worry about things? Oh, you are sad sometimes? You wake up tired? You get mad? AHHHHHH.

    The media and pharmaceutical companies have created a country of depressed and “ill” people. I hate how Dr.’s prescribe this “medicine” which just help’s people run from REGULAR problems, and grow up not being able to deal with these things.

    90% of that industry is garbage. Unless you hear voices or see leprechauns, you are just fine.

    I REALLY hate it.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 24 jens
      March 3, 2010 at 23:21


      there is depression and depression. feeling down because of too much work, a sad event etc is not depression per se, but just feeling sad/down, which is essential for us human beings to ctually recognize the other side of the coin, ie happiness.

      on the other hand you have ‘real’ depression which is a debilitating disease often associated with whith a chemical imbalance (seratonin production/uptake). thes patients need help and can profit enoumeously by medication.

  19. 25 Cabe UK
    March 3, 2010 at 18:54

    Depression isn’t about ‘feeling sorry for oneself’ !!! (@David Price UK)
    – it’s about being overwhelmed by something negative and being Totally unable to cope with it! I myself have looked at depressed people and thought “For God’s sake pull yourself together” – that is until I myself became depressed because of bereavement and found that it was quite horrendeous living through this mental and physical glue. The majority of the time, people don’t know they are depressed nor can they easily help themsleves.

    RE: Happiness??? – You have to go to the ‘before’ of actually being happy as a babe – We are not born ‘happy’ or sad or depressed – we are born in Neutral and usually crying and I believe that after the survival instinct has kicked in – we are then open to – and taught how – to assimilate the world around us and that includes learning about ‘Fear’, Control, Anger and Happy etc etc, by learning about our limitations, about “right and wrong” and about our expectations from a very early age.
    There are cases where children have survived in jungles etc by themselves and when found and brought in to Civilisation and have HAD to be taught Emotions what facial expressions mean and then language?
    If we were naturally ‘happy’ then being depressed or sad/angry etc would definitely kill us but it does not! Why? because we are neutral beings and can cope with extreme mental states. Happiness is a state that we use but its not inbuilt. We have to learn what being happy means to each of us -(so that would be 6 billion versions of being happy and not just One!) … – before we can partake of it!

  20. 26 T
    March 3, 2010 at 18:56

    What helps me to maintain a balance? Diet, exercise, meditation, tai chi. And, keeping in mind you’re not responsible for what others say and do. This can be especially tough to remember when you’re taking about surviving trauma. But it’s true.

    It’s also a matter of setting boundaries. I’ll fight the urge to write yet ANOTHER be happy bestseller that will get promoted like crazy on Oprah. :).

  21. 27 Guido, Vienna
    March 3, 2010 at 19:07

    When people go to a doctor they want be cured, or at least get medication. Nobody wants to hear that the “illness” is normal and he/she has to live with it. A doctor who doesn’t keep this in mind will soon have less patients/customers and therefore less money.

  22. 28 T
    March 4, 2010 at 03:25

    One key to remember when talking about “happiness.”

    Human emotions are NOT like a light switch that you can instantly turn on and off. How many times does society tell you, right. I’ve got problems too. But do you see me complaining? No. So just shut up and carry on.

    That’s just as devestating as having a debilitating illness. Why? Because your emotions and your immune system are connected.

  23. 29 Tan Boon Tee
    March 4, 2010 at 04:10

    Happiness is both elusive and illusive.

    Since it is hard to define and could only be experienced by the individual, one would not wish to attach too much meaning to it.

  24. 30 gary indiana
    March 4, 2010 at 05:11

    I think misnaming neutrality as happiness is the more common state of affairs. Many folks actually experience, “nothing going wrong at the moment.” rather than “wow, isn’t this a fun bit of life.” I strive for the moment to moment satisfaction of trying to do life well, rather than spending all the time looking for that rare instance of elation. Many episodes in life aren’t happy; but taking them in context with equanimity can be satisfying. Place calamities in context. Be kind because kindness is good. Respect all because all God’s children deserve respect. Work very hard to understand then avoid condemnation if you do not, because the failure may be in you. I am not as good at this excellent living as I wish; but I am convinced it is the way to avoid hatred and to be happy second by second.

  25. 31 John in Salem
    March 4, 2010 at 06:37

    Okay, seriously… happiness?
    Each of us is some variation of Sisyphus, eternally pushing our boulder up a mountain in Hell only to see it get away and roll to the bottom again.
    Happiness isn’t just learning to accept it – happiness is learning to enjoy it. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

  26. 32 Subhash C Mehta
    March 4, 2010 at 06:55

    No. It is actually the normal sadness, which is the natural state of a normal human being; you don’t have to try hard to be sad (with so much of suffering in the environments around you and the world), whereas, you have to intentionally try or exert your mind and body, in so many ways, to be able to get some happiness (unnatural and short-lasting most of the times).

  27. March 4, 2010 at 10:06

    I think that “happy pills” are a gigantic medical scam perpetrated on the Boomer Generation in the US. What was made an illness was “feeling anxious.” Doctors had pills for that.

    Then some folks got pegged with “chronic anxiety,” and that (of course) leads to depression (feeling sad). But, the “doctors” were there to help with their prescriptions, and their therapies… since the late 60’s.

    What we all actually want to feel is high self-esteem, but there is no drug for that.

    Today psycologists in Oregon got permission to prescribe (some) mood pills. Psychologists aren’t doctors.

  28. 34 @guykaks
    March 4, 2010 at 10:10

    Happiness for me is a habit where people tend to feel peaceful and can make a choice.You are deppressed when you are sad and quarrelsome.Happiness can be natural but shortlived when disturbed

  29. March 4, 2010 at 10:22


    interesting thoughts. I completely agree. However, I think that “happiness” is a tricky word. I had a shot at trying to define it in a more “scientific” or “objective” way, despite it being a subjective feeling:
    What is happiness?

    I would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thank you,

    • 36 Ronald Almeida
      March 5, 2010 at 12:13

      Of course it is subjective as everything in our lives is. For each one of us is the centre of our own universe. Each one is unique and an individual. One can only experience and speak for oneself, even though we do not always are aware of it.

      • 37 Ronald Almeida
        March 5, 2010 at 12:20

        To me what is happiness?

        A sense of peace, a feeling that inspite of everything, life is worth living. There are times of euphoria that takes one above that state but one is always aware that what goes up must also come down. Or else one could not differenciate between the two.

  30. March 4, 2010 at 12:44

    So much depends on the environment and the people you interact with. If you are raised in a neighbourhood with friendly positive people, chances are that you would be happy and cheerful. However if you are brought up in a place full of crime and depression, you are likely to be morose and be negative in attitude. Even if you are a positive-minded person the environment plays such an important role and to a great extent your surroundings dictate your behaviour and attitude however strong you are. Happiness is a state of mind but the environment plays such an important, determining role.

  31. 39 A.R.Shams
    March 4, 2010 at 12:47

    Happiness is not very much a natural state, rather it needs to be manufactured by oneself,a community,nation or else with an optimistic attitude towards life and living and letting live others

  32. March 4, 2010 at 14:05

    Does i t mean if i play with my child happy ,,iam totally dis agree with you there ,happy is when you have enough facilities rather than having nothing and you are happy then you cannot survive yourself asyou said it should happen to be so.

    and thank

  33. March 4, 2010 at 14:13

    Salaam again gang,
    To me, happiness is a feeling, not a state… Human feelings always change, and all human feelings are natural… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

    • March 8, 2010 at 17:26

      Something that we feel, realize and believe in, is a sort of state and the state of happiness can more be created optimistically and persistently than in achieving it as a miracle to happen.

      Thanks! 🙂

  34. 45 nora
    March 4, 2010 at 14:59

    What country has a national happiness index? I believe it is in Asia. The idea of a happiness index taken more seriously than the stock market makes me, well, happy.

  35. 47 Ronald Almeida
    March 4, 2010 at 18:53

    Happiness would be a natural state if one lived in a natural world. Since we do not, it must be learned. Though it can be accomplished with drugs if one wants it ‘instant’ as most people do today, it can lead to dependence. A better way is through meditation which on the other hand requires greater discipline and time. But once learned does not need outside help.

    • 48 Saut
      March 5, 2010 at 10:52

      Well done, Ronald Almeida.
      I, too, think that the pharmaceutical industry had figured out how to induce chemically the ‘happy and euphoric’ state. Only political correctness and morality prevent them from marketing it in a big way. Besides their version of ‘happy and euphoric’ state also involves physiologically catatonic state as a side-effect, which will not help in solving the world’s ills and problems. Personally, Christianity offered me the best way to handle my very frequent ‘unhappy’ periods.

  36. 49 Nigel
    March 5, 2010 at 12:42

    If we take sadness/hapiness as a scale from 1 to 100 where 100 is fully happy, my wife lived at about 30 for a while when she was severly depressed after early onset menopuase as a result of a hysterectomy. Durimng the times when she got up to 40 she was over the moon (she is not bi-polar). The rest of us were in the eighties. I guess that it is all relative.

  37. March 5, 2010 at 13:33

    Why can’t happiness be a natural state for some, while melancholy is the norm for others? Why can’t some of us be naturally sad or naturally happy, like some of us are gay or love the color blue or listen to punk rock? Can’t sadness and happiness just be a part of our personalities?

    Can we choose a favorite color or music, or isn’t that just something we pretend? Perhaps we’re wired for blue and blues music. So why don’t we *want* to change those things, but we do *want* to change our state?

    If we have done all we can to make our situations good but our mood is still bad, what’s wrong with a pill?

    I like to live like a starlet—uppers in the morning, downers for sleep. That’s what my therapist recommended, anyway.

    March 5, 2010 at 15:54

    Its hard to define fully what it is but it is there. One reason is because most of us recognize what it is – energetic psychic activity that increases our vitality and satisfaction. Secondly, it can be initiated, invented and its magnitude can be controlled by those it affects.

    Depression can occur when you are unable to initiate or take part in any or all of the states of happiness – something hampering it – lack of vigor, lack of external factors that make happiness possible – cash, work, environment friends or even lack of the right connections in closed social environments.

    Some of do not know how to be spectator happy in situations of artificially generated happiness – but some do. In my case there so many situations that I can immerse myself into and gain happiness; sometimes just by gawking. But like everyone else – there times are flat or irritated- I don’t know whether this depression but I do not like the company of the perpetually depressed individuals. Depression can be transmitted – there are expert in this and some are those who are supposed to reverse it. I feel Medicated remedies/ solutions might be counter productive in the end.

  39. 52 audre
    March 5, 2010 at 18:53

    This is certainly a topic worth exploring in more detail. I have often wondered about happiness. I have two family members who suffer, in two different ways, from depression. My brilliant, talented, well-educated son seems to have never known happiness. He is trying to cope without drugs and I have mixed views on that. If drugs can help, why not? But then, there are the side effects.

    Are we striving for something unattainable? I can’t say that I have ever been wildly happy but I have never been depressed… sad but not depressed. Presently I am crying every day but not for me… for my son.

    Maybe happiness is like material goods… we think the other person has more than we do and we strive for more, never appreciating what we have. Who knows?

  40. 53 maryamkhan
    March 5, 2010 at 19:59

    yes happiness is a natural state…and it cannot be given by annyone it can only b feel by own self of an individual.and missing to someone is not a sadness it is the way you can only feel that person so close.so i think we should thanks to God that he has given us almost everything in our lives.and being a human being we should be contended…..as contentment is the best blessing!!:-)

  41. 55 Colin L Beadon
    March 5, 2010 at 21:07

    . There is only one thing in the world you can have complete and utter control over. Just one thing. That one thing is your mind and what you allow it to dwell on.
    Happiness is a state you elect. You can elect to be morose, or unhappy, or in constant envy, you can elect to hate, or to love, or be sad, or to spend your time worrying.
    The good states are benifical to your vigor and whole well being. The bad states are self depleating, and lead to illness and self destruction.
    The choise you make, comes from within your own mind. You just have to be sensibile enough and forthright enough to fully apreciate,…. the choice is yours alone.

  42. 56 M Raghavan
    March 6, 2010 at 01:50

    Most of the world’s ancient philosophies suggest that true happiness lies in self-awareness and self-actualization, operating from one’s true nature. What true-nature depends on the philosophy that one studies. But, in most cases, the enemy to happiness is one’s own self-obsessed ego, which seeks to continue to hunger after more and more, or for things beyond one’s reach. To rid the ego, the philosophies, one must forget this false self and focus on the true self, which is rooted in love and compassion.

  43. March 6, 2010 at 13:06

    There are more important things than being happy.

  44. 59 Polina, Saint-Petersburg
    March 6, 2010 at 14:09

    Being always or unreasonably happy, as well as being always or unreasonably depressed is both unnatural, destructive and sometimes even cruel. There is a very nice note on Guildenstern’s character in Tom Stoppard’s play: “he’s aware but not going to panic about it”. Being aware of what’s happening around, both good and bad, but not being overenthusiastic or ignoring the wrong things and not turning cynical and offended by the whole world – all is important. And balance is crucial for both physical and mental health. People trying to avoid any negative feelings, or hide them and act, as well as those who drag themselves into an artificial depression might eventually have a very serious breakdown, and after that they’ll actually need help of a specialist.. Maybe it’s also about taking yourself too serious and over dramatizing problems that people all over the world have been facing thousands of years.. And that’s one of the reasons why reading and learning history is important – at least you start to feel attached with the rest of the world both in your happiness and in pain

  45. March 6, 2010 at 18:40

    does everybody need to walk about with a perfect smile constant or are will they be declared depressed

  46. 61 Bert
    March 7, 2010 at 00:50

    For me, happiness is the natural state, and unfortunately there are those not-infrequent-enough events that seem to counter my naturally happy state. Those annoyances of life. I don’t envy anyone much, although I do occasionally envy those who can let such annoyances just roll off.

    Motivation to do better does not necessarily require unhappiness. In fact, when unhappy, my motivations also seem to suffer.

  47. 62 polly vinyl
    March 8, 2010 at 00:04


    how come i am being bombarded by the extroverts.?
    I am very happy as an introvert…and in a world of “team players” I am very happy to be an individualist who keeps his own council.
    In the past we beat people to get them to do what we wanted, now we psychobabble ourselves with pseudo concern that both parties know is bull.

    So happiness is perhaps the state of being not unhappy?

  48. 63 james Ian
    March 8, 2010 at 04:25

    I’m the happiest when I’m working out, running, going for walks with my daughter or doing physical labor. Doc says it’s because my body is producing diffrent types of chimicals during physical activity that make me happy.
    With that said I would say our indoor, sedentary lives are much to blame for sadness, depression and possibly a great many other illness.

  49. March 8, 2010 at 11:04

    Happiness is more a commodity to have it manufactured than something of natural state.

  50. March 8, 2010 at 17:43

    I would rather prefer living unhappy in freedom than living in restrictions in the heaven.

  51. 66 Colin L Beadon
    March 8, 2010 at 17:44

    I’m most happy when attempting to create something, a piece of writing, a woodwork creation, fixing a mower or washing machine, sailing a yacht in a stiff breeze, or fighting a strong fish, or reading an interesting new book on science, or out in the sugar cane fields far away from everthing, with our dogs, and a hare pops up, of kissing my wife and telling her I love her, of the days my sons arrive from far away, and I’m hugging grandchildren.
    So happiness depemds on how you think, create, act. I saw my grandmother live like that, and was old enough to appreciate how she managed it.

  52. March 9, 2010 at 10:53

    Nothing can supersede in bringing happiness than that contention can. 😉

  53. 68 patti in cape coral
    March 9, 2010 at 21:20

    The happiness I feel is a state inside me and most times ,what happens externally doesn’t affect it because that isn’t where it comes from, it just seems to be something in me. I wonder what makes some people more naturally “happy.” Or maybe content is a better word?

  54. 69 Amara from Nigeria
    March 10, 2010 at 14:22

    Happiness is a natural state of mind.Most people are often seen ‘SMILING, despite their desolate,critical or devastating circumstances. .It is left for one to determine to what extent,what makes he/she happy.When you,re attached so much to material things,then you’ll often be unhappy because everything come and go’.Smile’ is an outward expression of the state of one’s mind.

  55. 70 PositiveGuy
    March 11, 2010 at 07:46

    While we all have our darker moments and while I empathize with those who suffer the debilitating effects of depression( in all its forms), I believe that happiness and misery is the ultimate choice.

    The more you select the better option the happier you will be.

  56. 71 nora
    March 12, 2010 at 13:29

    Happiness is waking up with enough sleep under my belt to face the world. I love to light a fire in the dark and warm the house, make some tea or coffee and watch the sun come up. Even when my job entailed interviewing torture victims, I woke up scheming to make a welcoming place to lay down the burden of a terrible untold story. I visualized the perfect meal, the small social events where others had been through the same things brought people into a healing place…and on and on. I made as many of my unrealistic fantasies come true as were humanly possible. Overwhelming grief hits in those mornings when I can’t keep the dark things I have faced from kicking me awake before I am fully rested. Then I cry and eventually my natural humor returns to its natural resting place, very happy to have waded through the grief, ready to accept the cosmic joke.

    Personally, I do not mess with pharmaceuticals.

    Bhutan is on the right track to maintain a national happiness index.

  57. March 12, 2010 at 13:59

    Hi Lubna
    You are close. Happiness is short-lived. You are coming to grips with the situation around you. It is easy enough to make other people happy but “happiness” is a childlike notion – “we are good and can do good” is flawed.
    I too remember moments of happiness, but it was part of the drill on the way to maturity. .
    “A supportive and loyal network of loved ones around you who are willing to stand by your side when you’re feeling down.” Right.
    The German school says we are in the throes of Will, whether awake or asleep: “Will charts its course” and plots out our eternal struggle. If life is to have any meaning, this is it.

  58. March 12, 2010 at 15:53

    To be normal one should be happy. If there is no happiness, it should be invented by whatever means as long as these means aren’t destructive in the long run for oneself or the others.

    There are people who are naturally happy as they seek a simple life. Unhappiness can be caused when one can’t see the bright side of life that can cheer them up. People for example seek jokes to laugh at themselves and the world around them.

    Caring too much for what can’t be changed is a recipe for depression. One should carry on hoping to make oneself and the others happy by doing one’s best and not to put the blame on oneself for whatever happens.

  59. March 12, 2010 at 16:41

    I really agree with Abdelilah in Moroocco,that being happy you must first of all be normal.When an individual is allright i mean has complete sense that individual is suppose to be happy.

  60. 76 Linda from Italy
    March 12, 2010 at 17:14

    I don’t think just “being” happy, or otherwise, as a lasting state can be defined, let alone gauged objectively.
    If some cataclysm happens in your life, like your country being invaded, you are like Lubna, bound to feel sad most of the time, but I bet Lubna will still feel happy when she qualifies as a doctor.
    If you have just had your novel accepted for publication, or got a job you always wanted, you will get an enormous high, and, if the critics are nice about your book and the job is all it’s cracked up to be, that sense of satisfaction will last.
    If some, but not all, of the important aspects of our lives: personal relationships, job, study, where we live etc. are going well the balance will probably tip towards happy, e.g. if we are in a really loving relationship but doing a boring job, we can at least moan about the job and get sympathy from our partner; vice versa, if the job is great but we are feeling lonely at home, we can, to an extent, sublimate that loneliness.
    Anyone who feels the need for happy pills is welcome to them, but they either going to produce a temporary high or put the person in a strange state of unreal euphoria, not something I’d fancy.

  61. 77 sadnomore
    March 12, 2010 at 17:23

    I believe that there is a pyhsiological as well as a social component to depression. As someone that has struggled with depression my whole life, as far back as I can remember anyways, it has not merely been sad moments.
    My father struggled with depression and addiction to pain pills. Maybe that was his coping mechanism. He never got help. He was killed as a result of a car accident 7 years ago, under the influence of pain killers I’m sure.
    I got to the point of sitting in the car in the garage on multiple occasions. I started the car, then chickened out. That was 4 years ago. I finally went for help. As reluctant as I was, pills DID help.
    The problem with pills, is that they are often not combined with effective councelling to fix the problems that bring a person to this state.
    I got the counseling that I needed and am far better these days. I still struggle sometimes.
    There is definately a difference between depression and sadness. The challenge is to know the difference and treat appropriately.

  62. 78 Justin in Iowa
    March 12, 2010 at 17:37

    I dropped out of college due to depression. I was having trouble coping with the changes in my life college had brought. Doctors tried to put me on meds to take care of things. After a couple of months, they really hadn’t had any effect on me. Neither had counseling. Then I found a job working as a brick layer’s laborer, I was outside, my body got stronger with all the physical labor, I was doing things I understood and could see accomplishment and feel satisfaction in my work. Then I found a job at an engineering firm where they valued my college experience, even if I hadn’t finished graduating. I enjoy what I do and I am doing well now, and its not because I’m on meds, or because I was on meds.

    There are people out there who really are clinically depressed, who have a physical problem in their bodies. But far more people are run down because times are hard and so much of our world has become more complicated even while everyone has told us its supposed to be easier and simpler now. Both parents work now, and they have less time to themselves, for their families, and even to do simple things like go to the grocery store or go to any store. People don’t live in extended families together any more, people move away from their families and don’t have the support network. People don’t get married or find life partners, or don’t value that as much, and have less of a support network.

    Just my .02 cents.

  63. 79 BRINDA
    March 12, 2010 at 17:38


    I agree with u that depression is blown out of proportion in the States.

    Yes , some people are just happy as they are. I have a perfect example living with me. (My husband) he is just generally happy, not always happy but if u meet him he is generally a happy person..
    I have seen that in some of kids too.They are just happy kids…….

    I think it is good to feel sadness sometimes,it give more meaning to happiness, but hanging on to something that makes u unhappy and depressed is something people should learn to snap out of.(i do not mean that in an insensitive way).

    But learning to move on really helps i think.

  64. 80 gary indiana
    March 12, 2010 at 17:38

    Happiness is as natural as sadness. Confusion arises because these are sometimes erroneously defined as opposites. In fact they are not because they can occur simultaneously. Depression is a real (and complex) pathology with emotional, psychological or chemical causes. Thus, “Just do better.” is a valid exhortation for some depressed folks, while for others it is insensitive and cruel. Chemotherapy is problematic for every instance of its use. It may be trivially shown that hygiene, stable food supplies, and personal security cure more ills, both physical and mental, than any drug. If one wishes happiness, then select the path through life that increases the occurrence of these three for everyone.

  65. 81 Eva in Berlin
    March 12, 2010 at 17:49

    If you are in close touch with yourself, you can be really happy. You will not depend on other people’s opinions or verdicts. You will also welcome the moments of sadness as a natural part of yourself.

    I think that some 20 or more years ago people with depressions were held responsible for their state of mind; nowadays it is actually called what it is – namely depression, and these persons can get help in many ways of treatment.

    I am speaking from my own experience: I have spent many years when I couldn’t really get out of a lasting depressive status. Through treatment I have come to a status of happiness which I believe is a natural one. Also some of my relatives (former generations) have suffered a lifetime from depression, but weren’t taken seriously.

  66. 82 Gary Paudler
    March 12, 2010 at 17:50

    I was walking in a remote area of Nepal when I came upon two young girls, maybe 9 or 10, working in a small, terraced rice paddy using the Nepali National Tool, small, hand-forged sickles. They were chattering and laughing when one of them cut herself. She spotted a gringo tourist, me, and without a break in her smile she ran up and held out her bleeding finger knowing that I’d have a first aid kit. I cleaned the wound with an alcohol wipe, which had to sting, and applied tincture of iodine, which you know stung like hell, and put on a Band-Aid. She never registered pain or quit giggling. Around here, grown men weep if they scratch a rim on their Bimmer. I don’t know if happiness is a natural state, but I believe it is available to most of us and is more a function of expectations than circumstances. I believe that material desire and acquisition (from which I am certainly not immune) are a big source of unhappiness and that connectedness to community and nature will make most people happy.

  67. 83 Tracy in Portland, OR
    March 12, 2010 at 17:51

    I think some people confuse not being happy, with being sad. You don’t have to be giddy on top of the world every moment. In fact I would say someone who is always “up” is suffering some sort of imbalance. Just “being” is okay.

    There is a lot of stress in our world and I do think that takes it’s toll on us. I also think the pharmaceutical companies push the new wonder pills on us. I don’t know how it is where you all live but I can’t watch 15 minutes of tv without seeing a commercial trying to tell me how much happier I would be if I took the newest pill. Or commercials for law firms telling me how if the last pill injured me or killed a loved one how I can sue.

  68. 84 Tracy in Portland, OR
    March 12, 2010 at 18:18

    I came into work today a little down. A coworker waved me into a parking spot closer in to work and took one that was further away. I am now having a good day because of his act of kindness. I’m happy. I plan on passing on my happiness by being really nice to people today..

    I say we declare war on depression. it’s make the people you meet happy day/week/month.

    And hey if we all keep doing it and everyone gets happier we just might bankrupt the pharmaceutical companies. Now that would make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Besides being cheery really annoys grumpy people.

  69. 85 Kate M.
    March 12, 2010 at 18:19

    A few have written that happiness and depression are choices. I disagree that happiness is a choice. If it were that simple no one would be depressed. I certainly did not choose to have depression or OCD. No one wants to suffer from mental illness. To say so is an insult to those who do.

  70. 86 Alan in AZ
    March 12, 2010 at 18:40

    I believe our happiness or satisfaction with life is directly related to how we view our lives or compare it to other peoples lives.

    When everyone is complaining about it raining outside, I appreciate the fact that I’m not shoveling snow. When my kids complain about being bored, I appreciate the fact that I can take a walk with my dogs, sit down and do some artwork or read a book. When a friend complains about his financial situation until the next payday, I appreciate the fact that I have a job and can loan him a few bucks. When I eat left overs, I appreciate the fact that I have food, compared to so many others in the world. Even if it’s my wife’s Tuna Casserole with the mushy peas that my dogs don’t particularly like. I don’t make much money, but when I see a rich person on TV whine and complain about whatever, I feel like a rich happy man.

    And this is before I sit down with a cheap Port Wine and a relaxing book and thank God for all my blessings. Everyone should be happy in this world. Our lives could always be worse. Unfortunately it is for some and I wish I could help them.

  71. 87 nana kwarteng
    March 12, 2010 at 18:47

    I can tell you seriously that there’s a vast difference between what depression is in the west and what it is in Africa. In Africa, or at least my country Ghana, people hardly ever get depressed. And even if they do get depressed and know that they are, very few if any resort to medication. We’ve had little for so very long happiness comes naturally. In fact it’s inborn. You grow to expect only what you can actually get.

  72. March 12, 2010 at 18:52

    Ability to realize to be to the understood associates, to do useful and necessary affairs for people.

  73. 89 Crispo, Uganda
    March 12, 2010 at 18:53

    When you exaggerate what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify to be depression, we lose track of their true definations.

    If we consider happiness as a choice, then we are wrong. Certainly, not a soul would choose depression over happiness.

    In Africa, the social networking of the closely neat family structure ensures that you would have lots of people to meet, so one’s later life isn’t a bore.

    Happiness is a bit complex to me, but from various research data, it seems its better achieved by those who accept their situation and appreciate it. They are not struggling with themselves and having insider battles.

    If one isn’t at peace with themselves, it will be an uphill task to even sniff some little bit of happiness.

  74. 90 Alan in AZ
    March 12, 2010 at 18:53

    I just received this quote from my uncle:

    “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain!”

  75. 91 Andrew in Australia
    March 12, 2010 at 18:53

    I am a psychologist so here is my 2 cents on the subject.

    Depression is a state that occurs to everyone for some period of time at some time in their life. It cycles around, comes and goes. Some people have serious episodes most people do not, some people have severe neurological conditions which bring it on often and sharply, but in most cases even with no treatment (medical or psychological intervention) it will lift on its own. How long it affects you depends on how you interpret despression and react to it, much the same as anything in life.

    If you want to dive into the feelings of sadness and helplessness, hoplessness and despair it will linger, but often times the intial motivation to do something positive for yourself is a hard inertia to overcome but not impossible.

    To simply look for medication to lift mood or solve a depressive episode has, in my mind, these inherent problems. If a particular event or situation has caused this then medication only masks the cause and will not resolve it (medication does not work in every case as mild depressives can get no clear benefit from the drugs) and will still exist after treatment stops. To rely on medication leaves an individual no incentive to develop skills to resist or innoculate themselves for any future events thus making it easier to fall into the trap again and when it comes back you cannot cope because you have been filled with false hope.

    Look at depression for what it is, a time when events around you affects you and you feel down, be positive that it will not last forever and you will recover, take steps to do so, explore those feelings without letting them overwhelm you but most of all try to learn from the experience. Sadly in the modern world we are constantly bombarded by images of excess or what we “should have” in our life, many of which we either don’t really need, will never have or find not as appealing as they appeared.

  76. 92 Andrew in Australia
    March 12, 2010 at 18:55

    @ Gary

    You are exactly what I am talking about. Sell your brand of outlook and you will go far.

  77. 93 patti in cape coral
    March 12, 2010 at 19:00

    I don’t know if this is the appropriate place to comment, but I just found out that my husband is finally coming home after four years of separation due to immigration issues. I am also going to be a stepmother to two teenage girls (gulp!) Talk about happiness!!! I can hardly describe how I feel, it kind of feels like a very ecstatic anxiety attack! I wish I could get a billboard on the moon and announce it to the world!

    • 94 Gloria in Oregon
      March 12, 2010 at 21:37

      to patti in cape coral…

      Your happiness is infectious, as I am happy for you and your good news that you & your family will now being able to be together. That is wonderful!

      No doubt you will be busier than ever, yet, selfishly, I hope you still find time to contribute to the WHYS blog, as I always enjoy reading your perspective on various topics.

      Best to you in all ways.

  78. 95 nora
    March 12, 2010 at 19:02

    Kate M is right, happiness is not a choice like buying a candy bar. Happiness is a mystery. Happiness is a force that is so important that our ancestors put the right to pursue happiness in our bill of rights. The right to pursue an emotional state was codified into law. That in itself is one of the clearer and yet more abstract part of early American thought.

    For me, happiness, or playfulness, is a naturally occurring phenomenon for which I am grateful. Washing dishes in anticipation of waking to clean space makes me happy with optimism about delicious meals. I know the dark dismay of experiencing real human evil up close, and that is natural also. The horrible things make the beautiful things more precious.

  79. 96 Cabe UK
    March 12, 2010 at 19:02

    Yes but is it a ‘natural state’ ????? or do we ‘make it happen’ ???

    I think in your case @ Sadnomore – it sounds like being depressed was ‘learnt’ from your father ?

  80. March 12, 2010 at 19:03

    In my natural state, I am Happy. That’s of course excluding any drama that might be going on in my life. I try to stay drama-free, and I am therefor usually in a good mood. I get sad and mad like everyone else of course, but something has to make me feel that way. Life is a lot easier when you are happy.

  81. 98 Shari
    March 12, 2010 at 19:05

    No, happiness is not a “natural state,” and, therefore, if you’re not happy you’re depressed. However, depression is the COSTLIEST disease in the U.S., and probably the world. It’s a pathological, physiological disease. Peter Kramer’s, “Against Depression” is a compelling look at this devastating disease.

  82. 99 patti in cape coral
    March 12, 2010 at 19:07

    p.s. In keeping with the subject of the day, I’m sure that once the newness of my husband’s presence wears off, I will go back down to my normal state of cheerfulness, if I was this happy all the time I would go insane!

  83. 100 Paul in USA
    March 12, 2010 at 19:07

    Natural happiness is a wonderful thing, but too often we assume a happy or healthy individual must have a constant grin and be eternally upbeat. It is as bizarre to expect happiness to last forever as it would be to expect spring to go on forever. Seasons change; so do the emotions of human beings and other reasonably intelligent creatures like dogs and cats. Pikachu is cute in cartoons, but I don’t want to be Pikachu!

  84. 101 Bryan
    March 12, 2010 at 19:07

    I’m listening on WFYI in Indianapolis.

    I think the comedy troupe “The Kids In The Hall” said it best in their movie “Brain Candy”: “The only way to be happy is to know you won’t be happy every single day.”

  85. March 12, 2010 at 19:13

    Are we happy? This is a question that has only really been asked in recent years. I am 58 and in my short life the issue of happiness has only become a question in the last 25 years or so. Before that ie. pre computer, internet and other technologies maybe we were all too busy surviving to wonder whether we were happy or not. Happiness is something most people want, maybe because of that they don’t consider the possibility they might be already…..????
    When you see an animal in the wild….do you wonder if it’s happy? I’m it hasn’t got time to think about it.
    X Oscar

  86. 103 patti in cape coral
    March 12, 2010 at 19:19

    I think it was Dennis Leary who said that our mistake is expecting to be happy all the time, that we only get happiness in teaspoonfuls.

  87. March 12, 2010 at 19:20

    Happiness is a state of mind. Life’s ups and downs can result in behavior changes that could depend on the individual’s ability to cope with a particular situation. Bereavement over the loss of a loved one is different from the loss of employment, although the overwheling feeling of helplessness could be the same.

    Sometimes in the development of scientific research, the human element is pushed to the backburner. Althought statistical results can give a clear cut picture of a starting point to determine if a particular drug or therapy will work-it doesn’t say it will work…hence the case-by-case basis. The patient must not be in denial and should understand the treatment from a holistic approach (the article did site the three fields of biological, psychological and moral).

    We know how the human brain works, but it will be a landmark day when we find out how to control it. Humans aim for a natural state of happiness, but no one is happy all the time, because we live in a world of discontent.

  88. 105 anthony
    March 12, 2010 at 19:20

    Too many people emulate the emotional responses of their surrounding peer group. This is true not only with sadness but anger and happiness as well. try creating a new situational response mechinism, hold to it and be strong.

  89. 106 Allan-Houston, Texas
    March 12, 2010 at 19:22

    What is Happiness?
    What made the Marquis de Sade happy? What about Hitler? Stalin? Kim Jung Il? A suicide bomber?
    On the other hand, is my cat happy when she purrs?
    Was America happy when we elected Barack Obama (if so why did almost half of our voters vote for the other guy?)
    Do outlandish amounts of money make a Wall Street broker happy?
    Does a tent to replace a home lost in an earthquake make a Haitian or a Chilean happy?
    And, if so, is there relative happiness? Is the Haitian happier than the Chilean in this situation since a tent is closer to the level of poverty he more than likely lived in as compared with the chasm of difference between a Chilean’s tent and the quake ravaged high rise apartment he lost?
    What makes you happy?

  90. 107 Elias
    March 12, 2010 at 19:24

    There is no such thing that happiness is a naural state of mind. Life is full of ups and downs. People who are severely depressed have a need for medication or councilling by a qualified psychiartrist. No one rich or poor can be totally free from depression, its a person’ daily life that gives one an injection for receiving good news or bad. There are many kinds of depression, the death of a dear one, loosing all one’s money or homes like people have lost due to the financial depression of the economy, families breaking up etc. One cannot force happiness or depression on oneself, its all a matter of living life and accepting one’s limitations and realising that life is serious and full of surprises. Take children for example, as long as they have good friends to meet and play, and their homes are stable, they feel secure and good with themselves, so that as they grow and go to work finding alls well, that is some measure of happiness. Take a very rich man, devorced with his children away from home, and lives only for his work, may find himself lonely and very depressed. Take a poor man who cant provide for his family, he too will suffer from depression.
    One has to find and accept one’s limitations and enjoy as best as one can the things he or she likes doing.

  91. 108 Al
    March 12, 2010 at 19:24

    I went through sadness and depression at the same time, which I thinkcan be harmful. I retired from my 50-year career and lost a son within 60-days. Igained 40-pounds and am just getting back in line.

  92. 109 Lori
    March 12, 2010 at 19:25

    In the U.S. society, there’s too much pressure to be happy all the time, which is not natural. But then again sometimes all that societal pressure can make you depressed. If only we were accepted more for whoever we are maybe there would be less depression.

  93. 110 Bob Demyan
    March 12, 2010 at 19:27

    Equating depression with being unhappy is a vast oversimplification of a serious mental illness. People afflicted with depression aren’t necessarily “sad”, rather, they can exhibit various clinical symptoms including, apathy, fatigue, inexplicable anger, and often a complete disconnect from normal human feeling. These symptoms are present for no apparent reason, meaning they are not a response to life circumstances in the way that grieving or sadness or disappointment can be. Depression is a black hole from which those afflicted feel they can’t escape and can’t explain. To equate it with sadness or melancholia is not helpful to those who suffer from this disease nor is it helpful to the larger world which desperately needs to understand the difference.

  94. 111 Yer Old Mucker
    March 12, 2010 at 19:28

    I’d rather find contentment than happiness. Happiness to me is situational…as in the word ‘happening’. I’ve been a depressed person since puberty, now I’m almost 60. It’s like I got a bad roll of the dice. I try to be content and peaceful, sometimes I even feel happy. I do bristle at people who say, “What’s wrong with you?”
    The up side of being a downish person is that I have a wicked sense of humor!

  95. 112 Taryn
    March 12, 2010 at 19:29

    I believe that happiness is a state of mind. I believe we can chose to be happy, just like we can chose to be sad. Our circumstance don’t have to define our happiness. Happiness is an emotion and we as humans can control our emotions and some of us don’t even realize that.

  96. March 12, 2010 at 19:30

    Johan Lehrer’s NY TImes article suggesting that there might be evolutionary advantages to depression resonates with me. The few times I have been depressed it effectively isolated me from the world for several weeks and forced me to confront and ultimately resolve the underlying cause of my depression.
    I believe that sadness and depression along with joy and happiness are all a natural part of our human existance.

  97. 114 John in Salem
    March 12, 2010 at 19:35

    In the immortal words of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier –

    “You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

  98. 115 landshark
    March 12, 2010 at 19:37

    Yes, but it can be interrupted by any number of mental states!

  99. 116 Mr. Kawakubo {PORTLAND}
    March 12, 2010 at 19:38

    I read the article a while ago, despite what we may think, it isn’t particularly revolutionary or even interesting! It is an attempt to look at something from another angle, a paradigm shift, to try and say things aren’t what they seem—‘look, I discovered a revolution, a twist, in the things we already know.’ But, things are what they seem, for whatever reason, people are depressed, and they don’t like it. If people were depressed and okay with it, that would be one thing, but, people are depressed and want to feel better. So, even if you could prove they aren’t medically depressed, what is wrong with wanting to feel happier?

    This is really another attempt to try and discredit people, to try and say the problem is your outlook, there is nothing wrong with you. We don’t like it when people have diseases that we see as excuses. We don’t want people to have a disease they can ‘allegedly’ blame things on, we want to be able to blame the person directly.

  100. 117 mary in indiana
    March 12, 2010 at 19:41

    i have relaspsing/remitting m.s. and was told that people with m.s. are at increased risk for depression(which i was recently diagnosed with).although i consider myself a fairly upbeat/positive person,(i only considered suicide once or twice)i realize that i have been depressed for probably many years.

  101. 118 Alan in AZ
    March 12, 2010 at 19:42

    I think you might need to look at happiness and depression in 2 different forms. Natural and Drug induced.

    My youngest son ( now 20 ) got involved in Meth and Crack for a very short time. He got himself away from it’s influence. He went through counseling and mood control drugs. They actually made his depression worse. He takes nothing now, but the effects of both the illegal drugs and the prescription drugs have left him a totally different person than when he was a teen. He is just like the gentlemen describes, a PITA. A pain in the ass if life isn’t his way. He becomes depressed and extremely defensive over nothing. Aggresive if his critisized without using delicate words.

    I would imagine there are a great many people world wide that are dealing with chemical imbalances in their body, effecting their mind and attitude. And I don’t mean just from illegal drugs. So many Meds are just as bad.

  102. 119 Tom D Ford
    March 12, 2010 at 19:43

    This is a very interesting programme.

  103. March 12, 2010 at 19:43

    I define happiness as … being at peace with oneself and the world. It happens when your mind (intent), body (action)and spirit(conscience) vibrate in unison. A rare occurrence when you leave it to chance but can happen all the time if you consciously seek it.

  104. March 12, 2010 at 19:48

    I’m a 37 year old artist who grew up with a single mother with extreme depression – she would spend spend days on end in her dark room in bed. I battled with depression as a teenager and struggled with suicidal tendencies. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered healthy outlets for deeply emotional feelings that I’ve come to embrace as part of my personal cycle of moods.

    I consider myself a happy and optimistic person, but I also value the deep emotion I am able to experience through sadness – it informs my artwork and my self as a person. I tried anti-depressants for a year about a decade ago, but have found that regular yoga, meditation, nature, art and physical exercise a much more fulfilling outlet for these feelings.

  105. 122 Mary
    March 12, 2010 at 19:51

    After being treated for alcohol addiction at the age of 31 and finding out I had been self medicating, I was able to discuss my depression with my family. At that time, my mother said that the Halloween party she had for me when was 8 years old was an attempt to cheer me up because I just seemed so sad.

    I’m now 50 years old and have been on medication for most of the past 19 years. I stopped for my pregnancies and for financial reasons a few times. I just wish I had spoken up and gotten help sooner. I know I would have had a much better life.

  106. 123 Bob in oregon, usa
    March 12, 2010 at 19:51

    If you are perpetually happy when you should be sad, you are sick.
    If you are perpetually sad when you should be happy, you are sick.
    If you are never sick, you aren’t normal!


  107. 124 anne in vancouver wa
    March 12, 2010 at 19:51

    happiness in the us is controlled by big pharma.

    once a dentist offered me anti-depressants after a 3 minute visit.

  108. 125 Michele
    March 12, 2010 at 19:54

    There was a book published recently about the happiest countries in the world. The happiest countries had citizens who felt they had the most control over their lives. There is probably a corollary on a personal level.

  109. March 12, 2010 at 19:57

    About 20 minutes into the discussion I am still waiting for the word – God. Could it be that there is a difference between happiness and contentment? Happiness is temporary. Contentment is a deep joy. Without admitting our reliance on Almighty God humans may experience happiness, but not deep joy!
    Trust me, I have been depressed and told I would need ‘AROPAX’ all my life. I don’t take any tablets – I trust God (AO) who gives me PAX (Peace).
    God offers Himself as our most intimate friend. The rejection of this offer of LOVE (God is love) causes depression!

  110. 127 Jen
    March 12, 2010 at 19:58

    A GOOD QUALITY OVER THE COUNTER SAM-e SUPPLEMENT has relived my teenage child from a debilitating depression. An inherited predisposition to depression, combined with difficult life events caused persistent serious depression. We are extremely grateful for SAM-e since therapy and other interventions did not help and we did not want to resort to medication. 400 mg daily total of good quality SAM-e (200 mg 2x per day) PLUS B vitamins which are important while taking SAM-e) SAM-e is a helpful alternative to meds for many people who suffer from depression.

  111. 128 nora
    March 12, 2010 at 20:00

    Al, retirement and the loss of a son in 60 days would cause the most acute pain and yet I am glad for you that you experienced the love and the stability that made the pain of loss so horrendous. I am sure that the fat you wrapped yourself in will feed your healthy passage into the next stage. Wasting away would have been much worse. Thank you for sharing your story.

  112. 129 Cabe UK
    March 12, 2010 at 20:02

    But why does it HAVE to be that you are either ‘Happy’ OR ‘Depressed’ with some people???
    Can’t you just be in *neutral* and just cruising sometimes…???

  113. 130 Ana in Skokie, IL
    March 12, 2010 at 20:07

    I think happiness is a normal state, but I also thin sadness is there are times when we feel sad and we are not necesarily depressed. It is true that now you go to the doctor and you are a bit sad and they want to prescribe pills and theraphy when it is not really necessary. There are other time that I belive people need medication and therapy. Happiness comes from within ourselves, and what we make of our life, material things give momentary happiness.

    I think the definition of depression needs to be revisited again, this way a lot of people are not diagnosed with depression just because they are sad for a few days.

  114. 131 Allen
    March 12, 2010 at 20:18

    I agree that usually, external influences must affect one’s state of mind, and social support is a key to getting “un-stuck” in many cases. I was never very educationally stimulated or socially engaged in my youth. So it was that much worse when I lost my employment and what little contact I had with the outside world. Limited interaction with a family member was hardly up-lifting, and tended to reinforce the negativity. But it was a neighbor who allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and knew an employer willing to give me a chance, and therefore an opportunity to go back to college. I wouldn’t say I’m the most “naturally” happy person out there, and I lost a fair amount of time, and physical & dental health along the way. But I’m glad to no longer be stuck in the doldrums. Sadness or depression shouldn’t be a permanent (or even semi-permanent) state of mind. The same might apply to being “stuck on happy”.

  115. 132 John Henry
    March 12, 2010 at 20:31

    I can’t thinkof anything in this world that does not have an opposite. Unhappiness – with its subset depression – is the opposite of happiness. Both emotional feelings are as much a part of natural law as is up and down, noise and silence, high tide and low tide, in and out…need I go on?
    Happiness therefore is a natural state.

    What is not natural is white teeth! Ask any dentist.

  116. 133 Ross Danielson
    March 12, 2010 at 20:44

    (this is resend, i think i missent before)

    The discussion has moved from happiness to the problem of over-diagnosing unhappiness as clinical depression. I suggest that we focus on happiness. What conditions support happiness?
    I believe that the character of our environments, especially the warmth and fellowship of human community, greatly affects our happiness and sadness. Even deep hopelessness, can be cheered and mitigated by the warmth of community.
    The over-built US way of life tends to be far more isolating than many other cultures. I for example, am sad much of the time and have been all my life. But I lived and worked in Mexico for 6 months in 2000. And I lived 9 months in Panama City the year following. I was not depressed one minute in those 15 months.
    On my return to USA, my daughter insisted that I see a counselor for my despondancy, and the counselor, in a half-hour interview, recommended that I take the antidepressant that was most in vogue at that time.
    Misdiagnosis of unhappiness as depression is a bigger problem here not just because we over-prescribe, but because there is less environmental support for happiness, leading to unhappiness as part of the American way of life.
    Happiness is a natural sate. Bur being conscious in the world is the larger context for our states of feelings. When one is engaged and cares in the world, one cannot but be saddened by the woes of the world, near and afar. If one is not depressed some of the time, one is not paying attention.
    Cheers and happiness to all.

  117. 134 Ibrahim in UK
    March 12, 2010 at 22:14

    I would agree with Andrew in Australia, and others, who say that medication is not the answer to depression. It feels like medication is a bit like pain-relief, to numb the sensation but not deal with the underlying causes of depression.
    Reading the comments, it seems that depression causes the individual to feel useless and incapable. So perhaps one way out of this downward cycle is to put some simple productive tasks (even something as “go for a 20 minute jog” or “learn a new recipe”) and try to complete them, this might give a sense of accomplishment and a sense of worth and lift confidence to take on more tasks.

  118. 135 Ted shrader
    March 12, 2010 at 23:33

    Collin had this to say: Happiness is a state you elect. You can elect to be morose, or unhappy, or in constant envy, you can elect to hate, or to love, or be sad, or to spend your time worrying.

    I agree with Collin…Perhap our greatest mind power as a human is that of choice. Its most significant agent for change, that of Attitude. Our greatest directive, The Golden Rule.

  119. 136 jade
    March 13, 2010 at 00:32

    happy people don’t think about whether they are happy. happy people don’t need to know whether they are happy. it’s natural.

  120. March 13, 2010 at 01:49

    To BBC listeners:

    I very much enjoyed participating in today’s discussion, though so much more needed to be said on this (quite literally) life-and-death topic! One of the most frustrating things for me, as a psychiatrist for nearly 30 years, is helping the general public understand the difference between “unhappiness” or ordinary grief, on the one hand; and major depression, on the other. These are as different as a headache and a stroke, yet they are so often confused in the discussion of “depression.”

    I hope that readers will take a look at two articles of mine that try to sort out some of these issues, with the links below.



    Thanks very much.–Sincerely, Ronald Pies MD
    Professor of Psychiatry & Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts USM, Boston; Editor in Chief, Psychiatric Times

  121. 138 subra
    March 13, 2010 at 07:10

    I don’t think happiness is natural. Happiness is temporary and short-lived. It occurs when we achieve something. Even a beggar is happy when he receives alms from someone. Even the poor enjoy moments of happiness. And not all rich enjoy happiness all the time with all their opulence at their command; they are most of the time worried about their money and how to multiply it.
    Happiness is restricted to the self while sadness is contagious.
    Look at the victorious tennis player, he jubilates at the last shot but when he approaches the net to meet his opponent his laugh disappears while meeting his sad opponent.

  122. 139 ALUKO, Kenyan Philosopher
    March 13, 2010 at 10:50

    Sadness is a form of anger the source of which you can not act against.Any slight provokes anger so long as in your mind you see a possibility to retaliate against the slight. but if there is no such possibility you remain sad.In Shangai China, the authorities are now pulling down peoples houses in which they have lived for years to create parking space for a festival. These people can not feel angry against the government because it is far too strong for them, all their emotions turn to sadness.

    Achilles hardly feels any sadness whatever happens to him because there is always the possibility that he will retaliate physically or that his mother, a goddess will always help him hens the only feeling he knows is anger. when Agamemnon takes his mistress he is not sad but angry, when Hector kills Patroclus he is more angered than saddened, because in each case he has perceived a workable retaliation ie to withdraw from war and to kill Hector.

    We philosophers truly look down upon happiness. A mortal human being who knows not tomorrow leave alone the nature of his death has no right to to pronounce himself HAPPY. King Croesus clearly learns this from Solon, when Solon refuses to pronounce him happy, even after showing Solon all his Golden treasures.He was conquered and only remembered Solon when he was on the cross, about to be burned alive.


  123. 140 Tse Richard
    March 13, 2010 at 12:23

    Happiness as we can all say is an emotion not a state as rightly mentioned by someone above . I will like to add my saying when you are happy it is been caused by something or someone . Saying “Happiness is a natural state” is like trying to make us understand man was born happy . From the beginning of mankind ,man has been in a permanent search of what can really make him happy .Ie the bible can testify that : When God created Adam , He knew he will not be happy , he sent Eve as a companion ,thinking that will make him happy ,no he was not . Always searching!!!
    In our today , we see different kinds of people , some people money is everything , others women . To tell the truth , as soon as they in touch with what they taught will bring them happiness, they immediately engage their self in another search . Happiness is not a natural state but an acquired state .

    From Cameroon

  124. 141 Emile Barre
    March 13, 2010 at 13:00

    The American Declaration of Independence spoke of the “pursuit of happiness”. It got that right. It is not a natural state and needs to be sought with vigour. Neither is it the most important thing in any human’s life.That title belongs to the intellect and its ability to think strait.

  125. 142 tektwo
    March 13, 2010 at 16:57

    I used to be a person who believed that the term “Depression” was a gimmick, something concocted to sell drugs and support a the field of Psychiatry and Psychologists.

    I used to think “Our forefathers did not have to take this medication, the human body sorts all this out, feeling sad is natural when you have something to feel sad about and happiness is natural when you have something to feel happy about”

    I do not believe that any more, the more research I did, the more my work and stress affected the way I interact with people the more I realized that the world today is not our forefathers world. The human mind and human body was not designed for this type of life. We are evolving into it, we are learning to cope with it but this is a transition.

    Not only does the human body need excursive and rest, so does the human brain.

    Medication is helping us deal with the un-natural state of modern human life until our bodies and mind can adjust and evolve.

    Andrew in NY

  126. March 14, 2010 at 18:41

    Happiness is a basic state of the human mind: a newborn baby, even during the first few months of his life smiles when he had good sleep or a good breastfeeding: his need for food, and for sleep are met: he feels happy. I think we should analyse the origin of happiness from a ‘needs perspective’. Maselow’s famous pyramid of needs could be a good reference for that.
    When people’s need for food, safety, love, belonging, social recognition, self-actualization are met: they feel happy/. Depression occurs when one or more of those essential needs are unmet. the depressed person would then experience different levels of depression according the importance of the element missing from their life.

    happiness is not only normal: it is a basic state not only in humans, but also in any living organism which meets its needs.we say in spring that “the whole Nature is happy, animals are happy, flowers;;;ets ‘ In my opinion, Happiness is linked to revival; when something is needed and missing, and then suddenly comes: this makes us happy; it is definetely conditional on meeting our needs

  127. 144 Cabe UK
    March 15, 2010 at 15:21

    @ Ibrahim “it seems that depression causes the individual to feel useless and incapable. So perhaps one way out of this downward cycle is to put some simple productive tasks (even something as “go for a 20 minute jog” or “learn a new recipe”)”

    Ibrahim you’ve sussed it !… if you go to a clinical or occupational depression therapist, they will give you a type of ‘homework’ that makes you do small activities like tidy up one drawer in a cupboard, or slightly change one of your simple daily routines … This slowly builds up into more sustainable activity to get you moving and learning how to *change* your mind and to *do* simple activities breaks a depressive cycle- and is much better than staying on prescription drugs for years….
    – Although, I would add that drugs do work for a heavily depressive state where your body is chemically imbalanced. Drugs tend to counterbalance that imbalance but as long as you eventually come off them and do the ‘homework’ (hopefully Everyone comes off the drugs!) you will help yourself to break the bonds.

  128. 145 Cabe UK
    March 16, 2010 at 12:07

    @ Ronald Pies MD – Hi Ronald, liked your links….

    Re: the first one that says “The notion that severe depression may bring forth good things…” is obviously written by someone who has never had severe depression! Lots of people who actually recover from extremely severe depression (including bereavement) never actually fully recover from it, and tend to live in a kind of ‘neutral’ state of being.
    I imagine if given the choice of learning ‘lessons’ through depression or learning by being a ‘student of life’ – they would prefer ‘life’ any day!

  129. 146 Elias
    March 16, 2010 at 17:00

    No, its a state of mind.

  130. March 18, 2010 at 17:18

    Our mind creates a mood sad or happy or else, hence happiness is not a natural state, rather its a state of our mind.

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