THE HAPPY MOOD
All of us have experienced a happy mood. Thus, we all ought to be expert on how it feels to be happy.
But are we?
How well could you describe your happy moods? How well could you describe the feelings, the thoughts, the ways you behaved? According to the research, you’d probably not do well at all!
Most people find it difficult to describe what it’s like to feel happy. It’s like many of the most important aspects of being human: often we find it hardest to explain and understand the things that are the closest and most important to us. Things like love, consciousness, or grief are almost impossible to understand ourselves, much less describe to others. And of all these intimate experiences, happiness appears to be the most difficult of all.
It’s mystifying! For something which is so critically important to us and so powerfully felt when it occurs, our knowledge and understanding of our own happiness is largely nil. We feel happiness, but we don’t comprehend it!
Perhaps we’re just too close to the problem…
To truly comprehend happiness we have to go beyond direct, personal experience and study it from the outside. This is exactly what Psychology has done.
It is a bit ironic that the science of Psychology has come into being to help explain from outside observation things which one would expect to be known to each of us from the inside. If our brain came equipped with a built-in “help” program, like most computers do, psychologists like myself and my colleagues would be out of a job! Unfortunately, the human brain just works on its own — there is no “help” program we can access which explains its workings. Thus Psychology is faced with what sometimes seems an impossible task: understanding the what’s going on inside the mind by studying it from the outside.
Happiness research is no different. We psychologists have been forced to use the same indirect methods as psychologists in all other fields use. We examine from the outside what happiness feels like on the inside. And the approach has proven enormously successful. While taking a few steps away from personal experience, happiness psychologists now have a pretty comprehensive view of the happy mood.
This Chapter, then, is dedicated to a description of a happy mood — a description based completely on the research.