Defining Happiness

Dr. Raj Raghunathan | Methods for Productivity Through Happiness

Learn about the four “flavors” of happiness and explore ways to boost each of them in the workplace.


“What does the term happiness mean? When I say I am happy, does it mean the same as when you say you’re happy? Do the things that make me feel happy make you happy and vice versa? Happiness has probably been a topic of debate even before the ancient Greeks started philosophizing and, somewhat surprisingly, it turns out that we all mean pretty much the same thing when we use the word happiness. Specifically, when people say that they’re happy, they are basically experiencing one of four different types or flavors of positive experiences.: sensory pleasure, positive emotions, purpose, or meaning. Let’s begin with sensory pleasure. In this definition, we feel happy when we eat something tasty or when we take a nice soothing, warm bath, or when we smell something wonderful, etcetera. Sensory pleasure is great, but there is a problem with it. If it were the only type of happiness you sought, you wouldn’t be happy for too long.That’s because sensory pleasure just doesn’t endure. The hundredth bite of chocolate, for example, won’t taste as good as the first bite. That’s a good thing actually, because if it did, we’d all die of a burst stomach. Likewise, there’s only so many times that you can listen to your favorite song before it stops being pleasurable. Sensory pleasure suffers from diminishing returns. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend equating happiness to only sensitive pleasure. I’m not saying avoid it, just don’t indulge in it. The second flavor…”