Anggita stated that during the processing of facial expressions,

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Happiness: Is it a
state, character, or something else? Can we sustain happiness?

 

 

The Truths of Happiness
as a Positive Emotion

 

            Happiness does have a relation with
human’s health. According to Argyle (1987, 1997), cited in Mahon, Yarcheski,
and Yarcheski (2005), health is closely linked with happiness. People’s health
is probably caused by their happiness even though health is widely regarded to
be one of the causes of happiness (Mahon, Yarcheski, and Yarcheski, 2005).        Happiness is known as one of five
emotions and also as a facial expression. Various kinds of stimulus modalities such as face, body, or voice
stimuli are
the ones that aroused emotions, several brain regions indicated by recent
neuroimaging studies represent emotions at an abstract level (Kim, Schultz,
Rohe, Wallraven, Lee, and Bu¨lthoff, 2015). Kim et al., 2015 also argue that
memory of an emotional event should activate the abstract representations if
emotions are indeed represented at such an abstract level.

            Sometimes, we can understand about other people’s moods
from their facial expression. According to Puce et al., 1998; Allison et al., 2000; Hoffman and
Haxby, 2000; Pitcher et al., 2011b; Pitcher, 2014, cited in Pitcher et al.,
2017, a face-selective region in the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS)
is believed to be a cortical locus for processing the dynamic aspects of faces,
such as facial expression and eye gaze in humans even though the connections
between pSTS and other brain areas are unfortunately unknown. Based on Morris
et al., 1996; Whalen et al., 1998; Hoffman et al., 2007, in neuroimaging
studies of facial expression recognition, the amygdala has been strongly implicated
just like the pSTS (Pitcher, Japee, Rauth, and Ungerleider, 2017). Haxby et
al., 2000; Goldman and Sripada, 2005; Niedenthal, 2007; Atkinson and Adolphs,
2011 stated that during the processing of facial expressions, an index of
internal embodiment is provided by sensorimotor and somatosensory activity,
this activity also supports simulationist models of face-based emotion
recognition (Sel, Forster, and Calvo-Merino, 2014). In regulating emotional responses, the amygdala plays
a major role to both positive and negative stimuli (Mahoney, Agostinelli,
Brooks, Lowell, and Scammell, 2017).

 

            According
to Vogt, 2005; Saarima¨ki et al., 2016, pregenual sector of the anterior
cingulate cortex (pACC) is shown in fMRI studies to be involved in the processing
of happiness, while the subgenual sector of anterior cingulate cortex is
involved in the processing of sadness (Caruana, 2017).

 

            If
levodopa (L-DOPA) is used to boost dopamine levels, it will give an effect to
happiness. Happiness will increase by boosting dopamine and resulting from some
rewards (Rutledge, Skandali, Dayan, and Dolan, 2015). But, according to Wise et al., 1978; Drevets et al., 2001; Salamone et
al., 2007; Smith et al., 2011; Berridge and O’Doherty, 2013, cited in Rutledge
et al., 2015, dopamine’s role in influencing feelings of either pleasure or
happiness remains a subject of controversy.

 

People have different point of view about happiness.
The different point of view might be affected by the country’s culture or other
perspectives. It is known that finding a clear-cut definition of happiness
looks rather difficult. So, to measure people’s happiness across cultures, it
is suggested that we must find the common definition of happiness first.
According to Easterlin (2001), happiness has been used synonymously with terms
such as ‘subjective well-being, satisfaction, utility, well-being and welfare’
(Hommerich and Klien, 2012). Nettle (2005), Suikkanen (2011), and Blumenberg (1987),
cited in Hommerich and Klien (2012), said that scholars across disciplines
agree on the ambiguity of the concept of ‘happiness’. As stated by Blumenberg
(1987), “happiness is what an individual understands as his or her happiness;
it would be a potential catastrophe for mankind if one determined for all or
all determined for one or many for few or few for many determined what
happiness should consist of. This is why determining what happiness is should
not be left to the hands of reason; therefore, one should not seek to shed
light on what happiness is by objective means” (Hommerich and Klien, 2012).

In European-American culture, happiness’ meaning is
based on individual achievement orientation while in East Asian culture, the
meaning of happiness is based on relationship orientation (Uchida and Ogihara, 2012).
In other words, each European, American, and East Asian have their own
definition of happiness. Happiness is often seen as the most important goal to
strive for according to the Western intellectual tradition (Hommerich and
Klien, 2012). Happiness is also a goal for all of people in modern society
(Veenhoven, 2012). Every people tend to do everything that makes them happy and
aim for more happiness in their life. Happiness also has an ordinary concept,
it is ambiguous (Suikkanen, 2011). A person’s feeling can be described by that
concept. People can evaluate their lives through happiness (Platsidou, 2013). While
the cultural construal of happiness was investigated from a basic analysis of
the meaning of “happiness” by a few studies, Uchida and Kitayama (2009)
explored individuals’ knowledge of happiness and unhappiness in the United
States and Japan by using a systematic approach (Uchida and Ogihara, 2012).
John Cottingham argues that an evaluative and a hermeneutic concept are the
concept of happiness (Hall, 2011).

Happiness is also defined as a
combination of feeling good from hedonic perspective and functioning
effectively from eudemonic perspective (Drakopoulos and Grimani, 2017). Both
hedonic and eudemonic perspective have their own components. Deci & Ryan (2008),
Steptoe (2008), and Huppert (2009) said that while fulfillment and realization
of human potential and actualization concerned
the eudemonic component, subjective experiences of pleasure concerned the
hedonic component (Drakopoulos and Grimani, 2017). Happiness’ hedonic
components are also consistently conceptualized in terms of increased positive
emotion and decreased negative emotion. While the increased positive emotion
referred to as positive affect or pleasure, the decreased negative emotion referred
to as negative affect or displeasure (Gruber, Mauss, and Tamir, 2011).
According to Kahneman (1999), cited in Gruber et al., 2011, an experience that involves the presence of pleasure
or positive emotion and the absence of displeasure or negative emotion are
referred to the term happiness.

 

In the section two of The Oxford Handbook of Happiness by Susan A. David, Ilona Boniwell,
and Amanda Conley Ayers (eds.), (2013), cited in Weijers et al., 2013, there
are many different psychological definitions of happiness. Those definitions of
happiness have been sharpened by particular researchers. In the introduction of
Chapter 11, Joar Vittersø explains that the aim of this section is “to explore the many understandings of
happiness that exist today and illustrate that without conceptual
clarifications, the study of happiness hardly makes sense”. In the beginning of
Chapter 12, titled ‘Notions of the Good Life’ by Ruut Veenhoven, he talks about
how the term happiness can be used in
wider sense and narrower sense. In a wider sense, happiness can be used to
denote “the quality of life as a whole”, while in a narrower sense, happiness
can be used to refer to “a moment of bliss”. Meanwhile in Chapter 15, titled
‘Eudaimonia’, Veronica Huta explicitly contrasts eudaimonia with hedonia. Because
of it, this chapter may be the most useful contribution to the psychological
definitions of happiness section. While eudaimonia
concerns “using and developing the best in oneself, in accordance with
one’s true self and one’s true principles”, hedonia
concerns “pleasure and enjoyment” (Weijers, Jarden, Angner, Burns,
Chadwick, Jose, Joshanloo, Tarragona, and Thin, 2013).

We often see that there are some differences of
expressing happiness and other emotions in our friends with different gender.
There are times when we ask a woman and a man about things that make them
happy, they will give different answers and reasons. So, does happiness related
with gender? According to the theoretical perspective by Brody and Hall (1993),
cited in Mahon et al., 2005, individual’s knowledge of gender stereotypes
consciously or unconsciously biased and lead to actual gender differences in
emotions, such as happiness, and suggested that gender stereotypes might be
self-fulfilling prophesies. There is also an assessment lended by gender
streotypes that explained the differences between men and women in expressing
emotions, women tend to express sadness, happiness, and fear more intensely
than men who express anger and aggressiveness more intensely than women (Mahon,
Yarcheski, and Yarcheski, 2005).

According to McMahan and Estes (2011) human beings
human beings focused on doing things that might increase their happiness for a
long time and they also have their own naturalistic understanding of what it
takes to do so (Hurling, Linley, Dovey, Maltby, and Wilkinson, 2015). Ahuvia
(2008) said that revealed preferences implied motivation, as suggested by
modern rational choice theory. It means that in their some conscious or
unconscious level, individuals who strive for money believe that it will
increase their happiness (Drakopoulos and Grimani, 2017).

People can increase their happiness by doing
everyday activities because happiness is a concept which people are minded to
pursue, those everyday activities are typical, naturalistic, and usual for
everyday life. So, rather than something that happens with the frequency of
occurring on every single day of week, the term everyday refers to something that is normal, natural, and typical
exemplar (Hurling, Linley, Dovey, Maltby, and Wilkinson, 2015). Isen, Daubman,
and Nowicki (1987), cited in Gruber et al., 2011, said that there are times
that creativity can be increased by happiness. Forgas and East (2008) stated
that happiness can make people more gullible (Gruber, Mauss, and Tamir, 2011). There
are also some meaning-making activities that may not improve one’s happiness
such as work and family, even though those activities may add meaning,
happiness activities may not always add meaning to one’s life (Jongbloed and
Andres, 2015).

People pursue and aim for their
happiness because happiness is indeed beneficial as a positive emotion. There
are several benefits of increased positive emotion. First, based on Fredrickson
(1998), cited in Gruber et al., 2011, the broadening of thought-action
repertoires and builds vital social, physical, and cognitive resources are
facilitated in positive emotion. Second, based on Isen (2000), cited in Gruber
et al., 2011, increased positive emotion leads to more prosocial outcomes and
enchances affiliation. Third, Carver (2003), cited in Gruber et al., 2011 said
that cognitive flexibility is facilitated in positive emotion by allowing
people to shift attention to novel stimuli, Tamir and Robinson (2007), cited in
Gruber et al., 2011, also added that besides allowing people to shift attention
to novel stimuli, positive emotion also facilitates cognitive flexibility by
allowing people to direct selective attention to rewards in the environment.
Fourth, according to Fredrickson
& Levenson, 1998; Tugade, Fredrickson,& Barrett, 2004; Veenhoven, 2008,
positive emotion is associated with improved physical health and
physical-health correlates, Bonanno & Keltner, 1997; Folkman &
Moskowitz, 2000; Fredrickson, 2001; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005, added
that positive emotion is also associated with improved mental health (Gruber,
Mauss, and Tamir, 2011).

 

The decreased
negative emotions plays important role to people’s mental health. According to
Kring (2008), cited in Gruber et al., negative emotion’s lower level is
associated  with reduced risk of various
psychological disorders, from anxiety and depression to borderline personality
disorder. Kubzansky & Kawachi, 2000; Kubzansky et al., 1997, added that
besides the reduced risk of various psychological disorders, negative emotion’s
lower level is also associated with decreased risk of serious health conditions
like coronary heart disease (Gruber, Mauss, and Tamir, 2011).

Pursuing
happiness may be good to be a motivation for people to be able to complete
their goals. But, there are also some consequences if people failed to do that
and may lead to paradoxical effect. Paradoxical effect appears when there is an
incompatibility in achieving one’s goal or happiness because of the outcome of
one’s evaluation such as disappointment and discontent (Gruber, Mauss, and
Tamir, 2011). Gruber et al., 2011 also said that when people failed, they will
feel more disappointed the more they strive for their happiness, and it will
paradoxically decrease their happiness.

 

In her book, Exploring
Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science, Sissela Bok touches the
relation between happiness as experience and happiness as an objective state.
Most contemporary people believe that happiness is identified as a feeling and
if someone is asked whether she is happy or not, she will give an answer that
involves a reference to one’s feelings. The way someone feels about her life or
the current emotional state she’s in might be described in general by her.
These kinds of answer risk reducing happiness to states of positive feeling
even though these answers are not wrong in themselves. Bok also says that there
is another powerful implication that forges the link between happiness and
morality in the identification of happiness with psychological excellence
(Parry, 2012).

There are so many important factors to evaluate our
happiness, those factors are family, jobs, friendships, recreation, education,
and environment (Uchida and Ogihara, 2012). Other factors such as money, social
relations, work, and religion have been identified as significant to determine
happiness, Diener and Ryan (2009) said that the most outstanding factor to
determine  happiness is personality
(Platsidou, 2013). On the human machine, positive moods function as green and
negative moods function as red indicate either all of the systems are
functioning properly or something is wrong (Veenhoven, 2012).

Sometimes, happiness can be seen from someone who is
laughing. Their laughter can be triggered by something funny. According to
Manninen et al., 2017, endogenous opioid release in thalamus, caudate nucleus
and putamen, and insular, cingulate and frontal cortices are increased by
social laughter as revealed by the whole-brain analysis of the positron
emission tomography (PET) data. It is concluded that an important neurochemical
mechanism to reinforce and maintain social bonds between human is the baseline
level and modulation of the µ-opioid system by social laughter (Manninen et
al., 2017). Whole-brain analysis also showed that opioid releases in the
anterior insula, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and the posterior
cingulate cortex (PCC) in addition to the thalamus and the basal ganglia are
increased by the production of social laughter (Caruana, 2017). According to
Vogt (2005), cited in Caruana (2017), in contrast to the increase of opioid
release, a decrease of opioid release was observed in the midcingulate cortex,
affective aspects of pain perception are known to be associated with the
midcingulate cortex.

Self-report questionnaires that assess either
specific component dimensions of happiness or global happiness are used to
measure happiness (Platsidou, 2013). Argyle, Martin, & Lu (1995), Hills
& Argyle (2002), Karademas & Kalantzi-Azizi (2005), and Meleddu (2012)
said that one of the most popular scales that was used in the present study to
assess either global trait happiness or its specific dimensions such as life
sastisfaction, personal efficacy, vigor, positive affect, sociability, social
interest, and cheerfulness is The Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI; Argyle,
Martin & Crossland, 1989) (Platsidou, 2013).

Even as a positive emotion, there’s no
denying that happiness can also lead people into negative outcomes. According
to Gruber et al., 2011,  any mental state
or experience like happiness in excessive levels can be undesirable and
unhealthy. Based on Diener
& Biswas-Diener, 2009; Oishi et al., 2006, cited in Gruber et al., 2011, an
extreme level of intensity happiness may lead to negative outcomes and it also
may not convey additional benefits, this idea is concurred by other
researchers. Gruber et al., 2011 also said that people will experience costs
and no psychological or health gain at a very high intensity of happiness, as
suggested by meta-analytic data. The extreme degree of positive emotion may
results to mania. According to
American Psychiatric Association (2000), cited in Gruber et al., 2011, a
persistently elevated or increased degree of positive mood characterized mania.
Extreme positive emotion in mania that undermine the ability to experience
negative emotions and extremely intense positive emotion that associated with
more severe illness course in mania are the two possible ways in which an
extreme degree of happiness manifested via increased positive emotion may be
associated with dysfunction in mania (Gruber, Mauss, and Tamir, 2011).

 

From all the
studies, we can learn that happiness is one of the five emotions besides anger,
disgust, fear, and sadness. Emotion, such as happiness, is aroused by stimulus
modalities (face, body, and voice stimuli). Happiness is also known as a facial
expression people give when they are happy. The posterior superior temporal
sulcus (pSTS) and the amygdala have an important role in the processing of human’s
facial expression. Other than the pSTS and the amygdala, pregenual sector of
the anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) is also involved in the processing of
happiness. We can also learn that dopamine actually has an effect to people’s
happiness. Happiness will be increased when the dopamine is boosted by using
levodopa (L-DOPA). Whole-brain analysis of the positron
emission tomography (PET) data showed that in social laughter, endogenous
opioid release in thalamus, caudate nucleus and putamen, and insular, cingulate
and frontal cortices, anterior insula, the anterior cingulate cortex
(ACC), and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)
are increased.

 

In describing and defining about what happiness is, many people have
their own opinions and perspectives. Some people think about happiness as an
important goal that they have to pursue in order to become happy and then
happiness is later defined as feeling good in hedonic perspective and also a
pleasure when the positive emotion is increased while the negative emotion is
decreased, or we can call it as a displeasure. When the negative emotion is
decreased, it will give some effects to the mental health. The decreased
negative emotion is associated with the reduced risk of various psychological
disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and the decreased risk of serious
health conditions, such as coronary heart disease. Meanwhile, the increased
positive emotion gives a lot of benefit to people’s mental health. Some factors
like family, jobs, friendships, recreation,
education, environment, money, social relations, work, and religion play
important roles to evaluate and determine happiness. To increase happiness,
people can do any everyday activities.

 

People also have to be careful when
there is too much intensity in their happiness because it may lead them to the
negative outcomes instead of the positive outcomes. To increase and pursue
happiness, sometimes people don’t care about wasting money and to the extreme
level, they feel totally fine to do bad things just for the sake of pleasure.
The extreme degree of positive emotion may also results to mania.

 

References

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