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Three levels of happiness

 

Explanations > Emotions > Happiness > Three levels of happiness

Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3 | So what

 

Daniel Nettle describes three levels of happiness. Towards the lower level, they are more immediate, sensual, measurable. Towards the higher level, they are more rational, relative and values-related.

Level 1: Momentary feelings

Level 1 happiness are the relatively short-term emotional highs when we feel the joy from listening to a piece of arousing music or scoring points in a game we are playing.

It is quite obvious when people who are experiencing level 1 happiness. They whoop and grin and dance with the physical animation of arousal. This level of happiness, whilst certainly pleasurable, does not last long and we come down to earth quite soon.

Level 1 emotions are easy to measure and neural scans will show certain parts of the brain that are particularly active.

Level 2: Judgements about feelings

Level 2 happiness is more thoughtful. If I asked you if you were happy with your life and you said that, on the whole, you were very happy, then you are working at level 2.

Level 2 is thus a subjective assessment and depends on how we make sense of our lives. It is also relative, as we often decide how happy we are by comparing ourselves with other people.

Level 2 emotions are more complex than level 1 and may include a balance of contentment, frustration, joy, curiosity and so on.

General conversations and greetings such as 'How are you?' work at this level. It is also the level that is particularly studied in psychology, which is helped by the ease of measuring subjective reports.

Level 3: Quality of life

At a higher level, we can consider questions of fulfilment and achieving one's potential. It is not directly emotional and not easy to measure, but you could say that one is optimally happy at this level.

At level 3, people are more in harmony with their true selves and consequently have few inner conflicts. They are also in alignment with their values and feel what they do is important, good and right.

In Maslow's Hierarchy, this is more about self-actualization than the happiness we get from being healthy, safe and in a socially rewarding group of friends.

So what?

So when you are working with happiness, know what type it is and work appropriately.

See also

Values, Maslow's Hierarchy

 

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