pursuit of happiness

Ask 100 people what happiness means to them, and you’ll get 100 different answers.

Even Greek philosopher Aristotle knew the reason for that more than 2,300 years ago. “Happiness depends on ourselves,” he wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, published around 350 B.C. He asserted that happiness is a long-term goal—achieved throughout the course of a lifetime—rather than something that promises instant gratification.

Aristotle believed that our quest for fulfillment as human beings includes pleasure, friendship, love, our moral character and the active search for truth and justice. Such a goal requires making choices, some of which can be difficult. He further explained that there’s a “golden mean” between the extremes of excess and deficiency in life, and because one person’s mean may be another person’s extreme, happiness is relative to each individual.

It’s difficult to define just what happiness is, or if it’s even a “thing” that can be defined at all. What makes a billionaire happy might be completely different than what makes a child from a low-income home happy, or it could be the same.

In fact, a 2007 UNICEF report called An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries concluded: “There is no obvious relationship between levels of child well-being and GDP per capita.”

And other studies have shown that children in developed countries spend much less time in nature than kids in developing countries, instead spending an average of 50 hours per week in front of screens (TV, computer, video game or phone)—even though it’s been proven many times over that kids who spend time outdoors are smarter, happier, more attentive and less anxious than those who stay indoors, and are more likely to become happy, productive adults.