The 7 Types of Happiness

Happiness is sought after by everyone, but there's no exact definition or concept that can encompass it. Here, we'll show you the types of happiness that exist.
The 7 Types of Happiness
Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador

Written and verified by el biólogo Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador.

Last update: 05 September, 2023

“Are you happy?” Surely you’ve been asked this question sometime in your life. And we often don’t quite know how to respond, because human beings find it very difficult to objectively categorize such an abstract feeling. In addition to the fact that each person attributes their own meaning to this term, it should be noted that there are several valid and specific types of happiness.

More than a constant state, happiness is usually perceived in specific moments and is part of the memories of human beings. Reaching a state of absolute and full joy is impossible, but it can be experienced in multiple instances throughout life. Keep reading, as we’ll tell you the secret of happiness in the following lines.

What is happiness?

It would be ideal to give you a concrete answer to this question, but it’s impossible. Given the many psychiatric and etymological approaches that are taken, it’s important to bear in mind that happiness is personal and each person has a definition of it based on experience, desires, and personality.

This definition is quite similar to that of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which states that happiness is an emotion of joy, satisfaction, and well-being.

In general, we understand that a happy person is one who’s characterized by a positive emotional state. This state is subjective and, therefore, in all cases it’s self-perceived. There are several factors that modulate the level of happiness that the individual feels, but they can be grouped into 3 points: Socio-environmental factors, genetic predisposition, and parameters associated with objectives.

Although happiness is personal and non-transferable, experts recognize that culture and education modulate the perception of this state of mind. In certain societies, the manifestation of negative emotions is disapproved, so it’s taken for granted that many people are “happy” when they don’t meet a series of quantifiable parameters to intuit it.

What is happiness for one person can be perceived as a joyous moment for another. This word has no fixed meaning.

Measures to quantify happiness

Before exploring the types of happiness, we must emphasize that there are certain scales devised to calculate, to some extent, how happy a human being is. Some of them are the following:

  • Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS): This parameter considers happiness from the perspective of the person who responds to it, assuming that each person has their own perception of it. It’s subject to 4 items, and those who take the test use absolute scores to characterize themselves as happy or unhappy people.
  • Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS): As its name suggests, this methodology is made up of 2 factors of 10 items designed to measure positive and negative affect. The happiness ranking in each block ranges from 1 (very little or not at all) to 5 (extremely happy).
  • Life Satisfaction Scale (SWLS): This type of scale couldn’t be any simpler. It’s only based on answering a series of questions (such as “If I could live my life again, I’d hardly change anything”) with an intensity of 1 to 5 (from strongly disagree to strongly agree).
  • The Cantril ladder method: This is one of the most used methods to quantify happiness, as it’s used in the World Happiness Report directed by the United Nations. For now, Finland is considered the region with the happiest inhabitants in the world.

Although these methods aren’t infallible, they help to put a concrete figure on an emotional state as diffuse as happiness. Interestingly, studies show that happiness tends to be stable over the years.

The 7 types of happiness

As happiness is subjective, there will be as many types of happiness as there are people who inhabit the Earth. Therefore, we find it more interesting to cite the terms related to it or that compose it in its entirety. Keep reading, because each of the types of this emotional state is essential to reach the maximum level of well-being. Knowing them is the first step to reaching them.

1. Joy

Á red-headed woman sitting at a table, holding a cup of tea, and laughing heartily.
Perhaps the image that comes to mind the most when we think of happiness is joy.

The Royal Spanish Academy of the Language defines joy as “a pleasant and lively feeling that usually manifests itself with external signs.” This is an emotion of satisfaction limited in time, that is, human beings show joy in sporadic moments (but not all the time). It occurs in response to an event that we consider eminently positive.

Despite the fact that joy is conceived as a unit that characterizes happiness, it should be noted that there are several subtypes within the term. Some of them are the following:

  1. True happiness: This is an emotion that’s generated in an authentic way in response to a stimulating event. It’s always positive.
  2. Simulated happiness: This manifests itself externally with both behavioral and physiological patterns (smile, laughter, posture, sound, and speech), but it’s not authentic. It usually indicates that there’s an underlying problem that you’re trying to cover up.
  3. Malignant happiness: Unfortunately, it’s common to see how a human being rejoices in the misfortune of others. A disastrous situation can generate a positive feeling because it’s happening to someone we consider to be our enemy. It’s essential to work to end it.
  4. Pathological happiness: A person with this type of joy is energetic to the extreme, omnipotent, with elevated self-esteem, and even with a certain tendency toward aggressiveness. This exaggerated emotional state can lead the patient to fall into recklessness, sexual indiscretions, or large financial expenses.

As you can imagine, the type that’s most associated with happiness is true happiness. The rest of those mentioned have negative connotations and are even part of pathological pictures.

2. Excitement

Another one of the types of happiness is that which is based or characterized mainly by excitement. At the neurological level, humans become aroused in response to both internal and external stimuli. The best word to describe this state comes from the English language, arousal. It’s very important to regulate awareness, attention, and information processing.

Arousal is the result of stimulation, but the trigger can be both positive and negative. The ideal way to reach a quantifiable state of happiness is to surround yourself with events and situations that produce positive excitement (such as a trip, sharing experiences with a person, or a meal, for example).

Sporadic excitement (although we’re each stimulated by certain things) it’s essential to be happy because human beings can hardly feel satisfied if they’re continuously bored. In any case, we are routine beings and it’s not a good idea for us to seek the rush of getting excited at all times if this endangers our integrity.

3. Gratitude

Gratitude is an emotion that exemplifies the recognition of a benefit that has been or will be received. The Kids Health clinical portal clarifies that being pleasant consists of focusing on the good things in our lives and feeling grateful for what we have. In other words, it’s necessary to stop and value what surrounds us and that which we take for granted in order to achieve a greater degree of happiness.

Gratitude represents a type of happiness that every human being should try to achieve. Among many other benefits, being pleasant brings the following:

  1. Positive emotions outweigh negative ones: Valuing what we have helps us put into perspective the bad that has happened in recent times. The negativity bias is a reality, but it can be combated rationally taking into account all the good things that surround us.
  2. Gratitude opens possibilities: Being pleasant and positive allows us to obtain more receptivity and assertiveness on an individual level. This makes us cope better when a challenge or opportunity presents itself.
  3. One positive emotion leads to another: Gratitude leads to happiness, but also tranquility, joy, kindness, and affection.
  4. Gratitude helps build better relationships: Reminding others from time to time how grateful we are for their presence will make them feel more valued, thus generating mutual well-being. It’s never too late to tell someone you love them.

In short, gratitude makes us better people and encourages happiness. Sometimes working on this emotion is difficult, but the help of a psychologist can greatly speed up the process.

4. Satisfaction

Satisfaction may seem similar to joy at first sight, but both terms represent slightly different things. At the neurological level, this emotion is a state of well-being produced by a greater or lesser optimization of brain feedback. The different areas of the brain keep pace and, therefore, a state of fullness is reached.

Dissatisfaction produces restlessness and discontent, so by definition, we need to be satisfied in order to be happy in the full sense of the word. However, not all satisfied people are completely happy. Satisfaction represents a type of partial happiness, like excitement, joy, and the rest of the emotions mentioned.

Satisfaction is one more type of happiness that’s added to all the aforementioned (and those to come) to reach a full state.

5. Optimism

A woman practicing meditation at her work desk.
Being an optimistic person implies knowing how to face problems with better tools, something that’s very important in work environments.

Optimism is essential to achieve happiness. This concept is an attitude that reflects the belief (or hope) that a specific activity, or general situation, will reach a good, desirable, and favorable end. Beyond the thought that it reflects, optimism is an ideological and philosophical position that can be expressed in many facets.

Optimistic people have a tendency to judge and evaluate things on their most positive or favorable aspects (glass half full rather than half empty). It’s not that better things necessarily happen to them, but rather that they’re able to see an opportunity in error and value the good for what it really is. There are various types of optimism, including the following:

  1. Anthropological optimism: With a certain religious connotation, this type of optimism indicates that the individual is at the same distance between good and evil. Therefore, we have the freedom to choose between good and bad.
  2. Intelligent optimism: Consists of evaluating the negative, detecting it, and looking for a solution. It’s not a question of ignoring the bad, but of counting on it and believing that it can be tackled.
  3. Pedagogical optimism: This is an aspect that conceives education as an instrument and engine of change in the individual and society.
  4. Illusory optimism: This type refers to a general tendency in people to believe that they’re more likely to have positive events happen to them.

6. Love

Many will argue that love represents the most necessary and vital kind of happiness, and they may not be wrong. This universal concept, related to the closeness and affinity between beings, is essential to describe human culture and our own existence. We’re social by nature, so well-being and a lack of love can’t coexist in the same person.

Loving is vital even at the evolutionary level, as it allows the creation of offspring (partners) and cooperation for problem-solving (family, work, and friends). In addition, feeling affection for others favors joint work, the search for common goods, and the emergence of altruistic behaviors (sacrificing oneself for another).

As postulated in Maslow’s pyramid, affiliative needs are in the third rung that must be met to achieve well-being (preceded by physiology and security). Receiving love from your partner, friends, colleagues, family, or the general environment is essential to reach the pinnacle of existence, that is, self-realization.

Love represents one of the most important types of happiness in the human being. As social beings that we are, throughout our lives, we seek to be loved in different facets.

7. Pride

Pride, conceived as a feeling of satisfaction toward something personal or something close to us that’s considered worthy, is important to achieve happiness. This emotion can derive from a person that’s close to us, from a personal situation, from what we’ve become, and from what surrounds us, among many other things.

Positive pride (not excessive self-esteem) represents another of the essential types of happiness, as it encourages the pursuit of goals and the achievement of them. Being proud of ourselves is essential to be happy, as it’s one of the vital steps to achieving self-realization.

Happiness is yours and yours alone

Here we’ve shown you 7 types or components of happiness, but you must be clear that this concept remains unique and non-transferable. Someone may find more happiness in excitement than in love, but both are essential components for a human being to be fully happy (even momentarily).

Some people argue that total happiness is achieved in a sustained way after performing in all the aforementioned areas, but others think that this emotional state is sporadic and impossible to retain. Each perception is personal and valid, but the important thing is that you’re comfortable with yourself when reflecting on the points cited.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.