The Health Currency – Part I – Happiness

Health (as a currency) is the internal, intrinsic concept that, believe it or not, we all choose to ignore. If you do a quick Google search to find what makes people happy, you’ll find many articles that mention social relationships, gratitude, forgiveness, family and friends, having a meaningful and rewarding job. Yet not many writings mention health as a contributor to our overall happiness. In fact, health (and more specific, physical health) seems to only marginally affect our overall happiness. To put it a different way, the LACK of health makes us sad, yet the presence of good health is most often taken for granted.

In my pursuit to apply health as a currency to my life, I wanted to find out what happiness really is, before moving on to determine how I can become happy of my health. For centuries, researchers and philosophers alike have tried to attain a true understanding of what happiness truly means. At it’s broadest sense, happiness is the enjoyment of life. It is the moment where you are in love with living the life that you have. As Aristotle put it, “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of the human existence.” However, the more specific you try to be, the more complicated it becomes to define being happy. Culture and religions across the world view happiness with different lenses, perhaps some contradictory to each other.

Moving across religions, happiness takes on a life of its own. Mahatma Gandhi defined happiness as the circumstance when “what you think what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” The way to eudaimonia, as the Greek called it, is only travelled when the will of people is geared toward charity, peace and holiness. (Thomas Aquinas)

In Utilitarian views, different levels of happiness, like moral and intellectual, stand higher in the hierarchy of greatest-happiness over simpler physical forms of pleasure or happiness.

There is however common ground. Happiness is often seen as an internal sense of enjoyment. It is also dependent on the individual, and one’s happiness can differ vastly from another’s. In short, happiness (or what makes you happy) is yours to determine. However, it should be noted that pleasure and happiness are two very different concepts. Pleasure is external, connected to more materialistic and tangible constructs. Buying a car or winning the lottery doesn’t necessarily make you happy, although it does provide a momentary sense of pleasure. This pleasure could ultimately bring happiness, although many would argue otherwise. Happiness unravels across time, while pleasure is momentary and provisional.

The act of getting married can be a moment of pleasure as well as a moment of happiness, yet having a soulmate can bring about happiness on a larger scale, one that not one moment can define.

Being happy, or attaining pleasure (whichever way you want to look at it), is one of the most fundamental incentives of the human race. Happy workers are more productive. Happy children are more receptive. Happy bosses are more generous. Since we as creatures seek incentives for pleasure, I truly believe that in order for one to view health as a currency, he/she must first understand what being happy about health really means.

More to come in a future post…

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