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May 20th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

What makes people happy?

Happiness is something we all strive for in our lives. But is there a secret ingredient to being happy?

We asked five faith leaders of varying perspectives to answer the question, "What makes people happy?" Their answers showed that happiness comes from meaning and purpose in life. It's in your heart and soul and can come from helping others.

And if you're looking for perfect happiness, it doesn't exist. But imperfect happiness does.

- Associate Producer

Filed under: Culture & Science • Leaders

soundoff (800 Responses)
  1. Michael Wong

    (I meant to post this separately, not as a reply to someone, so I'm posting it again)
    For all you people who keep saying that God is happiness, I have a question: is God happy?

    He doesn't seem happy. The whole Bible is filled with stories of his anger and wrath. Even the kinder, gentler New Testament is filled with stories of how the unrighteous will be mistreated in God's kingdom. This does not sound like a happy person to me.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
    • David

      u say " god doesn't seem like a happy person." God is not a human so he cannot be a person....Wong ,your answers are just plain Wong.

      When asked by Abraham 'Who are you?" God replied ,"I am ."

      May 22, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  2. shelly

    So how do Falwell and Osteen explain the happiness of non-believers and non-christions? Their comments are about the most ridiculous things CNN has ever published. Thanks for helping to enforce their discriminatory and deluded agendas which serve primarily to empower them and line their own pockets.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  3. Randall

    The story about what makes people happy is one of the stupidest and most misleading stories CNN.com has ever run. There are numerous factual, scientific studies on happiness, and how it works (which is as much what is called a "setpoint" - likely genetic - than it is experiential; and the experience part of it is not necessarily what people expect)and yet you choose to run a story that misleads the public into believing that some self-important religious blowhards actually know something about how OTHER people should become happy. At least you included Greg Epstein. And the nerve of including Johnathan Falwell and Joel Osteen who have made millions of gays and lesbians UNHAPPY and oppressed with their hate-filled ignorant sermons, interviews, and writings. Religion has been around for thousands of years and so far has brought nothing but misery and tragedy to mankind. Instead of looking to idiots like those, full of mere opinion, you could have done your readers a service by pointing them to the hard scientific, psychological, and sociological evidence of concrete things that people CAN do to be happier. But a lot of it is out the individual's hands. It's hard to be happy when you are dirt poor, for example. Or hungry or without medical care.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  4. Ricardo

    Happiness is a state of mind which when achieved challenges us to balance and budget your emotions. It is having the ability to judge, process and correct our own thoughts and actions to ensure they do not have a negative impact on our happiness.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  5. Unique

    GOD BLESS!

    May 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  6. Angela

    Happiness is relative to an individual. The idea that disbeleif in deity makes everyone happy or that happiness is only found in a specific deity is downright ridiculous. Happiness lies in the person who has found the path meant for them and lives by it.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  7. Thoroughbred

    In America we suffer from an illusion largely that vests our families of origin and especially our parents with the key to our happiness. Long after they've departed this world even, it seems that there they are, larger than life, looming in the back ground. Why is this?

    Part of the reason is because we confuse archetypal "parents," Father Sky, for example, and Mother Earth, with the real thing; failing to realize that spiritual parents are not the same as the two human beings who brought us in to this world. This con-fusion of image with Mom and Pop means our blood parents often take on God-like qualities... and responsibilities.

    But no where, in any culture that I'm aware of, are parents truly responsible for a child's happiness. A well adjusted child, perhaps. Hard working and able to navigate in the world? You betcha. But never happiness.

    Happiness is a state of soul. And never, no where, at any time has a parent been responsible for the spiritual state of a child. I suspect that part of the restlessness, irritability and discontent in the American character rests with this dynamic. And it also is part of the reason why most Americans – though fully inhabiting the bodies of adults – simply refuse to ever grow up; constantly searching if you will for illusive happiness.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  8. Carl

    The mistake they're making here is they're assuming there is only one path to happiness. Happiness can happen multiple ways. But the main way is probably getting approval from other humans.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  9. halemalu

    happiness is peace in one's soul. it is what many people try to achieve by artificial means (booze, drugs) or natural means (meditation), be it only for a few hours. people instinctively know that paradise exists. after we pass on it is Heaven for those who have been cleanses of sin by the blood of Jesus. interesting thing is that some of us can be at peace in any situation while others freak out over little things. one important command to follow is to forgive others regularly, and oneself.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Frank Smith

    I know my wife makes me unhappy!

    May 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • disappointed

      That is truly SAD. here is a good website for you to find happiness in your marriage again:
      http://www.laughyourway.com

      You will not regret taking the time to listen to what Mark Gungor has to say.
      Best wishes.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
    • Angel

      Frank,
      How long have you been married? Why does she make you unhappy?
      There are numerous remedies, don't give up! Marriage is a beautiful thing!

      May 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  11. sam

    There are hundreds of millions of people who are happy and who do not believe in god. Likewise, there are countless folks who are unhappy and who believe in god. Clearly, god is a minor factor at best and an irrelevancy at worst. This subject is much better addressed by psychologists, not clergymen.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      To me, happiness is the proximity between your expectations and your reality.

      May 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  12. dalis

    Happiness is a warm puppy. 🙂

    May 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Best answer so far!

      May 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • David

      No , John Lennon said it was a warm gun

      May 22, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  13. bennyboy

    how come all you atheists are sitting here arguing with christians? why don't you do something productive tonight instead of banging your head against a wall? people motivated by the desire to cheat death can never be objective about anything. even if you win, you're still retarded for arguing over the internet with religious nuts.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Some of us understand that we're not accomplishing much except to occupy ourselves. Is this really less productive than any of the other things people do to amuse themselves, like watching TV or playing computer games?

      May 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • NC

      interesting that you are doing exactly the opposite of what you're preaching here....

      May 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  14. GaryH

    I think it's more about joy than happiness. Happiness is overrated. Joy comes from within. A good book to read is The Shack. WWJD

    May 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  15. Amit

    "Breathe..................... Breathe deep". It's that simple.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  16. KLN

    Happiness comes from allowing yourself to be turned over to God's purposes and to be okay with His plan for your life-whatever that turns out to be. It's not about us being happy-it's about Him. Once I accepted that, I truly learned what happiness means. I also discovered His plan is always better than mine in the end.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • Monica

      What do you mean his plan is better? How do you even know what his plan for you is and if he approves of what you are doing? Do you talk to him or something?

      May 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Fred

    Interesting gender bias in those selected to offer opinions not to mention they essentially represent only various religions.
    Guess agnostics or atheist can not be happy?

    May 21, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  18. Michael Wong

    This comment section would be so much shorter if all the comments which basically said "Happiness is joining my religion" were eliminated. Deepak Chopra said something which could apply to followers of ANY religion, while the Christians keep saying "Happiness is leaving your religion and coming to mine".

    May 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
    • disappointed

      Wow you are one very confused person. I have not ONCE said anything of the sort, and I am a Christian. And most everyone else is merely expressing what makes them personally happy. You need to stop trying to read into what people are saying and learn to accept things at face value. AND STOP GENERALIZING!! It's driving me crazy!

      May 21, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  19. Fred

    Interesting bias regarding gender and majority of religious

    May 21, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  20. Angela

    Check out my blog, On the Bright Side. Maybe something there will make you happy. http://www.onthebrightside-angela.blogspot.com.
    ~Angela ♥

    May 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.