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. ochoo

    @wow lds?
    @ wong Happy I am for i see not that which is there

    May 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • Wow!

      Yep! And I am so amazed at the various comments and questions in this post – it's brought out a lot of anger in some and intensity in others. In my circle of friends, it's common knowledge who God is and what his purpose and goals are. And then questions about my life just make sense. I'm surprised, but feeling very greatful what I understand about science and religion.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm |

    Deepak,Epstein,Kushner, Tolle have a naive, shallow way of looking at man's nature. Almost as an adolescent, self righteous way at looking at themselves.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  3. Joel

    There is a fundamental problem with this entire story – why on Earth would anyone go to representatives of any religion to find out anything about happiness, spirituality, morality, or even the most basic components of human thought and experience? Religion by definition is a denial of reality, and no one will ever attain happiness by lying to themselves, let alone others. Happiness is achieved differently for everyone, but asking purported "people of faith" is the shortest route to the wrong answer – for everyone.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Sherry Johnson

    Being Pagan brings me happiness. Everyone else can believe- or not believe- whatever they want if that's what brings them happiness. The unhappiness comes in when people cannot stop with that- feel they have to push thier beliefs on others. It isn't my place to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't believe, nor is it anyone elses place to tell me what I should believe.It's called "belief" for a reason- it's personal.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  5. G

    All this talk of "god". Do you believe in Santa too?

    May 21, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
    • David

      our children believe in santa. they have the pure unadultered faith that they will recieve their gifts on christmas. we as christians are gods children and we live by that same faith that a child has , that god will deliver us our gift, the gift of eternal life w/ him

      May 22, 2010 at 12:47 am |
    • kb

      No, but I saw the Easter Bunny one nite when I was 'shroomin

      May 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Gina

      When I was a child I believe in Santa so much that I would look forward for Christmas so I can see Sant again because he brings gifts to all the children.I remember my dad bringing all of us(my siblings) to the Airport because Santa was arriving by plane.(My father was in the Air Force) I remember very well how that experiece thrilled all of my siblings and me and that happiness can't be bought w/ money.This is child like happiness i am telling you but as you grow older and gain knowledge your outlook of happiness will be of different dimension already.Yes I did believe in Santa when I was a child.

      May 24, 2010 at 2:28 am |

    Andy, have you seen , or heard the origins of the universe. A singularity which cannot be tested by the scientific method of falsified, your statement is self refuting.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
    • Andy

      No, I have not.

      We testify about what we have seen and heard.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Andy

      There are different ways to acquire knowledge. I didn't mean to slight scientific knowledge.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  7. ochoo

    @micheal There is no force except for the me pushing the dvd door closed to watch lucas's fairy tale OF a place far far away in another place I cant see

    May 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Wow!

    Tetris – Your questions are common knowledge in the Mormon faith. And your science background would be a compliment to the answers you get. Ask one.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  9. Ramesh

    Generally, we would define happiness as a state of mind or a type of emotion that indicates we are enjoying the moment. We often work hard to reach and retain that state, but we find it is ever elusive. Why? Our happiness is solely dependent on pleasant situations. In other words, something has to happen externally that is favorable to us to keep us happy. Unfortunately, none of the external things are dependable, because of their two characteristics: ever changing and perishable. That means we are looking at the wrong places. That is why the question “where” is more important than “what” in regards to happiness. We all know the lost key story of Mullah Nasruddin. In this story Mullah was frantically searching under the street light, knowing well that he had lost the key in the house. Obviously, he is trying to indicate that we are looking for happiness at the wrong place.

    But truly speaking, happiness comes from deep inside. We experience the glimpses of this happiness now and then, whenever a gap occurs in a stream of thought. The true happiness is possible only when we have access to the inner stillness that is inseperable from the inner being. We can call this as a soul, atman, higher intelligence etc., Names doesn’t matter here. What is preventing our access to inner being? Our incessant thoughts put a veil. The only way to realize joy or happiness within ourselves irrespective of the external situations is by the cessation of the modifications of the mind – Patanjali Yogi. This is possible only when we can free ourselves from our mind.

    I just want to quote Echart Tolle from the book “Power of Now” here:

    “The moment you start watching the thinker (incessant thoughts in your mind), a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”

    Then we can understand the true meaning of happiness. Bible says “The peace that passeth all understanding”. Adhi Shankara says in Vivekachudamani the state of the awakened one is similar to “Witnessing the sudden stoppage of waves of the ocean”. This peace helps us to understand our true nature which is happiness. Sufi Poet Rumi says: "When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." All other definition of happiness with respect to the material world is every elusive.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • Andy

      So happiness has to do with the spiritual, eternal realm rather than the material, temporal realm.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Gigi

      You definitely understand the power of happiness. It all starts in the mind. Introspecting. X-Raying ourselves. Allow the seed to be planted, the deep roots take hold inside you against the stronghold, nurturing care, patience, a harvest will be reaped. The times of hard times is only a test.

      May 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
    • DepraSoil24

      that sounds like its from the book " the power of Now"

      This earth is a battle of decisions between hapiness and epathy. You choose to be happy, you choose not to care. There is a staircase to happiness, and there are steps to it.
      There is no staircase for Epathy, you choose sorrow and fall on the ground.
      To find an true happiness it takes time. Hapiness is not a sudden feeling, like recieving a gift. Happiness is ephemeral and you have to remind yourself that you have it. You have to choose happiness each day and the things that you love encourage you to choose it, spouse, God, family, friends, nature, food, good memories, uplifting music...If you cant find anything you can love, you choose not to accept happiness. To find true happiness you must find a stable rock to stand on- something that will not betray you and make you fall but will lift you up and hold you,that is the heavenly father. Accepting life, and the way things are is a step to accepting happiness.

      May 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Sayer

    What if loving Jesus were not a religion, but the only personal relationship in which we could experience perfect love? What if Jesus didn't come to establish another religion (humankind's effort to reach the divine) but rather to end the need for religions?

    May 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  11. Cthulance

    What do faith leaders know about happiness? They're all about the woo. Especially when there's money in it. What's a faith leader anyway? Someone who's been featured in Oprah's book club? Perhaps they're claiming that woo brings happiness. "Buy (into) my woo–it'll make me rich (and you happy)."

    May 21, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  12. Andy

    You don't know something because you have faith, you have faith because you know something, you have seen, heard or experienced something.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  13. TwentySeven

    Its all about the signs. Happiness lies within the signs that we rarely see throught the day. If you can find the sign, you will find happiness.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  14. Gail

    He who acquires the most "things" in life WINS!! Let's face it, nothing beats striving to outdo the "Joneses" to give you that rush of real joy!

    May 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  15. Gina

    Happiness comes from true relationship w/ God.If God is w/in you and have accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour happiness will just come out of you like a natural thing because you can not get angry anymore on those people who curses you and hate you because your automatic reaction is just to pray for them and you offer everything to God.All your failures,your heartaches and your disppointments once offered to God will be replaced w/ joy,victories and true happiness.You will be happy because you know that when you are a child of God you can ask anything from Him and He will give it to you as long as what you are asking for is for your own good and for the good of others.God said in His word "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everthing shall be added unto you".Including Happiness.I challenge anyone who will ever read this comment to try God and see how He will turn your life 360 degrees to the better.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      No, happiness comes from the Force. I know this to be true because I have faith that it is true and that you are wrong.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
    • G

      Do you have the same relationship with Santa? How about the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny?

      May 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • disappointed

      Michael Wong, your exact words earlier were: "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".
      Well, Michael, I guess that would eliminate all of your comments as well!

      You are a hypocrite! Every comment you have made is in some way demeaning others' beliefs and flaunting/pushing your own beliefs. You even go so far as to say Gina is "wrong!" How is she any more WRONG than you?! It is all a matter of OPINION and PERSONAL CONVICTION, and you have no right to judge others if you don't want to be judged! I respect the fact that your beliefs are different than mine, you should respect my beliefs as well.

      So why don't you just move on and stop trashing others for the same thing you are doing, but in a much more offensive way! Every comment you have made seems to ooze animosity, YOU certainly don't seem like a happy person at ALL! If you have nothing productive or enlightening to say, don't say anything at all.

      May 22, 2010 at 12:17 am |
  16. Andy

    The Force is dualistic, both good and evil. God is totally good.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      So God is smaller than the Force then. Truly, The Force is superior.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Andy

      Perhaps if the Force was real it would be larger. But how can a paradox such as dualism be true?

      May 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  17. ahuman

    I was born happy. I refusdd to be unhappy longer than need be,. So when first husband then second became mean and angry, love or not, I knew it would be toxic to my health long before researchers knew this.
    Being born happy but not being overtly bubbly happy seems to annoy angry people to death! good!

    We are often born into misery and some cannot do much to change it, but those of us in the west can by simply getting away from toxic angry people who are darn lucky to live in the west and not some hold in a groun in a refugee camp. Happiness is keeping things in perspective. So you did not get that designer shoe you wanted, but hey YOU HAVE shoes. And so your house is not that big mcmansion but you have a decent roof over your head! ANd wow, you are a bit hungry tonight but you have never gone without food for days or clean water. at least not in the US.

    Be happy all!! 🙂

    May 21, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  18. Andy

    Happiness or the ability to enjoy things is a gift God gives to those who please Him. Happiness comes from doing what we know He wants us to do.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Happiness or the ability to enjoy things is a gift from The Force to those who find their balance. Happiness comes from doing what we know is the Will of The Force. Just read the Gospel of Yoda.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  19. Dan Whittle

    i"m a former homeless man, who now works with homeless families...helping others, while still down, is vital healthy first step in healing and heading toward meaningful lives and eventual happiness...Doing "good things" makes "good things" happen...and Yes, It's a God-thing!!

    May 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
    • Gina

      You are right on track Dan Whittle.God is the Source of everything.As God blesses you,You are able to bless others also.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  20. aln

    SM, I like your comment! I saw the same thing happening everday.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:05 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.