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Greg Johnston
UWRT 1103
Mrs. Knudson
October 9, 2015

Cultural Myths of Happiness


Society today makes happiness seem like an unachievable state of life, but is it really?
Dictionary.com defines happiness as the state of being happy, or good fortune; pleasure;
contentment; joy. To be happy I believe that you have to accept the life you live and learn to love
every part of it (Happiness). Theres always going to be a nicer car, a nicer house, a better job,
and more money to be had, but no matter what stage in life you are there will always be
something more to be had. Happiness means something different to everyone, but is not just
based purely off of material things, but also love, family, and life itself. In order to get past
societys standards of happiness you first need to establish what happiness means to you. For me,
at this point in my life, my personal happiness lies in the aspects of friends, family and love. I
have learned that in the end material things are meaningless, life experiences of emotion and
feeling last a lifetime. Unfortunately, not everyone tends to think in a non-materialistic way.
In the eyes of American society, the level of ones happiness can be measured by the
material and tangible aspects of ones life. In today's society many people define happiness in
physical terms. Happiness by many is measured by the amount of money they have, their social
status, or the type of job they hold. (Scott) Unfortunately for many people this statement is true,

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they believe the material things in life to be the very basis of happiness. A very popular notion of
todays society is that money can buy happiness. As a young child I believed in this notion, I
thought if I had more money I could have more toys and with more toys I would be happier. One
Christmas my mother asked me if I wanted toys for Christmas or if I wanted to go to the beach. I
had never been to the beach so I inherently said I want to go to the beach! After our Christmas
beach trip I began to realize that I didnt need toys to be happy. I was having an epiphany as a
child that happiness isnt always about what you have but what youve done and the memories
you make. In a Wall Street Journal article, it is said that in conducted studies over the last
decade it was found that more long lasting happiness comes from life experiences, but even
though this was found to be the case more people spend their time and money on material things.
(Blackman) I believe this to be true because, although life experiences have more of an effect on
long-term happiness, material items seem to have a quicker positive effect on happiness even
though it may not last. So, money can buy material items that pack a short punch in the
happiness department and life experiences provide slow but continuous happiness. An example
of short lived happiness would be buying a new IPhone. Day one and you are absolutely in love
with your new iPhone, but by day three hundred and sixty five and there is a new iPhone coming
out. All of a sudden this iPhone you bought a year ago couldnt mean less to you, because there
is something bigger and better out there. I myself have fallen victim to the scam that is IPhone
but temporary happiness is what money can buy. Yes, it is still happiness but in the long run
when youre eighty and dying, what is going to make you smile the memory of an old iPhone or
the memory of your family, friends, and experiences you had with them? Granted the IPhone

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may be a source of memories in the form of pictures, videos or even conversations but without
life experiences and human interaction there wouldnt be a source of happiness for the tangible
pictures and videos to resonate from.
Another facet of what society thinks is needed to be happy is social status. In class we
have discussed social status and in fact I was discussion leader. The article I read was titled The
Mobility Myth, in this article I read about the socioeconomics of the United States and how
social mobility has not changed since the 1950s. Social mobility is the movement of citizens
between social classes in a given society. Social mobility is different for each society, but for
every society the desire to climb the social ladder is the same. Everyone wants to be in a better
position tomorrow than they were today. An example of this would be my father, my father
started his career as a middle school science teacher. My father has always been the kind of
person that always tries to make things better for others around him as well as himself. With this
progressive attribute he has been rewarded he is now the principal of one of the largest high
schools in my county. He wanted things to be better for his family, so he became better but has
not changed as a person and I am proud of him because of that. The reason I believe social status
is such a big part of societys view of happiness is that people desire the material items, the
affluence, and respect that people of high social status receive. As I read in the article I
previously referred to, many people are not climbing the social ladder and are staying in the
social classes that they were born into. Although this is the case many still achieve happiness
some way in their lives. Why is this? As I stated before I believe happiness not to be based
purely of off material, worldly things but things like emotions such as love, joy, being content.

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The mental definition of happiness can vary greatly between being in love to being
spiritually at peace it all matters on the individual. (Wellington) Mentally everyone thinks
differently and different things are important to different people. For some people money is the
only thing that they can mentally desire, so for them money is happiness. For most other people
mental happiness is much more complex. Mental happiness can be many different types of
feelings such as the feeling of love, security, or friendship. (Scott)
Love in relation to happiness is very hard to explain. In the early 90s there was even a
song titled What is love. So, in trying to explain how love relates to happiness I will not be
using clinical definitions, but I will base it of off how I feel it relates. To me that seems more
effective than using scientific definitions to describe something that cannot be scientifically
explained. I believe love relates to happiness because the idea of loving someone or even being
love in return makes me happy and I feel this is the same for all humans because it is an
exhilarating feeling. I know the feeling of love well, whether it be from my family or from a
significant other, the feeling is always euphoric. Also loving ones life should bring them
happiness, it would bring me happiness. In a song by JCole called Love Yourz, he sings No
such thing as a life thats better than yours and But you aint never gon be happy till you love
yours. (Cole) With that said I believe you have to love your life before you can be truly happy
and content with it. That is how I believe love relates to happiness.
Expanding on the idea that friendship and security are vital to someones happiness;
having friendship gives a person someone to talk to and in return will bring them happiness.
True friends express authentic emotions to each other without fear. They understand that friends

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must be able to trust each other when they are most vulnerable. There is trust, honesty, empathy,
and an exchange of material and social gifts. (Kraus) Some of my best friends are the ones that I
can tell anything to and they will always be there with a positive response. Sometimes I feel as if
my closest friends know me better than I know myself. Security can be looked at as job security
or security as in safety. Having job security enables someone to be able to not stress about things
that maybe someone without job security may have. Without stress it is easier for one to be
happy. Feeling safe where you are maybe physically, emotionally or even mentally give someone
an edge on happiness than someone who does not feel safe where they are. Feeling safe give
someone no reason to worry if they will wake up tomorrow or if someone may hurt them again.
In conclusion, despite all the cultural myths about happiness, such as money can buy
happiness, or being in a certain social class, or having a dream job of sorts; it is still possible to
achieve happiness for everyday people. All one needs to do is love their life as it is, surround
themselves with people that love them, keep family close and love them, and do all that they can
to feel safe in every facet possible.
Works Cited
Blackman, Andrew. "Can Money Buy You Happiness?" WSJ. 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Cole, J. Love Yourz. Song. 10 Oct.2015
Happiness. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Kraus, Micheal. "The Happiness Chronicles III: Does Status Increase Happiness?" Psychology
Today. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.

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Martin, Scott. "Definition of Happiness - Scott Martin." Definition of Happiness - Scott Martin.
Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Wellington, Tony. "Happy? Exposing the Cultural Myths about Happiness." Smashwords a
Book by Tony Wellington. 18 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.