Happiness is a state of mind or feeling such as contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. A variety of philosophical, religious, psychological and biological approaches have been taken to defining happiness and identifying its sources.
Research has identified a number of correlates with happiness. These include religious involvement, parenthood, marital status, age, income and proximity to other happy people. Happiness economics suggests that measures of public happiness should be used to supplement more traditional economic measures when evaluating the success of public policy.
Michael Argyle developed The Oxford Happiness Inventory as a broad measure of psychological well being. This measures happiness as an aggregate of self esteem, sense of purpose, social interest and kindness, sense of humor and aesthetic appreciation. This has been criticized for lacking a theoretical model of happiness and because it is felt that certain aspects overlap.
There is now extensive research suggesting that religious people are happier and less stressed. Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Center and the Pew Organization conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being very happy than the least religiously committed people. An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and more reports of satisfaction with life and a sense of well being.
Explanations of happiness in mystical traditions are related to full balance of so called inner energy lines. In a balanced state, two main lines (left & right, Ida & Pingala) form a third line, called Shushumna. Full activity of a third or central line is happiness. Left and right lines include all aspects of normal human life: sleep and awake, body and mind, physical and spiritual. To attain the balanced state of these two lines is a main task of life, a result of all activities and endeavours combined with full relaxation or tranquility.
Happiness forms a central theme of Buddhist teachings. Ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. More mundane forms of happiness, such as acquiring wealth and maintaining good friendships, are also recognized as worthy goals for lay people. Buddhism also encourages the generation of loving kindness and compassion, and the desire for the happiness and welfare of all beings.