Why Wanting to Be Happy Isn't a Selfish GoalNone By Lesley Lyle
While we often presume that everyone wants to be happy, in some cultures and religions, being happy is regarded as a self-indulgent or selfish aim—and the happiness of others is considered more important. In such circumstances, people may tend to feel guilty about paying attention to their personal happiness, especially if others seem less happy than they are.
What Is "Selfishness," Anyway?
The Oxford dictionary describes selfishness as "the quality or state of being selfish; lack of consideration for other people." This suggests that selfish people are mainly concerned with their own personal gain and pleasure. Yet the science of happiness shows that these characteristics are not generally associated with happy people at all.
The science shows that happiness spreads in the same way a virus does. Longitudinal analysis of data from the Framingham Heart Study has shown that our happiness is affected by those we are socially connected to. In this study, happiness spread from one individual to their friends by up to three degrees of separation. In other words, it influenced the happiness of the person's friend, their friend’s friends, and their friend's friends' friends. The researchers concluded that our happiness is largely influenced by the happiness of those we socialize with. We can become happier simply by spending time with happy people, and spread happiness by being a happy person.
Happy People Are Generous
Other research suggests that far from being selfish, happy people are more likely to be generous and kind. One study concluded that happy people were more likely to donate to charity, and another by Isen & Levin found that after experiencing positive events, participants were more likely to