Every human being need happiness. Really happiness is very important to us, both as individuals and as a world, primarily because happiness is really all there is. As human beings, although we possess cognitive abilities and are highly "thought" oriented, the quality of our lives is ultimately entirely determined by our emotions. For example, which life would you rather have; that of a very rich, attractive, successful, healthy, powerful person who despite all of those blessings is very unhappy or that of a very poor, unattractive, unsuccessful, unhealthy and powerless person who is nevertheless fortunate enough to be very happy?
Considering happiness within the framework of good and evil, or right and wrong, we find that what is evil or wrong is only undesirable because it diminishes the happiness of an individual or group, and that what is good and right is only so because it increases the happiness of and individual or group. In fact, British philosopher John Locke accurately defines goodness as that which creates happiness, and evil as that which creates unhappiness.
Happiness, which includes the pleasant emotions and moods that comprise it, is really the only aspect of our lives with any ULTIMATE value. Aristotle described it as "the highest good." Of what value is ANY good except that it facilitates the happiness, or greater happiness, of human beings and other life on our Planet? For the religious among us this would, of course, also include the happiness of God.
Of what value is ANYTHING except for its utility in facilitating happiness? A careful reflection reveals that the ONLY reason we do anything in life is to maintain or enhance our happiness and/or the happiness of others. Freud, with his Pleasure Principle, and other psychologists with similar hedonic principles, explained our basic and strongest motivation in life as the drive to experience pleasure and to avoid pain. Of course, as Freud pointed out with his Reality Principle, we would be unwise to indiscriminately seek pleasure at the expense of reason and experience. Many temporal pleasures will ultimately bring individuals, and/or those around them, greater pain. However, at times, enduring pain is a wise or necessary way to ensure greater pleasure and happiness.
Many of us are very concerned with ethics, knowledge, beauty, love, health, productivity, peace, justice and prosperity, often forgetting that these blessings are simply and ultimately means of facilitating happiness. Nevertheless, over the last several millennia we have been culturally conditioned to prize these blessing and work very hard to maintain and enhance them. The fact that as a world our happiness level is under 65 percent, however, suggests that our conventional strategies for achieving happiness are hardly effective.
Recent studies are revealing an important reason why happiness is so important to us all. A growing body of research is demonstrating that as we become happier, we become better people. As we become happier we become more compassionate, more creative, more energetic, more financially successful, more emotionally and physically healthy, etc. Thus for those of us who are more concerned with creating a "better" world than a happier world, becoming much happier and helping others become much happier may prove a very effective means to this end. Imagine for a moment the reduction in incidents of crime in the United States if we as a country were to raise of national average happiness level from its present marginal 69 percent to 85 percent or higher.
We share our lives with loved ones like our spouse, parents, children, and friends. Why is happiness so important? What better gift can we give a loved one than to help them become happy, remain happy, or become happier? What better gift than happiness could we receive from our loved ones? It is important to understand this essential point so that we and our loved ones do not become separated or distracted from our happiness. As parents, for example, it is wise to teach our children to be good for their sake and for the sake of others. If, however, we neglect to teach our children how to be very happy, we are depriving them of their greatest need and desire.
Happiness is not only important to our personal and societal lives, it is important to our global community. Unhappiness breeds wars and terrorism. Countries who unjustly attack other countries are doing so because they are not happy with certain international realities. Terrorists who attack individuals and populations are deeply dissatisfied with various social, political, religious and/or economic realities. Very happy countries would not wage unjust wars. Very happy individuals would not commit acts of terror.
Why is happiness so important? As individuals and as societies, happiness is both our highest goal and an extremely effective means of achieving many of our other cherished goals. Both as individuals and as a planet, happiness is our ultimate reason for living. Happiness is really all there is and all there ever will be; all else is only a means to happiness.