The Five Levels Of Happiness

Sometimes, it’s worth admitting that happiness is not as easy as saying “either I’m happy, or I’m not.” Like most other things, there are shades of happiness and sadness that one might go through. While there’s no end to the number of different levels that one can break down happiness into, for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to just five. Here’s how they unfold.

Being Happy

This is the level of happiness where you feel good, content, glad, joyful, blissful, cheerful or whatever the feeling of happiness means to you. The reason why you feel this way is immaterial. What’s more important is that you’re feeling the emotion of happiness.

Being Sad

While I would still call this a level on the happiness scale, what it really signifies is a lack of it. It’s important to realize here, that not only are you not feeling happy, you are feeling down, gloomy, depressed, wretched, miserable or whatever the feeling of sadness means to you. Once again, the reason why you feel this way is immaterial. What matters is that you’re feeling the emotion of sadness.

Being Neutral

This is an interesting level on the happiness scale. Here, you are not feeling happy but you are not feeling sad either. You’re not glad but nor are you gloomy. A lot of us go through such states almost unnoticed. A regular and insignificant day in some people’s lives could feel like this. You wake up in the morning, you get ready, get to work, nothing good or bad happens in office. Then you get back home, it’s a regular evening even at home and nothing that you consider good or bad happens at home either and you get to bed. So, were you happy? No. Were you sad? No. You were feeling neutral.

Being Sad About Being Sad

At this level on the happiness scale, you are not just feeling sad but feeling sad about your sadness. These are times when someone is experiencing sadness and perhaps telling themselves, “why me?”, “why does this have to happen to me always”, or “this sadness will never go away”, etc. The point is that there is pondering and rumination about the sadness that in turn makes the person feel even sadder. This is a meta state and actually is a few notches below just feeling sad.

Being Happy About Being Happy

At this level on the happiness scale, you are not just feeling happy but feeling happy about your happiness. This is when you’re experiencing happiness and that happiness is bolstered and boosted up by thoughts like, “wow! I feel so good”, “this good feeling is really awesome”, “I’m so fortunate to feel so happy”, etc. Eventually, all these positive thoughts about you happiness actually make you feel even happier than you already are. This again is a meta state of happiness and is a cut above even the state of merely being happy.

If you visualize this as different levels, from low to high, at the lowest level would be, “Being Sad About Being Sad”. Just about that level would be, “Being Sad”. This would be followed by “Being Neutral” which is just above and bang in the middle. One level above being neutral is “Being Happy”. Finally, the level that tops all the others is “Being Happy About Being Happy”. If there is one thing that I want to convey through the description of the levels of happiness, it’s this. It’s alright to feel neutral or even to feel sad. When that happens, feel the emotions that you’re going through and carry on with your life. Do what you need to do. This will keep you from spirally downward into mild or deeper states of sadness. If you really want to contemplate and ponder, do that with the happy states that you go through and the positive emotions that you experience. That’s something that will make your happiness sprout and blossom.



The Magic Of Not Trying Too Hard

The underlying premise of this article comes from the concept of Paradoxical Intention. It’s something that was originally coined and conceptualized by Dr. Viktor Frankl, more popularly known for his ground breaking book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Dr. Frankl saw Paradoxical Intention as something that could be used for therapy and cure of various kinds of phobias and anxiety disorders.

Paradoxical Intention means deliberately and consciously thinking of and exposing yourself to the exact thing that you’re afraid of or trying to avoid. For example, if you are someone who stammers while speaking, you deliberately try to stammer as much as you possibly can. That takes away the pressure on you to not stammer and you end up stammering a lot less than you would otherwise have.

This has several applications in life and since most of the work that I do is related to the applications of psychology, here are a few.

  • Insomnia

If you’re a person who struggles to fall asleep at night, just the thought and the anxieties of not being able to fall asleep could keep you awake. Try this instead. Try to just stay awake. When you do this, it reduces the anxiety of not being able to sleep. Because now, you’re not trying to sleep anyway. This automatically kick starts a process of relaxation that helps you fall asleep a lot more easily.

  • Performance Anxiety

Whether it is on stage, during an exam or in front of an authority figure. When you have to perform, you are trying to do your best and give it your every ounce. As a result you end up becoming nervous about your performance and end up doing the opposite. That is underperforming or not being able to give your best performance. The next time you have performance anxiety, try this. If you have to talk in front of an audience and are afraid that you might goof up. Then get on stage with the intention of goofing up and making people laugh through your mistakes. This will reduce the stress on you to perform and will calm you down enough to speak fluently and comfortably on stage.

  • Fear Of Failure

I meet a lot of people in my coaching sessions who have a very high fear of failure. The fear of failing in a new job, in a new country, in a business or even in a new area of life. What this does is that it makes you avoid that situation. For example, a guy who is afraid of starting a new job in another organization might avoid that situation by sticking on to the same job. In the long run, this causes him to land up in the exact situation that he was trying to avoid. He ends up failing because he kept sticking on to a job that he didn’t fit into but was afraid to shift out of. If you have a fear of failure, then try to enjoy failing. Tell yourself, “I’m going to fail at something every single day. I’m going to practice failing and I’m going to enjoy failing.” This will push you to try new things without the fear of failure and in the process; you’ll be surprised how many things you actually end up being successful at.

To sum all this up in a couple of sentences, do the exact thing that you think will happen to you when you are out of control. Get yourself to purposely magnify and demonstrate the very symptoms that you’re trying to avoid. Dive into more of those scary and outrageous outcomes that you’ve been trying to avoid all along and you’ll trivialize them in your own head. This will eventually produce more of the results that you want in life.


Article in the Mindscape Section of the November 2018 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran.

To know more about Vinesh and his work visit