Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Opinion Editorials

A historical look at how the definition of the word “happy” has changed

Fascinating! The word “happy” has shifted in America over time, but our quest for it has never ended. Let us discuss our past, present, and future happiness.



What was Jefferson talking about!?

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Have you ever wondered what Jefferson was really talking about when he spoke of happiness?

Historically, dating back to ancient Greece, happiness was thought of an external force, more like “good fortune.” It was something that a person had no control over. It’s not really clear when the definition of happiness changed toward the idea of it being an internal idea.

As with any word that adapts, it’s hard to pinpoint when the usage changed, but some historians suggest it was during the Age of Enlightenment. This is when religion shifted from an attitude of “How can I be saved?” to “How can I be happy?”

We’re all searching for happiness

The Declaration of Independence gave way to the pursuit of happiness. America became known as the land of opportunity. Many people associate happiness with the accumulation of wealth or other tangible item, maybe a degree or an expensive car. Although happiness is an internal feeling, the search for it becomes external.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

I don’t think you can buy happiness. In fact, trying to find happiness in this fashion could actually be detrimental. When you focus on trying to find this feeling, you aren’t able to focus on what you do have. What happens when you get that thing that you went after? So you bought a new car. Are you satisfied? Maybe for a little while, but what do you do when that feeling wears off? You go after the next thing. And so on. It becomes an addiction that you have to feed.

So where can happiness be found?

Happiness shouldn’t rely on external factors. It has to come from within yourself. I think happiness is a contentment with your life. It’s found in the relationships your build with others. Sure, there’s a time to seek after external things.

But you need to focus on what is in your life. Instead of working 60 hours a week, make time to relax and enjoy life where you’re at. Happiness will find you.


Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



Tech News

Mental health is part of overall physical health, however, it is not prioritized in our healthcare system. This app looks to change that.

Business News

With the US economy crippling under the pandemic, many people are left with no direction, suffering with severe stress.

Business News

Maybe this won't come as a surprise, but the statistics sure are telling- having depression and social media usage are linked.

Business News

(EDITORIAL) Working with, or around, people who seem to always be carrying stress can be detrimental to your health and theirs, here's how to...

The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.