Happiness is a positive emotion and one most of us seek to experience more often, and is used to shape many of our less important daily choices as well as help us with our bigger lifelong choices. Ekman & Friesen (2003) distinguishes happiness into four main states: pleasure, excitement, relief, and lastly self-concept (Ekman & Friesen, 2003). Pleasure involves positive physical sensations, with the opposite being pain. Tony Robbins, a self-help author and motivational speaker, speaks a lot about the push / pull between pain and pleasure. If we want to change a habit (that we no longer wish to have), then all we need do is attach more pain than pleasure to that habit.
Excitement occurs when something provokes your interest, with the opposite being boredom. You become more present while excited, whereas your attention is difficult to hold while bored. It is also possible to be excited and yet not happy, as it can also blend with fear (in a state of terror) or anger (in a state of rage) and other emotion combinations.
Relief occurs when something that was “not good” stops, such as when pain ceases (pain relief starts to work or an injury heals), hunger (eating creates relief), thirst (drinking), negative emotions (e.g. no longer afraid or sad), and in some cases – happiness-relief is present after a long wait. Happiness in the form of relief can also come from personally completing something that stops the cause of negative emotions.
The form of self-concept happiness occurs when something happens that boosts your self image, such as receiving a compliment, acknowledgement, having an anniversary remembered, basically anything that has you feeling good about yourself.
Playing many sports would include all of the happiness states, as would most sexual encounters. Also watching a good comedy could trigger excitement, relief and perhaps even improve ones self esteem. Matsumoto & Hwang sum up Larazus’s (1991) triggers for happiness as “goal attainment or accomplishment”, and the function of happiness being to motivate future actions (Matsumoto & Hwang, 2012).
Read more about emotions in True Lies.