In addition to health, most of our wishes focus primarily on happiness and satisfaction. But what makes a person happy, and why does he feel satisfied? Can we feel happy without being more or less permanently satisfied? And can you be satisfied even if we don’t feel too happy?

Striving for the things that make us happy and trying to meet the needs that lead to our satisfaction are the basic motives of human behavior. But what are both states or feelings about, and to what extent are they similar or even the same?

As for their similarity, in addition to pleasantness, it lies primarily in the fact that they are largely subjective. Therefore, what satisfies or makes one happy does not always satisfy or evoke happiness in the other.

The reason is that both of these feelings depend, at least in part, on the way we think and often on our habits, conscious and unconscious. Some of these habits can help our satisfaction and happiness, while others prevent them.

The proverb that says that the masterminds of our happiness are above all ourselves is, thus, to some extent, correct. But it’s not just that our happiness and contentment depend on how we act. Like other emotions, we can partly control our happiness and satisfaction internally, among other things, by how we perceive different circumstances. With a slight exaggeration, we can even say that the happiness and satisfaction we experience result from our decision to be happy or satisfied. The problem is that we are usually unaware of the nature of this decision.

In addition to their similarity, and often their kinship, however, happiness and satisfaction also have many different features. They differ mainly in how or on what basis they arise. Their nature is thus different despite their similar features.

What makes us happy

We feel satisfied when our needs and desires are temporarily fulfilled when we manage to achieve most of the things we need to meet our needs or desires.

The distinction between the various needs and desires we seek to satisfy is not just whether they are material or intangible. It lies primarily in the fact that our needs, contrary to our desires, are largely “objective.” They are related to our biological as well as social nature. They include the need to survive, feel safe and secure, be a member of a certain community, enjoy a certain prestige or recognition within it, etc.

On the other hand, our desires are often or most highly subjective, not only in their nature but also in their scope above. These are related to the goals that we usually set ourselves. However, our desires are usually almost as important as our more or less objective needs for our satisfaction. Achieving the satisfaction associated with fulfilling desires can be different for different people and take an unequal amount of time.

The complexity of our desires and personal goals is often mainly related to how we determine them. A higher level of personal desires is typical, especially for competitive people and those who determine their personal needs based on their comparison with others.

But if they compare to those who have amassed significant assets or gained significant positions, they may never achieve their satisfaction.

The relationship between happiness and satisfaction

Feelings of happiness, compared to satisfaction, are usually shorter. This is because fulfilling basic needs and desires usually do not change very quickly, except in extraordinary situations. On the other hand, circumstances that evoke happiness can change much faster.

However, the relationship between the two feelings undoubtedly exists. The feeling of happiness usually does not go without a certain, at least minimal satisfaction. Being happy even in a situation where most of our needs remain significantly unsatisfied is difficult and often impossible.

However, the relationship between the two feelings is not entirely clear. Therefore, our happiness does not have to be completely dependent on meeting our needs. The proof is people who can be happy even in situations where their needs are far from being met. A similar relationship works the other way around: even meeting all or most of our needs may not always make us feel really happy.

This is true even when, as a result of fulfilling most of our needs, we no longer strive to satisfy other desires. There are two reasons.

  • The first and simpler nature is that happiness, unlike satisfaction, is far more a matter of personal attitude, life beliefs, and values ​​that we consider important.
  • The second is that the psychological circumstances that evoke a feeling of happiness are largely different from those that cause feelings of satisfaction.

The importance of own values ​​and beliefs

If we are convinced that our happiness lies primarily in the extent to which we manage to satisfy all our needs, we will be very likely only after we reach this state. On the other hand, however, we may also do not succeed very well even under these circumstances.

Conversely, if we believe that a high level of fulfillment of our needs is unnecessary for our happiness, we will likely achieve a sense of happiness even if we do not satisfy all our needs. The notion that happiness results from our needs often leads to the belief that happiness is the result of wealth. Some international research into the relationship between national well-being and the happiness that nationals feel is also cited as evidence.

These researches have demonstrated the relationship between national wealth (and thus the satisfaction of basic needs) and feelings of happiness. However, they have also shown that the feeling of happiness of members of individual nations increases much more slowly than the growth of their wealth. In addition, they pointed out that the effect of wealth on feelings of happiness is rather indirect. For example, the feeling of personal independence and independence, which is often much more important for happiness in life, increases significantly with higher wealth.

Three sources of happiness

Psychological surveys of happiness have shown that three main sources contribute to it. But, unfortunately, these resources differ quite significantly from the sources of our satisfaction.

Sensory perceptions

Feelings of happiness are more emotional than satisfaction. Therefore, they are often evoked by pleasure, which brings us a certain strong and pleasant sensory experience. This group’s feelings of happiness tend to be immediate and short-lived and often very spontaneous.

Of course, this does not mean that we should not intentionally provoke them. Most of the time, however, we have to be content that the planned effort to achieve happiness is not usually the most successful.


Happiness is often the fruit of our activities, especially those that we enjoy and are good for us due to our abilities. These activities can be simple, such as physical movement, but also more complex, such as meditation, especially those with a broader social meaning. Except for the chronically dissatisfied, these are often activities that help others. In addition, the fact that we can carry out these activities with a certain degree of independence usually contributes to happiness.

Over time, we often found especially happy when we performed the activities. If we reach the goal and fulfill our needs, we feel satisfied. However, the feeling of happiness associated with the activity often disappears.

Utilization and further development of own abilities

Happiness is usually associated with a sense of self-realization, ie, the application and improvement of our abilities and other strengths that accompany us.

The application and development of skills are needs with one basic difference compared to most other needs. They can almost never be filled. In addition to the feeling of satisfaction associated with their satisfaction, they are also a source of happiness, related to the possibility of results and the development of our ability to monitor constantly.

Happiness and contentment can go hand in hand. Thus, a person whose wishes are not completely fulfilled can be happy, and even someone who does not feel completely happy can be satisfied. Feelings of happiness and satisfaction also depend on our opinions. And last but not least, whether we carry out activities that give our lives meaning. We have the opportunity to decide on our feelings of happiness and satisfaction, at least to some extent.


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