I am just as prone to over-complicate than to over-simplify things. I'll be doing a lot of that here.
What is it? Surely we can all think of times where we felt happy. Things that happened to us that brought on a sense of elation. Like when the Lakers close out the Suns in the near future, I'll surely be happy then. But I enjoy that feeling that can last for a few days, when nothing can really touch you. Things just happen naturally.
The high isn't quite as epic as the game winning shot going down, but it's a warmth or glow that lingers with you.
Ignorance is bliss
This phrase was penned by Thomas Gray in Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
No more; where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.
A study determined that those that watched the local news regularly were twice as likely to be depressed as those that did not... we can all pretty much relate. I can think of many times when I asked a girl what was wrong and when I (finally) heard what the problem was, that new information often didn't lead to anything awesome.
There are plenty of reasons to be happy and plenty of reasons that can bring you down:
Pro -------------- Con
Alive ------------- Work too much
Healthy ---------- Stress
Great friends ----- Not enough time
So, if you took a pragmatic approach, you could do a valuation and stack things up against one another and see if things measure up for you to feel happy. But it's not a one to one ratio. We always take the things that we have for granted. It's never intentional, but it's impossible to fully appreciate things that become a normal component in your life. Today any one of my tires could have blown out, but none did. I didn't thank them for their job today or think about them at all... but when they fail me I will be thinking of them plenty.
I think we're trained to obsess over the cons and we naturally give them more weight.
Groomed to be problem solvers, we are.
Diagnose what is wrong and fix it. Yet some things can't easily be fixed but we notice the faults just the same. And that item can remain on the lists for years.
And I think that's where education can fail us. Trying to find the reason why.
"Why do I feel happy right now? Do I deserve to feel this way right now?"
Some things just are. And some things are just a choice. One may have every reason to be sad, their balance sheet of events suggest that they should be miserable, is it not okay for them to simply choose to be happy?
And now to simplify....
Maybe instead of just an emotion, perhaps happiness is a state of mind, like "determined" or "focused." A decision that we can make at any point, it's just that sometimes it's easier to make it happen than at other times.