Happiness is probably one of the most difficult emotions to define and grasp. Its interpretation varies from culture to culture, era to era, and nation to nation. Supposedly a lot of people do not even understand why the word happiness needs to be defined, since we all know what it feels like to be happy, and we often use the word as an umbrella term to describe feelings such as: joy, pride, satisfaction, and gratitude. However, in order to understand the causes and effects of happiness researchers have to define the word itself somehow.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a prominent figure of positive psychology, defines happiness in her book titled The How of Happiness the following way: “I use the term happiness to refer to the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.” The concept of positive well-being, of course, includes the bio-psycho-socio balance, that is, our general mental and physical health.
Are happy people selfish?
Besides the fact that being happy is a considerably pleasurable state, Lyubomirsky surveyed 225 studies together with several of her fellow researches and they found the following:
- happy people earn more money and are more creative in their jobs,
- are better partners in negotiations and are better leaders,
- are more likely to get married,
- if they live in a marriage, married life is more joyous for them,
- have far more friends,
- are fond of people,
- have a better strategy for fighting stress or traumas,
- are much more flexible,
- have a stronger immune system,
- live longer.
Mindezek a tulajdonságok pedig bizonyítják (számos ember vélekedése ellenére), hogy a boldog emberek sokkal önzetlenebbek, mint hinnénk.
All these traits prove (despite many people’s opinion) that happy people are much more unselfish than we would think.
During her researches Lyubomirsky has come to the following conclusion: the feeling of happiness is determined by our genes in 50%, by our living circumstances in 10%, but the remaining 40% is determined by our everyday activities.
The internet page Greater Good in Action (a page at Berkeley University, CA with a scientific background dealing with happiness enhancing methods) advises to do the following scientifically backed techniques to practice happiness:
- Recall the moment you felt great happiness
- Imagine the best possible course for your life and write notes to yourself about this imaginary life in details
- Imagine that your relationships are working in the best possible way
- Imagine your life without all those positive things that are part of your life at the moment
- Write about things that have a great influence on your life
However, this begs the question whether happiness can be measured in the case of individuals, and if yes, on what basis? Read on, because we have the answer.
Customized tests of happiness
In this section we provide you with some scientifically supported questionnaires based on which we can measure the level of our happiness.
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s test, the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS)
Instructions on how to score the test can be found here >>
Another, 5-item short test may also be useful. This SWLS test has been designed to measure the global cognitive judgment of satisfaction in one’s own life.
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) by Ed Diener, current researcher of positive psychology, professor at the University of Illinois
The score: 31-35 Extremely satisfied, 26-30 Satisfied, 21-25 Slightly satisfied, 20 Neutral, 15-19 Slightly dissatisfied, 10-14 Dissatisfied, 5- 9 Extremely dissatisfied
To get a deeper understanding of the score we recommend studying this page here >>
Another test is the Hungarian version of the 5-item WHO Well-Being Questionnaire compiled by Éva Susánszky, Barna Thege Konkoly, Adrienne Stauder, and Mária Kopp, validated in 2006
After you have finished measuring your own level of happiness, the researchers of positive psychology can provide you with further ideas on how to increase your actual level of happiness: build relationships; be grateful for the things happening to you and everything you possess; be kind to others (it is a proven fact that acts of kindness beneficially affect the happiness center in the brain); do not be resentful; do some sports; rest ; be watchful (be conscious of your actions, what is happening inside and outside of you from moment to moment); and do not focus on material richness.
Keep up the good work! The World a Better With You!