There is no such thing as a perfect life without any problems. In a struggle-free state of well-being, the body would weaken and the mind would dull. Those who enjoy life to its fullest are the ones who can make the best out of everything they have and not the ones who have the best of all.
The most subjective emotional experience of human life is happiness. The common core experiences of happiness are: well-being, joy, satisfaction, and understanding that life has a meaning. We can move forward with our lives against all obstacles and struggles. Successful coping provides us with a liberating sense of joy. This emotion is born out of an achievement we dedicated our time, strength and skills to. The things we get without any personal investments will never be a part of our soul, will never play an important role in our lives.
Why did psychology start researching happiness?
The research on depression and psychosomatic stress diseases (affecting most people) induced the need to find the factors which strengthen, heal and sustain human life, in other words the factors of happiness.
There are two forces that justify the question.
One originates from the globalisation process of the consumer society.
People focus on the most powerful force: money and the goods it can buy, and so the ‘stuff-industry’ (a term coined by Laszlo Vegh, an atom physicist, in 2002) took over humanistic values, vital relationships, health and everything else that make a person happy. Outer values like material goods are fallible, they do not make experiencing safety possible. The person who defines himself and his place in the world through the power of material goods is building his identity on a sandcastle. He can be terrified because if he loses his goods he becomes nothing. (Paul Sartre) The economical crash some years ago clearly showed that.
The urge of making money consumes health and human relationships, rivalry weakens trust. Everything is downgraded to purchasable, even emotional relationships are ruled by the principle of materialism. This type of culture develops rush (there is no time for anything), increases harmful stress, decreases the possibility of emotional refill, spreads numerous bodily and emotional problems, destroys relationships and can be characterised by disease and above all with the lack of a vision and a lack of meaning in life.
The other factor justifying the research of happiness was born out of the ‘research on the quality of life’ in positive psychology field of emotional health
Positive psychology has its roots in humanistic psychology. Maslow had the healthy person in the centre of his scientific studies. Man means the whole man, he never equals the sum of his analysed parts. He created the consecutive model of specifically human needs according to which self-realisation tops basic vital needs, security, love and respect. Man can become everything because he has infinite potential. The only condition is for his environment to recognise his self-realisation and support it with nurturing love, acceptance, tending to a real relationship and a sympathetic, understanding presence.
It is vital for a person to be accepted. He does not wish for advice but instead to be listened to and be understood. He is not cured by medicine but by the healer who can become ‘medicine’ for him. (Carl Rogers)
Positive psychology concentrates on everything that is a positive force in a person, features he still or already possesses, that can be developed and evolved. With regard to disease, the question is: how can it be possible that among the same harmful circumstances and effects one person falls apart, yet the other one does not even suffer? What keeps the other person on his feet? If we find the answer to that, then we can all learn to take care of the good quality of our lives. That is called health consciousness.
Circumstances determine happiness by only 10%
In the happiness psychology research centre at the University of California Sonja Lyubomirski and Sheldon created the integrative theory of happiness. According to their studies, happiness is comprised of 50% genetics, (‘good genes’), 10% environmental circumstances but the remaining 40% is a possibility for every person to take care of his own happiness.
Consequently happiness is greatly defined by genetics. One can assume then it is fatally determined, but this is not the case. Genes carry potential that can be awakened or put to sleep.
Happy people are also more successful
There was a study in which the achievements of university students and their level of happiness was followed for 20 years. One group of students believed money brings happiness – 20 years after graduation these people were unhappier than those who thought human relationships represent a greater value than money. Surprisingly the happy graduates have achieved more in their career and personal lives than their worried, unhappy peers.
Science promises help for us to feel much better emotionally and socially. It is completely our decision whether we learn to apply this knowledge in order to improve the quality of our lives and human relationships.