Seeking Happiness

Many of us want to feel better. This is often the reason people seek therapy.

Psychologists are finally beginning to study and do research on the experience of happiness. Happiness is defined as a feeling of “subjective well-being”, meaning that only we can decide if we are happy or not and that it will change from person to person. Most people would include in their definition of happiness being able to experience a number of positive emotions like joy, affection, contentment, hope, and gratitude. Is it possible to be too happy?

Yes it does seem that it is not good to be too happy. When the happiness scores of thousands of people from 1 to 10 were tabulated and followed over time, those who rated themselves about an 8 on the scale had better life outcomes that those who said they we 10 on the happiness scale. Chronic euphoria is not the best outcome. Negative emotions do serve a real purpose in life, especially in moderate doses. Occasional guilt,worry, anger and sadness are necessary to help us know what we need to change to improve our lives. Without them, the people in the studies seem to drift.

Another important aspect of happiness is a measure called life satisfaction. For most of us, life satisfaction depends on doing well in areas that are important to us….relationships, health, work, leisure, spirituality and income. We are operating in sync with our values and our goals. There is another factor in happiness that is called “flourishing”. This is the assessment that our lives have meaning and purpose, that we are good people, that we get the social support we need , that our everyday lives are interesting and that we have an absence of addictions.

The formula developed by Dr. Ed Diener, one of the foremost happiness researchers in psychology is as follow: Happiness = positive feelings minus negative feelings + life satisfaction + flourishing. If you are interested in learning more about the research on happiness, you may want to read Dr. Diener’s book, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.