Feb 052010
 

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 6

Satisfaction with Life Scale

Are most people happy?

A large majority of people in the United States report themselves as being happy. This result is common to most populations around the world. Oddly, most people see themselves as happier than others especially the popular, powerful and educated.

Why be happy?

Happy people are healthier, live longer, work more productively and have higher incomes, are more tolerant, more creative, and make decisions more easily, select challenging goals, are more persistent, have greater empathy, more friends, and better marriages. Much of this reflects an improved ability to function in social situations. But

“There is no duty we sell underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Who is happy?

Men and women report roughly equal levels of happiness and satisfaction. The same equality holds true across the age spectrum. Factors including formal education, IQ, and race also fail to affect happiness. Married people report more happiness than single who, in turn report more happiness than divorced or separated. Spiritual practice tends to increase happiness and tend to experience fewer negative life circumstances. It seems important that basic needs be met, but material abundance above those basic needs does not increase happiness.

“The happiest people all seem to have good friends.” Psychologist Ed Diener

The happiest people tend to be highly social, and spend the most time in the company of others. They tend to be extroverts and have the desire and ability to build strong social relationships. In one study, conscientiousness, with goal setting, personal control, and purposeful achievement, strongly correlated with life satisfaction. Happy people tend to experience high intrinsic self-esteem; they’re optimistic about themselves and their circumstances.

Pursuing Happiness
  • Do not interpret material achievement as happiness and success in life.
  • Compare yourself, and set your expectations, relative to those who have less.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and review it to remember the things you appreciate.
  • Discover the activities that allow you to experience a sense of flow and learn to reproduce those circumstances.
  • Commit to your goals, finish what you start, and experience your effort with quiet mindfulness.
  • Have and enjoy the hobby. Prefer engagement with life too sedentary activities.
  • Build and maintain satisfying family and social relationships.
  • Volunteer your attention, creativity, and efforts in service to others.
  • Sustain a satisfying spiritual practice that builds hope.

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