If you were asked, “What do you want out of life?” What would your response be? You may wish to be successful, earn a lot of money, possess a huge house or a big automobile, or enjoy your life. The ultimate goal in all of this is to find contentment, feel good, and find meaning and purpose in your life. If we ask these questions for Happiness based on gender, socioeconomic condition, and education, the response would be different.
Concept of happiness
Martin Seligman has discussed three types of life to represent different dimensions of happiness. The first one is, a pleasant life, which can be described as obtaining joys in life, that is meeting the needs of the individual. For example, you might have enjoyed a dinner at a restaurant or had a good time with a friend at a party. All of these are related to the subjective well-being (subjective assessment of one’s own life) of a person. Seligman named this positive life aspect as hedonic happiness, which focuses on individual happiness involving pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.
The second one is a good life, in which you use your strengths and skills to feel capable and confident. For example, studying music, excelling at athletics, pursuing a hobby such as dancing or swimming, and so on. This makes you feel good about yourself.
Finally, a meaningful life is provided when you go beyond this and use your unique abilities to help others. Seligman referred to this aspect of life’s meaning as eudaimonic happiness, which entails making use of one’s strengths, abilities, talents, values, and skills which are related to a person’s psychological well-being. A meaningful life, which provides a deeper sense of fulfilment and achieving a flourishing state of well-being is the only way to achieve long-term happiness.
Seligman’s PERMA model of happiness
PERMA model of happiness consists of five dimensions that play a role in enhancing our well-being.
- Positive Emotions: Positive emotions are those activities and experiences that cause us to feel joy, happiness, pride, contentment, love, compassion, and gratitude.
- Engagement: Being involved in an activity to such an extent that it creates a sense of flow in the individual is referred to as engagement. It entails making use of our values, strengths, and talents, such as when we are completely focused on solving a puzzle or playing video games.
- Relationships: It refers to instilling positive relationships characterized by positive emotions, love, acceptance, and so on that contribute to our social well-being. Relationships occupy a significant portion of our lives, involving our family, partners, friends, colleagues, and so on, and they play an important role in enhancing our well-being.
- Meaning: finding a purpose in our lives that allows us to see our ‘signature strengths’ to contribute is what meaning entails. It creates a sense of meaning in our lives and improves our well-being, for example, by contributing our skills in our profession, creative pursuits, religious activities etc. All these provide a self-actualisation in people.
- Accomplishments: It includes all four accomplishments that boost our positive emotions, self-esteem, sense of competence, mastery, and so on. All of this contributes to our overall mental health.
Factors affecting happiness
Money provides us with all of our material comforts, and it is believed that people with low financial status struggle to meet their needs, and thus are less happy and more stressed by life’s challenges. However, research shows that happiness based on money is short-lived and that there are other factors (mostly psychological factors) that determine our happiness.
Those who are married are thought to be happier than those who are not married or who are divorced/separated (Myers, 2000). Can we conclude that marriage makes people happy? According to studies, married people were already happier before they married. As a result, the quality of the marital relationship is more important in contributing to marital happiness.
Happiness varies across the lifespan, according to the findings. Adolescence is commonly regarded as the most difficult stage, marked by ‘storm and stress’ as physiological and psychological changes happen. Adult life is filled with many responsibilities such as earning money, raising a family, raising children, maintaining order and so on. However, contrary to popular belief, research indicates that there is a general stability of subjective well-being across the life span, which means that the level of happiness remains more or less consistent across the ages.
What are your thoughts on whether men or women are happier? According to studies, men and women experience roughly the same level of happiness. However, there are gender differences in their emotional lives, including how emotions are expressed and experienced. However, findings indicate that demographic variables and life circumstances have a much weaker relationship to happiness. This is known as the well-being of paradox.
When discussing individual well-being, culture is an essential factor to consider. Furthermore, research has shown that people from individualistic and collectivistic cultures have different subjective well-being. Indian culture is a collectivistic culture where happiness is defined more by self-realization, compassion for others, and altruism, whereas happiness in Western culture is defined by individual pursuits, achievements, autonomy and independence.
Benefits of Happiness
According to researchers, there are physiological as well as psychological benefits that happiness brings to people. Some of them are as follows:
- Happiness protects your heart (there are findings of happiness predicting lower heart rate and blood pressure).
- strengthens our immune system.
- combats our stress levels.
- provides us with fewer aches and pains.
- combats diseases and disabilities in people.
- enhances our productivity.
- improve our relationships with others.
- promote better healthy behaviours such as exercise.
- indicate greater longevity in people.
How to enhance happiness and well-being?
Well, we have learnt about the components, factors, models, and benefits of happiness. Now, let us see how could we enhance happiness in our lives. Constructs related to positive psychology such as gratitude, kindness, resilience, hope, optimism, mindfulness etc. Plays an important role in achieving happiness. Individuals who intentionally engage in interventions such as gratitude through writing, increasing optimistic thought through visualising one’s best possible future self, appreciating one’s own positive experiences of life, and using one’s strength/abilities would lead to flourishing and good mental health in the individual.
Gratitude through Writing
Let us see how to practice gratitude through writing. First, focus on good things in your life, no matter how small it is, then start identifying 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. Be specific when you are writing that is, add examples rather than just statements. For example, Instead of “I am grateful for my family”, you might write, “I am grateful for the way my sister always makes me smile”. Try using prompts, that is, question yourself such as “What are the three things that made you happy/proud today?” Notice and appreciate yourself each day.
Set up reminders to write a gratitude journal. According to the happiness pie chart of Lyubomirsky, 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetic factor, 10% is determined by circumstances whereas 40% is influenced by our intentional activities. Hence, we need to focus on 40% that include positive cognition, behavioural and goal-based activities( which are under one’s control).
According to Indian tradition, practising Ashtanga yoga is found to enhance our health, happiness and well-being. The yoga consists of 8 steps: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. Practicing the eight steps improves our physical, mental, emotional as well and spiritual well-being. One can also practice the “five mantras” for our happiness and well-being which include eating well, sleeping well, exercising well, thinking well (rational thinking and balancing our emotions) and relating well (indicates good relationships with others, that social well-being as well as connecting to higher well-being, that is, spiritual well-being)
Let’s sum up
As Abraham Maslow (humanistic psychologist) said “ If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life”. People need to understand that they can find meaning in their lives and become the best versions of themselves. Through positive thinking and enjoying your life, you can obtain happiness easily. We also need to foster healthy relationships with others. Keep the people around you happy.