Section 3: Psychological Foundations of Happiness
Happiness depends on a considerable extent on how we think about the world, as well as our emotional responses. Someone who can think straight and solve real- life problems is better equipped to be happy. Wisdom means being able to understand and deal with the challenges, both great and small, that we encounter in everyday life. Wise people can identify the problem and then work out how to resolve it in a practical way. Wise people also recognize the inherent uncertainties of life, appreciate the limits of their own knowledge, and cope well with ambiguity1.
There is no objective way to tell you if you have had a good life, a good day, or a good hour. Your life is a success based only upon your judgment.
A study was done recently in which people on opposite sides of an issue where given the same newspaper article to read. The people were asked to read the article carefully and to offer their reaction. On average, people said they thought the article was biased-against their own position. That is, people on both sides of the issue thought the exact same article was biased against their side. The article could not possibly have been biased against both sides of the issue. Obviously, it wasn’t the content of the article that drove the reaction, but the perspective of the readers. Life events have the same effect. The same event can be seen positively, or it can be seen negatively. It depends upon your perspective2.
Knowing whether someone has recently suffered a personal set-back or personal triumph is not as good a predictor of how satisfied they are with their lives as is knowing how they perceive the causes and consequences of those events3.
What is the shape of the World, What condition is it in? Scientists, philosophers, and kings could offer a never- ending debate on the question. But there is no real grade for the world apart from the one you assign it4.
People who have experienced similar life events can wind up with nearly opposite perceptions of life satisfaction. Researchers have compared, for example, people who have received a job promotion, and they found that while some of the people treasure the opportunity others lament the added responsibility. The implication of life events are a matter of perspective5.
Argyle (2004) says Pollner found nearness to God, and having a friendly image from God have relationship with happiness. Another factor may be a firm faith. Elison (1991) showed that after continuance of social support and private worship, a firm faith cause happiness. Ellison, et al. (1989) found that intensity of worship (frequent prays and feeling of nearness to God) are the strongest predictors of Satisfaction from life. They also showed that religious beliefs are the most important source of happiness. Pray and prayer can increase happiness and health. Paloma and Pendleton (1991) found that when religious experiences occur in praying, feeling health and happiness maximize. Religious behaviors cause positive excitements. Religious ceremonies create popular feeling, and cause feeling of unity with presence of others.
Religion’s benefits broadly divide into four factors: social support, spiritual support, a sense of purpose and meaning, and the avoidance of risky and stressful behaviors. Doing good works through acts of charity provides another sense of connection to community. Often religion can help us feel more included in society, and it can give us a sense of being united and a feeling of continuity in life. The word ‘religion’ derives from the Latin religious meaning ‘to bind together’ and this is what organized religion tends to do to its followers. And being connected to others is an important ingredient for happiness, so it comes as no surprise to learn that religious people are generally happier than those who aren’t. Slough Volunteer says: “I am a Muslim and Muslims are very community- oriented. Family is everything, so we already understand much of the ethos of happiness that is in the manifesto”6. Religion can also make us more compassionate, and the result of our compassion can make us feel better too.
Research, mostly conducted in the USA, has found that religious people tend to be somewhat happier than non- religious people, other things being equal. Religion does provide a firm structure for encouraging people to behave and think in ways that make them feel happier7.
Religion can show us the way in a world in which bad things happen. It can teach us that much of what we see is so complex we cannot understand why and how it occurred.
Everywhere in our world there is mystery. Everywhere there are questions. Religion offers answers, religion offers consistency, religion offers hope8.
Research on the effect of religion on life satisfaction found that regardless of what religion people affiliated themselves with, those who had strongly held spiritual beliefs were typically satisfied with life, while those who had no spiritual beliefs typically were unsatisfied9.
The capacity to maintain or restore well- being in the face of adversity is referred to by psychologists as resilience, or hardiness. The evidence confirms that resilient individuals are usually happier than those who are more easily cast down by life’s inevitable upsets. Individuals to have supportive personal relationships, persistence, motivation, an ability to plan a head, and practical knowledge10.
That there are many problems in the world is obvious to anyone, but take comfort in the notion the eventually good prevails. Whether your focus is on the criminal justice system or a spiritual system, realize that those who have wronged the world will eventually pay some price11.
Regardless of the experiences subjects personally dealt with. Whether they had personality, been the victim of a crime or known someone close who had, those who believed the world is ultimately just 1 13 percent higher level of life satisfaction12.
Think of the happy times you. Your family and friends have had together. Recalling happiness of the past has the powerful ability to bring us happiness in the present13.
When people consciously choose to think back on their past, over 80 percent tend to focus on very positive memories14.
According to research, individuals whose daily efforts relate directly to achieving their longer- term goals tend to be happier than those whose strivings are unrelated to their goals15. A life that is meaningful and has some purpose to it is more likely to be a happy life. Someone who knows where they want to go, and why, will probably be happier. Studies have confirmed that people who regard their life as meaningful tend to be happier and more satisfied other things being equal16. We are better equipped to be happy if we can enjoy the present, prepare for the future and avoid dwelling on the Past. Happy people are usually able to think ahead, but they do not spend their lives waiting for some imaginary future or endlessly mulling over bad things that happened in the past. They are also capable, at the right time, of losing themselves in the here and now and relishing the present moment17.
Studies of older Americans find that one of the best predictors of happiness is whether a person considers his or her life to have a purpose. Without a clearly defined purpose, seven in ten individuals feel unsettled about their lives; with a purpose, almost seven in ten feel satisfied18.
Without a purpose, nothing matters. You can wok forty hours a week, come home to cook, clean, and then take up seventy-two new good habits, but if there is not a reason you are doing it, none of these activities will mean anything to you. 19
In research on college students, a comparison was made between students who enjoyed lives and studies and students who were least comfortable with their environment. A major difference between the two groups was a sense of under-lying purpose in life, which almost twice as many of the former group had20.
According to Argyle (2004), social relations have a very great effect on happiness and other aspects of health, and it might be the greatest single cause. In other studies, some evidences have been represented based on this fact that marriage and family life has the strongest effect in satisfaction and happiness. Being with friends is one of the major sources of pleasure. Helping others when distress, causes a friendship experience, which is a positive source of excitement21. It was found that adults have a more attention to others’ needs thon their own needs, in close relations22. Many studies have shown that in 0.3 to 0.4 levels, satisfaction of being with friend have a correlation with satisfaction of life and happiness.
Close friends are a particular source of happiness. Weiss (1973) found that people do need a friendly relation, and a network of relations, to avoid loneliness. Close friends are probable similar in attitudes, beliefs and interests. These similarities and sharing in one another viewpoints, causes their self-esteem to be improved. Social support from friends affects people physically and psychologically. Ross and Mirowsky showed that social support leads to a decrease in depression. Those who have relations with people are less affected by stress and try more actively to cope or adjust with their problems23. Social relations have a strong effect on health and mortality (death rate); these relations increase or improve health and decrease mortality (death rate).
In a recent survey more than 60 percent of British adults claimed that their friendships were more important than career, money or even family. People with strong social support and intimate friendships visit the doctor less often24. Friendship is extremely valuable, and it is also one of the least expensive ways to be happy. People of all ages report the most positive moods over all when they are with friends. Research has shown that personal relationships contribute more to our mental and physical health than money, fame, conventional success or material possessions.
On average, lonely people have shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives. One the other hand, happy people make the best friends. In addition, people with close, fulfilling friendships are happier. In a 2005 study by the University of Adelaide in Australia found that keeping up with friends rather than family is the key to a longer life. A strong network of friends and confidents significantly improved longevity. Experts believe this finding could herald a new approach to later life, where friends band together in networks based on similar age and interests.
Another study of 2800 men and women over the age of 65 showed that those with more friends had a lower risk of health problems, and recovered faster if they did fall ill. Meanwhile, a Yale University study of 10,000 senior citizens over a five- year period showed that loners were twice as likely to die from all causes. A 2002 study conducted at the university of Illinois by Psychologist ED Diener and Martin Seligman found that the most salient characteristics shared by the 10 percent of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family, and commitment to spending time with them25.
Some of our most intense and meaningful experiences are the result of family relationships. While individuality is very important to the developing adult, there are great opportunities for joy and growth that can be experienced within family life. In the overall aim of increasing happiness, the family is exceptionally important26.
Joining groups, participating, volunteering, all these community activities score high on the pleasure scale, and through them comes trust in others. Andrew Mawson says that as people become involved with others and do things together, they come to care about them. So they do same good for other, and improve their own world at the same time27. The American psychologist ED Diener and Martin Seligman investigated individuals who ranked in the top percent of consistently very happy people.
Their most striking finding was that very happy people were highly connected. Compared to averagely happy or unhappy people they had stronger and richer personal relationships. They were also more sociable, more extroverted, and more agreeable. Good relationships may not be sufficient by themselves to make a happy person, because other things matter as well, but they are usually necessary28.
Personal relationships, especially the close ones, are enormously important for happiness; they contribute more than money, fame, conventional success, material possession, intelligence or even health. Psychological research has found that individuals who are generally inclined to assume the best of other people, and therefore to trust them, tend to be happier than those whose inclination is to be suspicious and distrustful29. By and large, happy people do not spend of their time thinking about themselves and dwelling on their own feeling. Rather, their attention tends to be focused outwards on the world around them. The findings from research generally confirm that outward focus is associated with happiness and mental health, including lower rates of depression.
Among other things individuals who are concerned about other people, and not just themselves, are less affected by people, and not just themselves, are less affected by stress. Studies have found that elderly people whose personal goals and aspirations revolve around an interest in the well- being of others are usually happier than those who are concerned mostly with looking after themselves30.
Close relationships, more than personal satisfaction or one’s view of the world as a whole, are the most meaningful factors in happiness. If you feel close to other people, you are four times more likely to feel good about yourself than if you do not feel close to anyone31.
If you want to know if people are happy, don’t ask them how much money they have in the bank. Don’t ask how large their take-home salary is. Ask them about their friends32.
Relationships are built on mutual appreciation, and there is no better way to show that appreciation than to tell someone how much you care.
Researchers at the University of Houston have studied the question of why we do not tell people how important they are to us. One area they studied was reaction to sad events like funerals.
One subject, Bill, lost a close family member recently. Some of Bill’s friends sent sympathy cards, some sent flowers, some sent notes, and some told him they were there for him. And some did nothing.
Why did some of his friends not say anything?
Perhaps they thought that telling others we care means being vulnerable. For these people, relationships may be more of a competition than a celebration, and competitions are premised on strength, power, and position.
Researchers caution that we don’t win at relationships, we win by having relationships33.
Research on unemployed adults has found that the length of unemployment was less important to a person’s self-esteem than the amount of social support received from parents, family members, and friends34.
Even if you are right, there is nothing to be gained from letting yourself become adversarial with your loved ones. Remember how much more important these people are to you than is the issue you are talking about35.
As family members scatter across the country, it becomes easy to forget to include them in your thoughts and in your time. Keep up the contact; share with your family the news of your life. They want to know, and you will feel better if your bond is maintained36.
Studies that examine the importance of family to senior citizens as compared to adult not yet entering middle age show family relationships to be an equally crucial component of life satisfaction for both age groups37.
We no longer live in a time when people know all their neighbors and consider them to be friends. A shocking number of people have never had a conversation with their neighbors, and some could not pick them out of a lineup. Introduce yourself, or invite your neighbor over for coffee. Neighbors are not a great potential source of friendship; they make us feel more comfortable in our homes, which is where most of us spend much of our time38.
Greater community interaction can increase happiness by almost 30 present39.
Doing good also makes us feel good. We establish deep interpersonal relationships and empathy for others, and also has the perfect opportunity to practice flow activities- those things we enjoy and that really take us out of our self. Scientists agree that being kind to others triggers a cascade of positive effects. It makes us feel generous and capable, and gives us a greater sense of connection with others. In addition, when we do good deed, we are helping more than just the recipient: We are helping everybody. Of course, it feels good to be on the giving end, but psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests that people witnessing others performing good deeds also benefit; they experience an emotion called elevation’. He explains that we get this feeling when we see people behave honorably or act heroically, or when we witness someone show gratitude or help someone else. And when we feel elevated it makes us more open and considerate, and more loving towards humanity40.
People who compromise what believe in to satisfy their goals wind up dissatisfied with their accomplishments. If you do not believe yourself to be moral, satisfaction is unattainable41.
Being happy and being moral buttress each other. People who feel they lack morals report they are half as likely to feel happy compared to these who feel they are moral42.
Giving help is a win- win situation, so pay attention to your surrounding and offer the help that you can. It could be as simple as making a habit of holding the door open for the person coming in behind you. It is a gesture of friendliness that makes another person feel better and makes you feel good about yourself43.
Life satisfaction was found to improve 24 percent with the level of altruistic activity44.
Argyle (2004) says that some researches have reported a very little relationship between income and happiness. In developed countries, there is a week correlation between wealth and happiness. This correlation is more in poorer countries. Considering this fact that we spend money for those things, which we are interested in, and since we think that it is money that causes pleasure in us, it is wrongly, supposed that happiness roots in money. But other causes of happiness (such as love, more recreation positive attitudes, choosing goals) are less expensive or are free. In addition, some of them cause good income and earnings as well. Making people and countries wealthy, has a very little effect on their happiness, although very poor persons and those who live in very little countries are less happy than those who have a better financial situation.
Money is not even one of the six key factors now scientifically established to affect happiness most: mental health, satisfying and secure work, a secure and loving private life, a safe community, freedom and moral values. Over the past two decades an increasing body of social-science and psychological research has shown there is no significant relationships between how much money a person earns and whether he or she feels good about life. A time magazine poll reinforced this view by finding that money ranked 14th as a major source of happiness for its readers.
Wealth is like health: its absence breeds misery, but having it does not guarantee happiness. And being in chase of money rather than meaning in life is a formula of discontent. Money generally makes us unhappy and dissatisfied – especially when we compare our own income with that of others. Yes, richer people, in such a case, might be happier – not because of the absolute size of their wealth, but because they have more than other does people do. And the wealth gap harms the rest of us. Income rivalry makes those left behind more miserable than it makes the winners extra happy. But it should also be noted that the winners compare themselves with those ones who are wealthier than them.
People judge wealth relatively rather than absolutely. Competition for money and status is thus a zero-sun game; and the more opportunities there are for comparison-rankings, league tables, and advertising-the greater the dissatisfaction will be. Rich people with a history of mental illness are up to three times more likely to kill themselves than those with less money. According to Seligman, an American positive psychologist, “people who value money more than the other goals are less satisfied with their income and with their lives as a whole”45.
Happiness is much more a product of psychological wealth than material wealth. Money and fame are clearly no guarantees of happiness. Money does of course have some bearing on happiness. Whilst it may not add much to the happiness of people who are already well off, it does make a difference to people who have very little. A basic minimum amount of wealth provides a crucial bulwark against many sources of stress and unhappiness. Possessing sufficient money means not having to worry about food or shelter.
Material wealth is not a basic human psychological need whereas, for example, being connected with other people is. A more searching explanation as to why money buys relatively little happiness in wealthy nations rests on three psychological processes, each of which dilutes the psychological benefits of rising wealth. These processes are habituation (‘the shine wears off’), rising aspirations (‘the more you have, the more you want’), and social comparison (‘keeping up with the Jonets’). The pursuit of fame, like the pursuit of wealth, is more often a recipe for unhappiness researchers have found that children and adults whose main aspirations in life center round money, fame or their own physical appearance tend to have poorer mental health than those who are more concerned with intrinsic goals like developing close relationships or helping others46.
Wealth has surprisingly little lasting impact on happiness. Acquiring more money or possessions can make us feel better for a while, but the rise in mood tends to be modest and short-lived. We soon get used to what we have and our expectations rise, leading us to want ever more. More importantly, the process of trying to acquire wealth can actually make us less happy if it gets in the way of things that really do matter, such as personal relationships or a sense of purpose and meaning. There is good evidence that highly materialistic people are less happy on average than those who have other priorities in life47.
We spend so much time chasing dollars, worrying about dollars, and counting dollars. It may surprise you to learn that satisfaction with life is no more likely among the rich48.
A study of life satisfaction looked at twenty different factors that might contribute to happiness. Nineteen factors did matter, and one did not. The one factor that did matter was financial status49.
According to Argyle (2004) those who lost their jobs, became less happy. Unemployed persons feel boredom, have a little self-esteem, sometimes become angry, and sometimes emotional indifference appears in them. Unemployed persons were fewer members of recreational groups, less exercised, less associated with others, thus enjoyed less social support, and had more passive recreations for 5 hours in a day50.
Work has a huge bearing on our happiness. Work offers far more than money. A satisfying job can bring structure and meaning to life, along with mental and emotional stimulation. This is as true for those engaged in unpaid work, such as caring for their children or elderly relatives, as it is for the highest-earning investment banker. After basic needs are met, pay has surprisingly little influence on job satisfaction. A 2004 report published by the learning skills council clearly showed that happiness is more important to workers than money. It also revealed that 93 percent of teenagers agreed that doing something they enjoy is more important than making money51.
We are generally happier when actively engaged in some reasonably challenging task, rather than passively witnessing other people’s experiences on a TV screen. Happy people spend at least some of their time engaged in meaningful and satisfying activities52.
Find something to do, because the feeling that we have too much to do is much more pleasing than the feeling that we have nothing to do53.
In studies of college students, those with more demanding schedules were 15 percent more satisfied with life. Despite the more demanding schedules, the individuals studied did not experience any more stress than those with less to do54.
At its best, work gives us a sense purpose and enhances our appreciation of our life outside of the workplace. Appreciate all that your job gives you, and help you appreciate what really matters55.
Research on over 1,500 mothers found that working outside the home increased life satisfaction 5 percent and contributed to a feeling of equality in the family56.
Hills and Argyle (1998) found that the individuals who were members of athletic clubs, got more and better scores in the Oxford happiness inventory as compared with those who were not members of these clubs (Argyle, 2004).
Doctors increasingly prescribe exercise as part of wider treatment for mental illnesses, such as depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Physical activity plays a role in establishing and maintaining a positive mood and self-esteem. It also improves social integration and decreases anger. It is less passive than popping a pill, and makes us feel that we are regaining control of our life. Research among young offenders, people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, and those diagnosed with schizophrenia suggest that they benefit too. Exercise can relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and promote restful sleep. Scientist has found that cognitive functioning (mental ability) in the elderly improves with exercise57.
Physical activity is an important contributor to health and happiness. People who regularly take physical exercise are usually happier as well as physically healthier than those who spend their days sitting at a desk58.
People, who exercise, whether that involves an intense workout or just a regular long walk, feel healthier, feel better about them- selves, and enjoy life more59.
Research on physical activity finds that exercise increases self- confidence, which in turn strengthens self-evaluations. Regular exercise, including brisk walks, directly increases happiness 12 percent, and can indirectly make a dramatic contribution to improving self-image60.
Sleep is not just a biological necessity; it is a neglected source of pleasure. It offers us refuge from pleasant- and unpleasant- life- events. Humans are not built to work at night and sleep by day, but many do. Tired people are less emotionally resilient and often feel ‘out of touch’ with what’s going on in their lives. In extreme cases, sleep deprivation can lead to feelings of persecution and paranoia, depression, weight gain, impaired performance and damaged social relationships. We can survive for longer without food than sleep61. If one wants to be happy and healthy then she or he must have a sufficient quantity and quality of sleep and at the right times62.
Don’t skimp on sleep. A full night’s rest is fuel for the following day. Rested people feel they work better and are more comfortable when the day is over63.
Quality and quantity of sleep contribute to health. Well-being and a positive outlook. For those who sleep less than eight hours, every hour of sleep sacrificed results in an 8 percent less positive feeling about their day64.
Various studies have found that happiness relates more strongly to people’s mental health than it does to their objective physical health-that is, their health as assessed independently by a doctor65.
Recreation can make people happy, and it is very important because recreation contrary to our communications. Job and personality is under our own control (Argyle, 2004).
Travel can be a source of great joy, broadening our experience of other lives and cultures, making us more adventurous and empathetic, and allowing us the chance to be caught up in flow activities. According to psychologists, there are seven socio-psychological benefits of travel, they are: 1) Exploration and evaluation of self, 2) Relaxation, 3) Escape from a perceived mundane environment, 4) prestige, 5) Regression to a childlike, Playful state, 6) Enhancement of kind ship relationships, 7) Facilitation of social interaction66.
Argyle (2004), according to the results of different researches, introduces humor as a source of happiness. It can have an important role in increasing social coherence. Laugher is expressing positive emotion. Humor has a causal impart on temper and happiness and it reduces the effect of stressors.
In studies of hundreds of adults, happiness was found to be related to humor. The ability to laugh, whether at life itself or at a good joke, is a source of life satisfaction. Indeed, those who enjoy silly humor are one-third more likely to feel happy67.
Your smile makes other people happy, which in turn makes you happy68.
Every day yourself some time to enjoy, to be silly, to laugh69.
Regularly having fun is one of the five factors in leading a satisfied life. Individuals who spend time just having fun are 20 percent more likely to feel happy basis and 36 percent more likely to feel comfort with their age and stage in life70.
Happy people tend to feel more empowered and more in control of their lives than unhappy people do. They are also more likely to feel they have the skills, knowledge and motivation to exert that control- a sense that psychologists refer to as self- efficacy. Research shows that young people who report feeling high self-efficacy are happier on average. Education obviously has a major role to play in developing self-efficacy and a sense of control71.
Don’t write yourself off. If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t be able to function72.
Across all ages and all groups, a solid belief in one’s own abilities increases life satisfaction by about 30 percent, and makes us happier both in our home lives and in our work lives73.
Believing in yourself means thinking you are a capable person, not that you will never make a mistake. Don’t think that because you are a talented person you cannot learn from others or you should never be criticized or others want to know how highly you think of yourself74.
In studies on married couples, a significant connection is found between rigidity in one partner and discord in the relationship. Where one partner is convinced, he or she is correct and there-fore not open to suggestion, the length of time disagreements continue is about three times as great75.
When things go peppery, we sometimes start a list of ways we failed, ways we caused the problem. This kind of thinking not can upset us; it also can keep us from being able to function. The truth is that any situation is the result of some things that are in your control and some things that are out of your control. Do not delude yourself into thinking a bad situation is completely of your making. Remember, it makes more sense to deal with outcomes than with fault76.
Happiness does not depend on how bad happen to an individual. What is more important is whether an individual tends to make negative conclusions about him- or herself when negative events occur. Individuals who think of themselves as the case of negative events are 43 percent less likely to be satisfied than und who do not77.
We need self-reinforcement, a belief in ourselves that is strong and unwavering. Be ready to pick yourself up when you are feeling down78.
The tendency to reinforce one’s own self-confidence improves life satisfaction by about 20 percent for both men and women79.
Someone who loves learning for its own sake, and therefore continues to learn throughout their life, is much better equipped to be happy, healthy and successful than someone whose learning gland withers the day they leave school. A love of learning remains central to happiness and health throughout the lifespan, including in old age80.
One of the characteristics of happy people is having at least moderate levels of social and emotional competence. To be happy, one needs basic social skills to form and maintain personal relationships, together with the emotional literacy to understand and deal with the emotional literacy to understand and deal effectively with his or her own feelings and other people’s81.
Take the time to help, comfort, or just be with those you care about when they are in need. You will feel good about your efforts, and it will bring you an even closer relationship82.
The need for support or the number of problems individuals face is a less strong predictor of their happiness than the amount of support available to them83.
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