6. An Analytical Model of Happiness – Positive Psychology


An Analytical Model of Happiness

Akbar Husain and Shahin Zehra
Department of Psychology, Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh

Abstract:   In this chapter, the authors have attempted to provide a clear explanation of the concept ‘happiness’. Not only the definition is given to explain just what happiness is, several studies on happiness and its psycho-social correlates are quoted to demonstrate its originality. This includes the most important common points of reference when understanding the relationship of happiness with psycho-spiritual concepts that fits easily under the operational definition of happiness. The authors hold that there is a need to look at life and happiness in a practical way. Happiness can be defined as composite of health, attributional style, pleasure, positive emotions, interpersonal relationships, nature, extraversion, spirituality and self-esteem. Considering happiness as an acronym, this model can be used to develop a broad theory that explains the concept of happiness.

An Analytical Model of Happiness

Happiness is a state of mind. When the mind is tranquil, you are happy. We are in a constant state of unrest that arises from the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. The mind gets confused when it is full of unfulfilled desires. We have unrealistic desires and aspirations without realizing their adverse effects on our health. All religions warn against excessive desire of self that leads to destructive behaviour. We are in the mindless pursuit of fulfilling desires and, hence, feel unhappy. That is why we never feel happy.

William James suggested, ‘how to keep, how to gain, how to recover happiness is, … for most men, at all times, the secret motive for all they do’ (1902/1958, p. 76). Most people agree that being happy is the ultimate goal toward which they strive. Many people strive for material possessions throughout their life. But, there is no guarantee that even after getting those possessions or attaining those positions, they would be happy. For instance, Diener and Oishi (2004), reported that being happy was rated to be more important than having good health, a high income, or high levels of attractiveness; and it was rated as being more important than experiencing love or meaning in life. Thus, happiness is seen as an ultimate goal that guides individual choices and, which can be achieved if the external circumstances in a person’s life match with his or her desires (Ryff and Keyes, 1995).

White (2006) paid attention to the factors that influence happiness–virtues, merits, values and ‘what’s desirable and worthwhile’. According to Martin (2005) those who have recognized these factors lead happier lives. Happiness is found in, and sometimes identified with, a life of fulfilment and harmony both within the individual and in that individual’s relations with others (Macquarrie and Childress, 2001). People’s behaviour is often guided by their beliefs about the types of things that will make them happy (Gilbert, 2006). People may choose a high paying job, an expensive house, or a short commute over other alternatives because they believe that these life circumstances will help them improve or maintain their happiness.

Happiness from the Viewpoint of Buddhism

Wallace and Shapiro (2006) observed that the Buddhist tradition has focused for over 2500 years on cultivating exceptional states of mental well-being as well as identifying and treating psychological problems. Recent research in neuroscience is the beginning to show support for Buddha’s theory of happiness. According to Buddhism, the cause of happiness is virtuous karma, the law of causality and delusion. For instance, Davidson, Kabat–Zinn, Schumacher, Rosenkranz, Muller and Santorelli (2003) found that novice meditation practice was linked with significant greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area of brain associated with positive emotion. They further supported it while examining the effects of mindfulness meditation on brain activity as well as psychological and immunological functioning. According to Buddhism, mental suffering is largely due to imbalances of the mind. Sayings of Buddhists (Dhammpada) are important in understanding the nature of happiness described under the headings: (1) The twin-verses; (2) Awareness; (3) Joy; and (4) Pleasure.

Happiness from the Viewpoint of Christianity

From the vantage point of view of Christianity, the following are among the factors that can cause human happiness: fearing God, trusting in the Lord, wisdom and understanding, righteousness, endurance, having mercy on the poor, keeping the law, being hopeful in the Lord, mourning, being merciful, purifying one’s heart and being a peacemaker.

Happiness from the Viewpoint of Hinduism

The holy Gita offers us some practical tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge. The Gita teaches us how to get out of unhappiness or dissatisfactions of life by cultivating philosophy of life; identifying with the inner core of self-sufficiency; striving for excellence following the motto, work is worship; building up an internal integrated reference point to face contrary impulse and emotions; and pursuing ethico-moral rectitude.

The Hindu values enable us to cultivate happiness spiritually. They include firm faith in the following principles: (1) our divine heritage; (2) unity of existence; (3) freedom of conscience in religion; (4) sacredness of life; (5) sanctity of family life; (6) respect for parents and elders and reverence for the spiritual teacher; (7) the motherhood of god; (8) moderate pursuit of material welfare; (9) steadfast pursuit of ‘self-integration and self-realization’; and, (10) renunciation and service for the good of the common people.

Happiness from the Viewpoint of Islam

The Qur’an says the following are among the factors that can be linked to human happiness: believing in God and Last Day, working righteousness, following God’s guidance, spending one’s wealth in the way of God, performing prayer and paying the alms, being God fearing, being among God’s friends, doing good, not devouring usury, being patient and being steadfast.

Definitions of Happiness

A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have made an attempt to define happiness and identify its sources. Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. A number of personality traits are made use of to characterize important aspects of behaviour and experience. Particular personality trait profiles have been found to be associated with happiness which means happy and unhappy people have distinctive personality profiles. In Western cultures happy people are extraverted, optimistic, have high self-esteem and an internal locus of control. In contrast unhappy people tend to have high levels of neuroticism. The association between personality traits and happiness are not universal across all cultures.

Happiness is often defined empirically, i.e., via people’s direct ratings of their happiness, long-term balance of positive and negative affect, or life-satisfaction (Diener, 1984; Lyubomirsky, 2001). Notably, these terms are not readily separable (Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999; Stones and Kozma, 1985), and thus we use them interchangeably. Happiness essentially relies on an individual’s own perspective. Indeed, it would make little sense to pronounce a particular person as happy unless he thought so himself. Veenhoven (1989) defined happiness as the ‘overall appreciation of one’s life, as a whole’ (p. 5). The most widely accepted definition of happiness is that of Diener and his colleagues, who prefer to use the label subjective well-being. They define happiness as a combination of life satisfaction (a cognitive judgement) and the balance of the frequency of positive and negative affect (i.e., hedonic tone) (Diener, Sandvik and Pavot, 1991; Larsen, Diener and Emmons, 1985). However, researchers widely differ in defining what happiness is. For example, some have focused on the individual’s own mental or cognitive framework and perception.

The primary focus of this chapter is on a person’s psychological characteristic associated with happiness during his or her life. Happiness may be defined in this way because the authors wish to identify the psychological correlates of happiness. Happiness involves healthy personality variables which are already researched. Happiness can be conceptualized as an outcome that reflects the conditions in a person’s life. The authors suggest that happiness may be defined in terms of certain psychological factors, viz., health, attributional style, positive thinking, positive emotions, interpersonal relationships, nature, extraversion, social support and self-esteem. If we conceptualize happiness in this way then it can be assumed that everything will go well. Operationally, one might define a person’s happiness level in terms of these psychological characteristics.

Health and Happiness

The theoretical literature suggests that happiness contributes to health and vice versa. Stones and Kozma (1980) suggested that happiness is a higher order construct that exerts an influence on lower order attitudinal and behavioural variables such as perceived health. Argyle (1987, 1997) clearly stated that health is closely linked with happiness. Health is widely regarded as one of the causes of happiness. Argyle argued that happiness probably causes health. Furthermore, Veenhoven (1989) proposed that happiness tends to foster health. He suggested that even when happiness does not promote health, it does reduce health complaints. Seligman (2002) proposed that subjective perception of health rather than objective good health is related to happiness. He suggested that we can appraise our subjective health positively even when we are quite sick. Only severe and long lasting illness brings unhappiness in its wake.

Health and happiness are important and possibly related pursuits of mankind (Graves, 2000). Health may be a determinant of happiness (Kozma and Stones, 1983). On the other hand, a feeling of happiness may enhance health. There is also evidence that health and subjective well-being may mutually influence each other, as good health tends to be associated with greater happiness (Okun, Stock, Haring and Witter, 1984).  Happier people tend to have healthier lifestyles (Watson, 1988). Self-reported happiness is strongly related to health. Various studies have found that happiness is more strongly related to people’s mental health than to their objective physical health. However, strong associations are found between happiness and people’s perception of their own health, i.e., their so-called subjective health. Long-term studies indicate that the influence of subjective health on happiness becomes even stronger in old age.

Diener’s (2008) study suggests that probing into one’s happiness is one of the most important things a doctor can do to predict one’s health and longevity. Majority of people overlook one’s emotions as a vital component of one’s health, while over focusing on diet and exercise. According to Diener and Biswas–Diener (2008), people who are happy become less sick than people who are unhappy. Diener (2008) suggests that there are three types of health: morbidity, survival and longevity. Evidence suggests that all three types of health can be improved through happiness. Morbidity, simply put, is succumbing to serious illness such as flu or cancer (Diener, 2008). In a 30-year longitudinal study, participants who were high in positive emotions were found to have lower rates of many health problems. Some of these illnesses/problems include lower death rates from heart disease, suicide, accidents, homicides, mental illnesses, drug dependency and liver disease related to alcoholism. Results also showed that depressed participants were more likely to have heart attacks and recurrences of heart attacks when compared to happy people. Survival is the term used for what happens to a person after he/she has already developed or contracted a serious illness (Diener, 2008). Happiness has been revealed to increase health, with survival. Evidence suggests that survival type of health may actually be sometimes detrimental to happiness. Danner, Snowdon and Friesen (2001) have made an attempt to determine a link between an individual’s happiness and the individual’s longevity. They recruited 180 Catholic nuns from a nearby convent as the participants of this study. Results showed that nuns who were considered happy or positive in their manner and language on average lived 10 years longer than the nuns who were considered unhappy or negative in their manner and language. A follow-up study was conducted by Pressman and Cohen (2012) who examined 96 famous psychologists. Results showed that the positive or happy psychologists lived, on average, six years longer. The psychologists who were considered negative or unhappy lived, on average, five years less. 

Attributional Style and Happiness

Depressed people blame themselves for bad things that happen. However, this is not so much a cause of depression as an effect of it. Happy people attribute good events to themselves, not bad ones, but we don’t know the direction of causation yet (Argyle, Martin and Crossland, 1989). Ryan and Deci (2001) pointed out that people high in happiness or subjective well-being tend to have attributional styles that are more self enhancing and more enabling than those low in subjective well-being.

Positive Thinking and Happiness

Happiness is characterized by positive affective states such as optimism, positive thinking and the perception of personal well-being. Happy people tend to think about and remember positive events in their lives. Unhappy people tend to dwell on negative happenings, and ruminate about their problems and distress (Lyubomirsky, 2001; Lyubomirsky and Ross, 1999). To attain happiness, we need to make a conscious effort to focus on our positive thoughts. Positive thinking is a stepping-stone to experience the divine vibe in meditation. Positive thinking helps in discovering the spiritual path and happiness. It helps to bring fresh and creative approaches to our practice. Our thoughts are the product of our values. Positive thinking has an impact on our personality. Human behaviour is unpredictable and dangerous if you do not think from the heart. Enlightenment of the heart is necessary for positive thinking and to develop wisdom. Thinking should take a positive bent as it develops. It originates from the heart and is maintained in the mind. Thinking can have a profound effect on our emotional and spiritual health.

Positive Emotions and Happiness

Positive emotions solve problems concerning personal growth and development. Experiencing positive emotions lead a person to develop a mature state of mind that equips him to cope with hard times ahead. Just as negative emotions provided strong evolutionary advantage for our ancestors by promoting self-protective responses to aversive circumstances, positive emotions help us to explore and understand our environments. The beneficial effect of positive emotions may be part of what drives us to explore, understand and develop ourselves and our worlds, changing ours as well as others’ lives for the better. Thus, both negative and positive emotions are psychologically and adaptively worthy of themselves.

Fredrickson (2000) suggested that positive emotions could be cultivated indirectly by: (a) finding positive meaning within current circumstances; (b) finding positivity within adversity; (c) infusing ordinary events with meaning; and (d) effective problem solving (Baumgardner and Crothers, 2009; Fredrickson, 2003) both individually and collectively. Fredrickson (2001) proposed her ‘Broaden and Build’ theory which provides an overview of how positive emotions help build physical, psychological and social resources. She proposed that positive emotions broaden an individuals’ momentary mindset, and by doing so these help an individual in building up enduring personal resources. Experiencing positive emotions regularly may keep one healthy by making the body better able to ward off infections, and decreasing the likelihood of getting sick. The capacity to experience positive emotion is a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing (Fredrickson, 2001). Experiencing positive emotions leads to overlapping of people’s feelings of self and other in the beginning of a self–other relationship. It is one effect of positive emotions’ propensity to broaden peoples’ momentary mindset. If, during experiencing positive emotions, self-boundaries expand and become more permeable, people might more readily see their oneness with others and think in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead of ‘me’ versus ‘you’. It may enhance relationship and lead to greater relationship satisfaction (Waugh and Fredrickson, 2006). Happy people become happier through kindness. Happy people have more happy memories in daily life in terms of quantity and quality. If people become more conscious of kindness in daily life, they may increasingly wish to be kind to others, enjoying the grace of being kind and feel grateful when on the receiving end of kindness (Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, and Fredrickson, 2006).

Happiness, a composite of life satisfaction, coping resources and positive emotions, predicts desirable life outcome in many domains. Empirical research findings indicate that happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better but because they develop resources for living well (Cohn, Fredrickson, Brown, Mikels and Conway, 2009). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought–action repertoire (Fredrickson and Branigan, 2005). Tugade and Fredrickson (2004) empirically demonstrated that positive emotions contribute to psychological and physical well-being via more effective coping. A number of studies have concluded that positive emotions and optimism can have a beneficial influence on health (Diener and Chan, 1984). 

Positive emotions might signify optimal functioning. Fredrickson and Losada (2005) described a quantitative relationship between people’s emotional experiences and their level of optimal functioning. It is well established that positive emotions lead to enhanced psychological and physical functioning. One suggestion by Mauss et al. (2011) was that a smile, e.g., which is a positive emotional behaviour accurately signals to others the individual’s positive emotional state enhancing his social connectedness and thereby nurturing happiness and well-being. The study of positive emotions has traditionally not been given the same attention in research as negative emotions (Fredrickson, 2001). The term ‘positive affect’ is often used synonymously with positive emotions. Positive affect generally is defined as the extent to which an individual feels alert, enthusiastic and active (Watson, Clark and Tellegen, 1988). Frequent positive affect along with infrequent negative affect has been characterized as both necessary and sufficient condition to produce a state of happiness or affective well-being (Diener, Sandvik and Pavot, 1991).

Interpersonal Relationships and Happiness

Relationship among family members, friends and workmates make our life happy. Every relationship has to be nurtured well in order to get happiness. Relationships like marriage, kinship, close friendship, cooperation with acquaintances and involvement in religion and spiritual practices are all associated with lasting happiness.

Marriage: Marriage usually leads to a rapid increase in subjective well-being (SWB). So marriage changes the set point of SWB, although this change is not large. Married people are happier than unmarried people, lest they are divorced or separated (Myers, 2000). Ironically, the least happy people are the ones enduring unhappy marriages. The difference in happiness between married and unmarried women is the same as that of men. Both man and women reap the same benefits in terms of personal happiness from marriage. There are two reasons for the connection between happiness and marriage. One is that it is happy people who are more inclined to get married while the unhappy people do not because the latter find themselves unfit for marriage for various reasons. Another meaning is that marriage confers a range of benefits on people that make them happy. Marriage provides psychological and physical intimacy, a context to have children and build a home, a social role as a spouse and parent and a context to affirm identity and create posterity.

The National Opinion Research Centre surveyed over 35,000 Americans over the last 30 years. Results revealed that 40 per cent of married people called themselves very happy, while only 23 per cent of never-married adults made the same claim. This was true of every ethnic group studied. Marriage makes people happy. This finding suggests that married people are usually more outgoing and sociable than depressed people (Hoggard, 2005). For people who get married, their happiness levels reach to the peaks, but after a while, their happiness level returns to their pre-marriage days (Hoggard, 2005). Those who were married were considerably happier than those who were not. Least happy of all, on average, were those who had been married but were divorced, separated or widowed (Nettle, 2005).

A study conducted in Germany on 24,000 people yearly for up to 15 years showed that transition to marriage in an individual was associated with a substantial increase in happiness. Within 2 years, though, this hike generally melted away, and they were essentially back at baseline. Interestingly, the researchers observed considerable variation in the response to marriage. Some people, who responded with high increase in happiness in the short term, retained that increment for many years. On the other hand, some people, whose initial reaction to marriage was relatively weaken were actually less happy a couple of years later (Nettle, 2005).

In 2005, Martin conducted an international comparison to examine the association between marriage and happiness (Martin, 2005). He found that marriage was positively correlated with happiness in 16 out of 17 nations (the exception was Northern Ireland). Marriage appears to be a potential source of happiness. The key to successful relationships is to primarily ensure happiness within oneself. Many people end up in unhappy relationships because they seek a partner for emotional or financial security rather than as a long term soulmate, friend or lover. Many people settle for second best for fear of being alone or of having to go through the process again, and many marry far too young, pledging the entire life to someone before they have grown as an individual. It is important to remember that a person can never feel truly happy and fulfilled with someone else unless he can feel content, happy and secure with himself.

Friendship: Keeping few close confiding friends has been found to increase happiness and subjective well-being (Argyle, 2000, 2001). In a study of the happiest 10 per cent of a group of 222 college students, Diener and Seligman (2002) found that their most distinctive attribute was their rich and fulfilling social life. These students spent significant amount of their time socializing with friends and were rated by themselves and their friends as being outstanding in making and maintaining close friendship. Close friendships are probably associated with happiness due to the following reasons. First, people more often may select as friends and confide because they are more attractive companions than miserable people. They also help others more than depressed people who are self-focused and less altruistic. Second, close relationship meets the need for affiliation and so makes a person feel happy and satisfied. Third, close friendships provide social support. These research findings and insights on friendship from Evolutionary Psychology (Buss, 2000) have implications as to how a person can enhance his happiness through relationship with friends.

Acquaintances: Life itself has become a competition that the chance of frustration or lost feeling among people has become more pronounced. Against this background association with acquaintances is a potential source of solace and happiness and a way of avoiding unhappiness due to loss of status and inequalities which inevitably arises from (Axelrod, 1984; Buss, 2000). It follows therefore that to enhance a person’s own sense of well-being, he should develop strategies for promoting cooperation with acquaintances.

Nature and Happiness

From the very origins of our species nature has shaped how we live and how we perceive the world in which we live. Nature has always been a source of awe, a source of survival, a source of pleasure and a source of fear. Nature has given us the sense of being a small speck in the universe and of sensing the existence of a supreme creator. As such our ancestors learned to respect, appease, make offerings and deify it. Many cultures have looked on the sun and moon as deities, or seen features of the natural landscape as the abode of various deities. Mountains and waterfalls, animals and trees have either become gods and spirits or the home of such beings. Across all cultures, places and sites are considered sacred based on their unusual soothing or healing power.

Human beings are both happier and healthier as a result of interacting with nature. Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) concluded, ‘People with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier overall than other individuals. The long term, indirect impacts (of “nearby nature”) also include increased levels of satisfaction with one’s home, one’s job and with life in general’ (p. 173). In pointing out the relationship between nature and happiness, Burns (2009) believes that Bhutan illustrates this relationship in a subtle yet important manner. That is, more than supporting our survival, nature has a deep impact on our happiness and psychological well-being. Contact with nature can provide a buffer against emotional distress, thus serving a preventative role in the area of mental health. Generally, the happier we are, the greater our range of positive emotional responses, and the less likely we are to slip into clinically unhealthy states of sadness, anxiety or anger (Fredrickson, 2005, 2008).

Extraversion and Happiness

Eysenck (1983) noted, ‘Happiness is a thing called stable extraversion…the positive effect in happiness seemed to be related to easy sociability, with a natural, pleasant interaction with other people…then it only makes sense that happiness can be associated with extraversion. Similarly, if worries and anxieties make up negative affect in happiness, it can easily be seen that instability and neuroticism are also connected to unhappiness’ (p. 67).

There are a number of factors which offer partial explanations for the link between extra-version and happiness (Diener, Suh, Lucas and Smith, 1999). Extraverts may better fit in with the social environment, which requires them to be involved in frequent social interactions. So they find themselves frequently in situations which meet their needs for socializing and thus are happier. There is good evidence that extraverts respond with greater happiness to stimuli designed to induce positive moods. There is also evidence that extraversion and neuroticism predispose people to experience more positive and negative events, respectively. So, if a person has a high level of extraversion, he is more likely to experience positive events and, therefore, experience more happiness. Part of the evidence for there being a consistent happiness trait is that measures of happiness are stable over a number of years. In one study, happiness was successfully predicted from associated traits like extraversion over an interval of 10–17 years (Costa, McCrae and Norris, 1981). The strongest correlate of happiness is extraversion—if extraversion is divided into sociability and impulsiveness components it is sociability that predicts happiness. Extraversion particularly predicts positive moods during social interaction.

Headey and Wearing (1992) carried out a 4-stage panel study, at 2-year intervals, of 649 Australians. They found that extraversion was a cause of later positive effect and did so by generating favourable life-events, especially in the spheres of friendship and work. So while friendship and work were causes of happiness, they were themselves, in part, due to extraverts seeking out and generating positive activities. Furnham (1981) found that extraverts choose social and physical activities kinds of situation.

Furnham (1981) found that extraverts choose social and physical activities kinds of situation. The happiness of extraverts is partly explained by their choice of enjoyable social activities. In addition, extraverts possess certain skills. We found that extraverts score high in assertiveness, and in a longitudinal study this predicted later happiness and partly explained the happiness of extraverts. This shows how extraverts cause happiness via the route: extraversion-assertiveness-happiness (Argyle and Lu, 1990). In a similar study we found that certain aspects of cooperativeness also predicted happiness, particularly enjoying engaging in joint leisure with friends. Chamorro-Premuzic, Bennett and Furnham (2007) found that four of the Big Five factors, viz., stability, extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness were positively correlated with both happiness and emotional intelligence, which explained18 per cent of unique variance (over and above age and the Big Five) unhappiness.

Social Support and Happiness

Social support is believed to be an important factor in enacting happiness changes. Interpersonal support can aid an individual both in initiating a potential happiness—increasing activity and in maintaining it. Performing an intentional activity as a group or with the support of close others is likely to promote greater and more sustained happiness change than ‘bowling alone’ (Putnam, 2000). Social support increases subjective well-being as it helps people to derive happiness from kinship network (Argyle, 2001; Buss, 2000). There are certain things that can be done to enhance the contributions of kinship on happiness. Keep in regular contact with members of the family. Plan a lifestyle that allows closer physical contact with the family. This planning refers to both the short run and the long run. Maintaining contact with the family members increases social support and this brings not only happiness but also enhances immune system functioning.

Self-esteem and Happiness

There are several sources (e.g., social circumstances or events) that produce happiness, one important source is relatively stable personal traits and dispositions such as self-esteem (Diener, Suh, Lucas and Smith, 1999; McCrae and Costa, 1991). A strong relationship exists between self-esteem and happiness (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger and Vohs, 2003), i.e., high self-esteem leads to greater happiness. The pursuit of happiness is one of the overarching goals in life for most people, and feeling happy is one form of positive outcome.

Before we present findings, we must acknowledge that studies of happiness and self-esteem seem almost inevitably to rely on self-reports. Hence, one might well expect that people with high self-esteem claim to be happier than other people. A major international study of self-esteem and happiness was reported by Diener and Diener (1995). The data came from more than 13,000 college students from 49 different universities, 31 countries and five continents. High self-esteem emerged as the strongest of several predictors of life satisfaction overall. Self-esteem and happiness were found substantially interrelated. The correlation between self-esteem and happiness (life satisfaction) varied somewhat across countries. In particular, it was stronger in individualistic countries than in collectivistic ones. Diener and Diener (1995) proposed that in individualistic countries, people are socialized to attend to their own internal attributes, and so these become important in determining overall happiness, whereas collectivistic cultures encourage people to focus on groups and relationships.

A meta-analysis of the relation between 137 personality traits and happiness (subjective well-being) was published by DeNeve and Cooper (1998). They found that ‘private collective self-esteem’ was one of the strongest predictors of happiness. Their results provide further evidence that self-esteem is consistently correlated with happiness. In a sample of 406 young people (aged between 14–28 years), Furnham and Cheng (2000) measured a number of potential correlates of happiness and they reported that self-esteem was the most dominant and powerful predictor of happiness. Shackelford (2001) examined the happiness of young to middle-aged couples (aged between 17–41 years) who had been married within the past year, found that for both husbands and wives, self-esteem was significantly correlated with happiness in the form of global, sexual and emotional satisfaction. Lyubomirsky and Lepper (2002) obtained data from more than 600 older adults, aged 51–95 years. Once again, happiness and self-esteem were found to be highly correlated (r = .58). In this study, self-esteem was found to be more strongly correlated to hopelessness, optimism and sense of mastery, whereas happiness was more strongly correlated to energy level, overall health, loneliness, mood and emotion, and purpose in life.

In Diener and Diener’s (1995) work, self-esteem and happiness had very different patterns of correlations with other predictor variables, which supports the conclusion that happiness and self-esteem are in fact distinct constructs that can be measured separately despite their relatively high links. Martin’s (2005) research indicates that global self-esteem has a stronger influence on children’s overall happiness, whereas academic self-esteem has a stronger influence on how children behave in the classroom. According to him, academic self-esteem can contribute to global self-esteem, and hence to overall happiness.

Taken together, these findings uniformly indicate that self-esteem and happiness are strongly interrelated. Further research with longitudinal designs (or other means of testing causal relationships), controls for third variables, and, if possible, alternatives to self-report measures would greatly strengthen the case. The link between self-esteem and happiness is strong. People with high self-esteem are significantly, substantially happier than other people. They are also less likely to be depressed, either in general or specifically in response to stressful, traumatic events.


The factors discussed above suggest that this is a practical way to look at life and happiness. Happiness can be defined as composite of Health, Attributional style, Positive thinking, Positive emotions, Interpersonal relationships, Nature, Extraversion, Social support, and Self-esteem. Considering happiness as an acronym, this model can be used to develop a broad theory that explains the concept of happiness.

The role of positive emotions will continue to be a most interesting aspect of future happiness researches. To make progress, we will need to better objectify the matter of greatest individual concern—the dynamics of affective experience—at more than a superficial level. Understanding the nature of human happiness will depend critically on our ability to work out the deeply unified emotional nature of the brain, the body and the mind.


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