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Happiness and Life Satisfaction


Happiness and Life Satisfaction

What is Happiness? How is Happiness defined and measured? Is there a scientific way to
operationalize the whole concept of happiness? These speculations about the entire concept of
happiness remain as never ending queries that individuals come across with in a day-to-day
basis. Numerous individuals have attempted to present an objective and scientific answer the
never ending question regarding the precise definition of happiness. Chompoo (2015) defined
happiness as an emotion presently experienced by an individual, on the other hand, he viewed
life satisfaction as a feeling of contentment about a person’s holistic perception of life. On the
same note, Veenhoven (2002) defined overall happiness as the degree to which an individual
evaluates the entire quality of his life-in-general in relevance to how he or she benefits

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positively. Thus, he perceived happiness as an attitude towards one’s personal living, that has at
some point remain stable through encompassing the components of happiness (feelings and
beliefs of an individual) (p.3). Varied perceptions attest to the subjectivity of happiness as a
concept. Until now, researchers still consider happiness as subjective, and its definition
significantly varies depending an individual’s personal measure of happiness. Nevertheless,
economists propose that happiness is the degree of equity between the quality of life across
countries (Roser, 2016).

How Happiness Is Measured

According to Hsu (2012), most research regarding happiness does not focus on a
happiness as a concept. Instead, researchers make use of life satisfaction further to explore the
phenomenon of happiness and its components. However, satisfaction and happiness differ in
meaning. Satisfaction is defined as contentment and happiness, on the other hand, is the state of
being optimistic. Thus, stable personality characteristics and judgments reflecting cognitive and
emotional reactions to circumstances have a significant effect on an individual’s subjective well-
being. In other words, happiness is highly subjective and is a matter of choice due to external
situations. For an individual to attain happiness, he or she must possess a positive emotion and
pleasure, must maintain enough motivation to perform productive tasks, and must innovate ways
to serve and contribute to significant external circumstances (The Happy Manager, 2007). Unlike
happiness, life satisfaction is external rather than personal. External factors such as friends, life
story, growth, goals, and monetary attainment profoundly influence one’s degree of life
satisfaction (Barker, 2014). Despite the varying meaning of happiness and life satisfaction,
Veenhoven (2002) related happiness and life satisfaction through looking at it as two highly
related components. He defined life satisfaction as the capacity to endure satisfaction with an

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 3
individual’s life-as-a-whole, commonly referred to as ‘happiness’ and also as ‘subjective well-
being’ (p.5).
In relation to happiness and life satisfaction, Veenhoven (2006) conducted a descriptive
research about happiness, its components and how individuals evaluate happiness. (p.1).
Veenhoven (2006) proposed three theories (primacy of affect, Happiness linked to actualthriving
and universal conditions of happiness) that individuals use to evaluate happiness. The first theory
– primacy of affect argues that affective appraisals are essential in cognitive assessment. Positive
emotionalevaluations significantly contribute to a positive cognitive perception. The second
theory – Happiness linked to actual thriving suggest that people tend to be happier when they are
residing and surrounded by favorable conditions than miserable ones. This theory argues that
happiness is equivalent to how well life can cope with the demands implied in human nature.
The last theory – universal conditions of happiness holds that conditions for happiness can vary
based on differing circumstances. Individuals coming from various countries might possess
different views about the components of as well as the limitations and scopes of happiness
In contrast, in an article written by Myers (2000), the subjectivity and uncertainty of
happiness was emphasized through an aggregate data of varying circumstances of happiness
evaluation. He argued that correlational evidence attests that determiner such as money, age,
gender, and achievements leave little evidence to support and measure an individual’s happiness.
Myers (2010) argued that happiness varies depending on the situation. Due to individual
differences, one factor (e.g. educational attainment) that makes an individual happy may not
have the same effect on the happiness of the another person (p. 65). For instance, in prospering
countries, even the richest people experience only a minimum amount of happiness despite the

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 4
abundance of resources and luxury that they have. On the other hand, individuals in third-world
countries experience higher levels of happiness through monetary incentives and achievements
due to scarce resources and poverty.
On the same note, Seligman and Diener (2002) also presented an argument about the
measurement and evaluation of happiness. The researchers proposed that there exists no single
measure that automatically produces high levels of happiness. Instead, happiness has some many
necessary prerequisites needed to achieve the optimum level of happiness. These requirements
vary from one individual to another. One might have several prerequisites for happiness while
another person might only look for a single determiner that would significantly contribute to his
or her evaluation of personal happiness (p. 83). For instance, for one individual, he or she might
look for money, family, and personal achievement as a determiner for happiness, on the hand, for
another person, it is possible that his or her family is the only determiner that would increase his
or her level of happiness.

Positive Effects of Happiness to an Individual’s Well-being

Hormonal Balance
Despite the continuous debate about the operationalized definition of happiness,
researchers all approve to the importance of happiness to an individual’s life. Happiness causes
feelings of compassion and healthiness. It triggers creativity, wittiness, and increases the energy
level of an individual (Durham, 2016). Since happiness is a necessity of the human body,
several hormones (Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, and Oxytocin) are responsible for
producing chemicals that induce happiness (Mehta and Josephs 2010, p.183). All these hormones
have individual functions that activate and generate happiness in our body (Nguyen, 2014).

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 5
Sufficient and consistent feelings of happinessare known to have a positive impact on one’s
perception of daily life.
Emotional Stability
To prove the importance of happiness to one’s well-being. Seligman and Diener (2002)
conducted a study where he screened two hundred twenty-two (222) undergraduates for
happiness using multiple assessment filters. The upper ten percent (10%) of consistently very
happy people was compared with the average as well as with very unhappy people (p.1). Results
suggest that very happy individuals had rich and satisfying social relationships and spent more
time socializing than being alone. On a different note, unhappy individuals have significantly
poor – below normal social ties. Furthermore, findings of their research also show that the very
happiest individuals experience unpleasant emotions frequently. Although these individuals
experience happiness most of the time, their ability to feel unpleasant experiences is functions
very well. On the same note, euphoric people have lower chances of experiencing euphoria or
Happiness is known to improve the emotional state of an individual. As mentioned
earlier, happiness produces a feeling of compassion and healthiness. Thus, happiness could
possible affect one’s productivity through enhancing the mood of an individual. In a study
conducted by Proto, Oswald and Sgroi (2009), where he conducted a qualitative analysis that
seeks to determine whether happiness can be expected to produce an increase in intrinsic
motivation or on the contrary, cause a decrease in work productivity. The experimenter exposed
the two hundred seventy-two (272) participants to a comedy film before work. The experiment
had two treatment conditions: the control group— not exposed to a comedy movie clip, and the

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 6
treatment group – exposed to a comedy film clip. The experiment was carried out for six days
with alternated early and the afternoon slots to avoid any circumstance time-of-day-effects. The
data gathered in the research showed that an increase in happiness causes greater productivity in
a paid piece-rate task. Happier workers’ efforts to work and perform well increase together with
their level of happiness (p. 23)
Happiness is also known to improve one’s emotional state and also enhance an
individual’s level of resilience. In a research conducted by Lyubomirsky and Della Porta (2008),
where they discussed the relationship between happiness, positive emotions, and resilience. The
data gathered by Lyubomirsky and Della Porta (2008) show that happiness is a significant and
efficient contributor to an individual’s level of resiliency. During the occurrence of a stressful
experience, resilience is the capacity that allows individuals to cope and bounce back from the
negative and unpleasant consequences of a stressor. Coping from a stressful event requires an
individual to manage negative emotions. Thus requiring high levels of happiness from a person.
Furthermore, results show that practicing happiness-enhancing strategies increase an individual’s
emotional and mental stability by diminishing levels of depression and anxiety. Thus improving
the ability of an individual to be resilient towards unpleasant events and scenario (p. 15)
Decision Making
Happiness is known to affect the mental clarity of an individual. A positive mood
contributes to a more just and positive way of dealing with an important decision. Studies have
shown that high levels of happiness could result in an increase in the capacity to make the right
choices. In a study conducted by Lerner, Li, Valdesolo and Kassam (2014), where they
researched and provided a critical analysis of the effects of emotion on judgment and decision

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 7
making. The results of the study show that emotions highly affect the decision-makingcapacity
of an individual. During the decision-making process, currents emotions felt by the individual
affect the kind, whether it is positive or negative, that a person would make. Negative emotions
(e.g. anger, disappointment) tend to cause impulsive and emotion-driven decisions. Positive
emotions (e.g. glad, jolly, happy), on the other hand, triggers mental clarity, which allows an
individual to result to optimistic, well-evaluated and considerate decisions (p.33).

Happiness and the Society

The effects of happiness are not limited to the individuals alone. Happiness contributes to
the welfare of the society since, individuals with high levels of happiness have greater capacity
to have a well-balanced and fulfilled lifestyle (Actions for Happiness, 2005). Individuals with a
happy life, perform well at school, work, and other areas affecting the community, which
contributes to an increase in economic growth. Overall, happiness does not only affect the
individual but as well as the holistic development of the community.


Through the discussion of happiness in this paper, it is just to claim that happiness is an
interesting phenomenon that deserves further exploration. Despite numerous studies and
researches that have already presented on the varying definitions of happiness, the attempt to
scientifically measure happiness remains an unresolved issue in the field of research. Although
researchers continuously try to operationalize happiness, almost all of them still agree to the
subjectivity of the entire concept of happiness. No single factor or measure could provide a
precise description and evaluation of happiness since it varies depending on the situation and
from one person to another.

Happiness and Life Satisfaction 8
Despite the ongoing debate on how to precisely define happiness, the benefits of
happiness to an individual’s well-being as well as to the society are highly visible and constant.
Furthermore, happiness is known to increase the well-being, mental stability, productivity and
resilient of an individual. Happiness takes effect in these field through different ways of
promoting improvement on the various aspects by enhancing the intrinsic well-being of an
Indeed, the pursuit of happiness and the feeling of being happy is hard to achieve. An
individual can be happy in an instant and the next moment he/she will feel sad and bitter. It
cannot be measured by merely scientific evidence only because being happy is a state of mind.
Happiness can only be attained by being conscious of what a person want and need. A human
being cannot have a lasting happiness, and it cannot be increased either. Happiness is a
temporary feeling and inauthentic.


Barker, E. (2014). How To Be More Satisfied With Your Life: 5 Steps Proven By Research.
[online] TIME.com..
Chompoo, (2015). Life-satisfaction and Its 7 Contributors – Positive Psychology Program.
[online] Positivepsychologyprogram.com.
Durham, J. (2016). Why is Happiness so Important?.

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