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Psychology of Happiness; Factors Affecting Happiness

Psychology of happiness 


When we talk about happiness, the first thing that comes out in our mind is smiling faces. What makes us smile that way. What does happiness look like! How to define it! How can we measure it! The scientific point of view as per pursuit of happiness is to look at, “What makes happy people happy”. Happiness is subjective in nature, and that makes it difficult to define and measure. Happiness has been an exciting topic since early civilization. Greek philosophers defined “Hedonism” as the pursuit of pleasure over pain. According to Aristippus, Greek philosopher happiness is the sum of life’s ‘hedonic’ moments (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Hedonic is the state of relaxed, distance from their problems, and feel happy by an individual. Later Aristotle conceptualized happiness into hedonia and eudaimonia (Kringelbach & Berridge, 2010). Where, Hedonia is a state of pleasure and eudaimonia, a sense of life satisfaction. Research also claimed the involvement of these two components in happy people (Kringelbach & Berridge, 2010). Sigmund Freud (1930) people: “strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so. It has a positive and a negative aim. It aims, either an absence of pain and displeasure (negative) or the experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure (positive)”.

Neuroscience claims the hedonic brain circuits for both pleasure and happiness (Kringelbach and Berridge (2010)). Hedonic mechanisms are located deep within the brain the nucleus accumbens, brainstem, and ventral pallidum) and cortex (orbitofrontal, medial prefrontal, cingulate and insular cortices) (Kringelbach & Berridge, 2010).

Happiness measurement:

Psychologists have spent lots of years studying the validity of measuring happiness. When they tried to measure happiness in different ways, they all get the same answer. For example, in the self-report method, people are asked to report their happiness. The report is found consistent with the assessment done by their friends and close relatives. The psychologist also found consistency over time. People who report ‘they are happy’ now also tend to say ‘they are happy’ in the future also. Ed Diener introduced the term “subjective well-being” to measure happiness. Experience Sampling Method (ESM) has been found effective in the measurement of subjective well-being. The concept of subjective well being is criticized on the basis of cognitive biases such as expectation and adaptation biases. The Steen happiness index consists of 20 items to measure three kinds of ‘happy life’ – pleasant, engaged, and meaningful life. The subjective happiness scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999) and happiness scale by (Fordyce, 1977) other two tests with sufficient reliability and validity.

Theory and science of happiness

When looking at theories of happiness, Haybron (2003), three basic views: Hedonism – to be happy is to experience, on the whole, a majority of pleasure, Life-satisfaction view – to be happy is to have a favorable attitude about one’s life as a whole, either over its entirety or just over a limited time, Affective state theory – that happiness depends on an individual’s overall emotional state.

Theories developed by positive psychologists such as Authentic Happiness results from a person living as per their signature strengths (Seligman (2002). Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’ theory, “Flow may be defined as “the state of engagement, optimal happiness, and peak experience that occurs when an individual is absorbed in a demanding and intrinsically motivating challenge”. The PERMA model of flourishing: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment (Seligman, 2011).

Factor affecting happiness

When Psychologists track happiness levels of people, happy people report themselves in mildly positive mood maximum time. People who state the overall life satisfaction, score more than neutral on the happiness scale. Psychologists have been looking at various factors that contribute to the happiness level of people.

Rich people tend to report happier than poor people with a smaller difference. There is no stronger correlation between happiness and money, as people think. As the rise in income contribute a little gain in happiness.

Health plays a critical role in the happiness level, but not that much. Survey of representation populations show different assessment in the correlation of happiness. People with severe health problems report a little less happy than healthy people. But the difference is not very large.  People with serious illness tend to reports a happiness score more than neutral.

Psychological research shows a strong correlation between social relationships with subjective well-being. Persons engaged in social organizations, social gathering, large friend circle, and the time of social engagement shows up to moderate correlation.  Quality and satisfactory social relationships exhibit stronger correlations. Also, in a specific type of social relationship, marital status reports a higher level of happiness than divorced, widow or separated. This does not mean marriage causes a higher happiness level; this is due to quickly adaptation to levels. In south Asian countries, divorced, widow, or separated people tends to face negative social support, reflect a decrease in happiness level.

Religious people are more expected to report happier than others, that also depends on measurements of other religious beliefs and behaviors.

Internal factors such as personality, intelligence, genetic factors also play a strong role in subjective happiness. Individual differences, more particular twins share a 40 to 50 percent component of well-being. Specific personality traits in association with genes are positively correlated with happiness. The personality factor extraversion is sharing the same physiological systems with positive effects. On the other hand, neuroticism is linked to negative impacts strongly.

On the cognitive basis, the way people view their world influences their happiness. The thinking pattern about the world is associated with levels of happiness. For example, social comparison, happy and unhappy people make different choices. That affects their level of happiness. Goals and aspirations have also linked to happiness. Specific goals, a sense of purpose to their goals, growth toward a goal affect the happiness level of people (Diener et al.,1999).


One of the famous psychologists, Barbara Fredrickson has suggested positive emotions or function of happiness is to expand one’s thinking and build resources. It persuades people to more creativity and the ability to explore more. They develop ways to visualize the surrounding world, new interests, social relationships, and physical skills. Happy people are more sociable and cooperative, live a longer life. There is always a trade-off between the different components of happiness. If you more live in momentary pleasures and joys, you are probably not working for your long-term goals or aims. If you engaged all time working for your long-term goal, you will miss pleasure in simple tasks in your life. It is about maintaining the right balance of all things with the acceptance of natural ups and downs. There are plenty of things available to do to become a happy person and a more fulfilling life.


Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276-302.

Fordyce, M. W. (1977). Development of a program to increase personal happiness. Journal of counseling psychology, 24(6), 511.

Haybron, D. M. (2003). What do we want from a theory of happiness? Metaphilosophy, 34(3), 305-329.

Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional wellbeing. PNAS, 107, 16489 – 16493.

Kringelbach ML, Berridge KC. Pleasures of the Brain. New York: Oxford University Press; 2010.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social indicators research, 46(2), 137-155.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 141-166.

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Policy, 27(3), 60-1.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.


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Nidhi Dahiya

Wow… amazingly written

Amna Alim

amazing work!

Stuti Jhaveri

Well written!!

Brinda S

very informative!

Riya Rajkotiya

Good Concept
Wonderfully written


Hey Pradeep, “There are plenty of things available to do to become a happy person and a more fulfilling life.”- rightly said pradeep . Life is short and unexpected, there may be highs and downs
still it is a game filled with a lot of fun and magic. Lets love the moment we live without expectations. Thanks for taking time and spreading happiness. Best wishes

Nandini Jain

hii pardeep please write about wealth and well being as in India people give more importance to materialistic things such as car, house etc.

Disha Dhage

amazing article

Disha Dhage

could have used pictures

Disha Dhage

overall great

Disha Dhage

keep it up

Disha Dhage

will share

Disha Dhage


Sushmitha Subramani

Well conceptualized and well iterated

Sushmitha Subramani

You are most welcome

Sushmitha Subramani

I liked the fact that you emphasized positive aspect of psychology. Hedonistic instincts are always seen in bad light but they must be also focus on the other side of the coin. Hedonism can be useful for survival.

Sushmitha Subramani

My pleasure. Glad you found my comments useful. Glad that you chose a good topic and justified it well. Keep it up.

Simone Morarka

Well written! Great job adding the references :))

Simone Morarka

Looking forward to more of your work!!

Jigyasa vashistha

Amazing content

Leanne Rebelo

Very in-dept.! written pretty well…

Shubhra Vyas

Well written and informative, helped gain some insight into this topic. However, adding bullet points to the factors affecting happiness would have made the reading easier for the reader. Just a suggestion 🙂


simple but content oriented

Dikshitha Surana.Y

Well conceptualized and well iterated!