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Measuring happiness

Measuring happiness

According to psychologists, happiness and life satisfaction do not coincide. Life satisfaction requires individuals to take a step back to assess their lives while happiness mirrors positive and negative emotions that fluctuate.

Focusing on positive and negative emotions can lead to understanding well-being in a pleasure-based way. Happiness may be one of the elements in evaluating well-being but is not the only one.

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Understanding well-being based on feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, or happiness has two problems.

  • The physical-condition neglect. Humans adapt to their circumstances, meaning the poor and sick can still be relatively happy.
  • Valuation neglect. Valuing life is a reflective activity. It should not be reduced to feeling happy or unhappy.

We should then acknowledge that feeling well is not the only thing people care about.

This approach claims that both personal characteristics and social circumstances affect what people can achieve with a given amount of resources.

What really matters for well-being is what the person manages to do or to be. But well-being is more than that - it also includes freedom.

Preference-based perspective is the idea that people are better off when they themselves consider what is important.

Some people think hard work is necessary to have a valuable life while others prefer family or going out with friends.

Two Belgian economists show that different approaches to well-being can have practical consequences. Using average income, average life satisfaction, and average "equivalent income," Danes are more satisfied than they are wealthy while France is the opposite.

For policy purposes, the different measures of well-being hint at the important issues involved in deciding which measure of well-being - if any - to select.

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RELATED IDEAS

The State Hope Scale was designed to assess an individual's momentary goal-directed thinking.

It has a 6 item self-report, and respondents have to rate items based on how they think about themselves. (from 1 - definitely false to 8 - definitely true.)

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Subjective well-being

This is the primary way Positive Psychology researchers have defined and measured people's happiness and well-being.

It's defined as your evaluations of your own life and your moods and emotions (that's why it's labeled as "subjective").

The Apparent Wealth Of Other People

Money cannot buy happiness, but there is a new kind of association found between money and our perception towards it: comparison with other people's wealth.

Money by itself is a tool that can provide us with food, shelter, comfort and clothing. The connection between our happiness and our own wealth is overshadowed by the connection between our happiness and other people's subjective socioeconomic status.