An Integrative Look at Happiness


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Notes for section 3.3 of my IB HL psychology textbook. All about happiness on all different levels.

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An Integrative Look at Happiness

  1. 1. An Integrative Look at Happiness
  2. 2. Happiness • Common beliefs about what contributes to happiness (i.e. money!) are not confirmed by psychological research • People get used to originally happy situations so the happiness wears off • Lyubomirsky (2001): – Inborn genetic set-point for happiness probably accounts for 50% of our happiness – Circumstances affect 10% of our happiness – Individuals can influence the other 40%
  3. 3. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) • Defined happiness: the sum of positive emotions minus the sum of negative emotions • Believed any action that promoted happiness was morally right – Actions promoting happiness defined as pleasure and the absence of pain
  4. 4. Rich Doesn’t = Happy • Two explanations: – People compare themselves to others • Based on Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory • People assess themselves in comparison with others; they aren’t as happy if they compare themselves to people who have more/as much – People link happiness to reaching goals, but continue to set higher ones • Based on Julian Rotter’s level of aspiration theory • People formulate general expectancy • Only happy for a short time (if at all) once they reach their goal
  5. 5. Myers and Dieners (1995) • Found discrepancy between wealth and happiness • Buying power of average American had tripled since 1950 • Proportion of Americans who described themselves as “very happy” remained at about 1/3 • Shows no direct link between increase in wealth and increase in happiness!
  6. 6. Hagerty (2003) • Happiness was positively correlated with equality of distribution of wealth in the country • As inequality of income decreased, average level of life satisfaction increased • Could be explained by social comparison theory – We often tend to compare ourselves to those who are more fortunate (upward comparison) which leads to dissatisfaction
  7. 7. Goals & Happiness • People who link happiness to specific goals are less likely to be happy • When they reach their goals and do not find themselves to be any happier they set new ones! • The media portrays wealthy consumers as happy and the public believes it!
  8. 8. Johnson and Kruger (2006) • Satisfaction with one’s own salary is a better indicator of happiness • Dissatisfaction when people think they should earn more or feel others deserve less than they earn – Less happy, more greedy, because they compare themselves to others
  9. 9. Conway, di Fazio, and Mayman (1999) • Judge emotional reactions of high-status people (with money) and low-status people (without money) • Widespread false belief (illusory correlation) that richer = happier, less angry, less depressed, less afraid • Did not believe the status made a difference in love
  10. 10. Dalai Lama • Dalai Lama thinks the key to happiness is in our hands • Compassion is an important part of spiritual development – State of mind which is non-aggressive and rests on the desire to help other people – Acknowledging all people’s right to happiness • Base happiness on connectedness to other people—not wealth – Empathy is an important factor
  11. 11. Sociocultural Influences: Bhutan • Bhutan is very poor, but people are very happy • Spiritual and meditative people; happy with idle time, contemplation, and the pursuit of wisdom • Government is not focused on productivity, efficiency, and money • Government considers the unique nature of Bhutanese culture valuable • King of Bhutan introduced the gross national happiness to measure happiness – The king is a Buddhist and thinks the purpose of life is inner happiness
  12. 12. Sociocultural Influences • The Danes are the happiest people on Earth – Over 2/3 are “very satisfied” with their lives – Climate does not seem a positive happy force – Welfare state and highest level of income equality – Prosperous economy and well-functioning democracy – Do not have particularly high expectations about the future—more realistic
  13. 13. Adrian White’s Map of World Happiness • Created with a meta-analysis of 100 different worldwide studies • Happiest: Denmark, Switzerland • Unhappiest: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Burundi
  14. 14. National Happiness • 81% of population think the government should focus on making citizens happier rather than wealthier • .62 correlation between nation’s happiness and health • .52 correlation between nation’s happiness and wealth • .51 correlation between nation’s happiness and provision of education
  15. 15. Positive Psychology • Term coined by Martin Seligman • One main goal: conduct research that promotes human happiness and well-being • People can learn to think positively • Positive emotions help mentally and physically • However, most happiness research is only applicable to Western civilizations
  16. 16. Biological Factors in Happiness • Habituation: People tend to adapt to their environment • Inherited ability to adapt to both negative and positive situations – Evolutionarily: our ancestors passed on genes such as the ability to notice changes/adapt • Humans seem to have an inner voice of dissatisfaction that prompts them to strive for more – Our ancestors were the same way
  17. 17. Genetics & Happiness • David Lykken thinks we have an innate baseline (or set-point) of happiness • Happiness Twin Study (Lykken 1996) to compare happiness scores of identical and fraternal twins – Identical twins were very similar in happiness scores – Fraternal twins were not similar at all
  18. 18. Happiness • 50% of happiness is due to genetics • 10% due to situational factors – i.e. rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy, married, sing • 40% within one’s own control – According to Sonja Lyubomirsky – Actions and thoughts can affect happiness
  19. 19. Characteristics of Happy People • Devote a lot of time to family and friends • Easily express gratitude • First to offer a helping hand • Optimistic outlook on future • Enjoy pleasures of life; live in the present • Spend time doing physical exercise • Committed to lifelong goals and ambitions • Cope well in times of crisis
  20. 20. Lyubomirky Suggests… • Express gratitude • Investigate social connections • Practice acts of kindness • Avoid overthinking • Avoid social comparison
  21. 21. Volunteering & Happiness • Swartz et al. (1999) • Volunteer work resulted in dramatic changes in their lives – Thinking of other people’s problems – More tolerant and open – Confidence in coping abilities – Participated in more social activities – Fewer episodes of depression • Small sample; not large enough to generalize
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