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Happiness Psychology

According to Wikipedia and Stanford University Definitions: Happiness Psychology is the branch of psychology that uses scientific study to help in the achievement of a more satisfactory life and mental well-being. This field brings attention to the possibility of full human development on social conditions.

The science of happiness has received considerable amount of attention in the last decade. The
findings have attracted enormous attention. According to Stanford University research, we have begun to understand the following:

  • Happiness can be measured objectively and over time.
  • There is a strong correlation between happiness and the experience of meaning.
  • We have many misconceptions about what makes us happy.
  • There are things we can do―voluntary and intentional activities―to increase our
    levels of happiness and meaning.

The words, "the good life" are derived from speculation about what holds the greatest value in life - the factors that contribute the most to a well-lived and fulfilling life.

Topics of interest to researchers in the field are: states of pleasure or flow, values, strengths, virtues, talents, as well as the ways that these can be promoted by social systems and institutions. Positive psychologists are concerned with four topics:

  1. positive experiences,
  2. enduring psychological traits,
  3. positive relationships and
  4. positive institutions.

L.M. Keyes and Shane Lopez illustrate the four typologies of mental health functioning: flourishing, struggling, floundering and languishing. However, complete mental health is a combination of high emotional well-being, high psychological well-being, and high social well-being, along with low mental illness.

Most psychologists focus on human's most basic emotions. There are thought to be between seven and fifteen basic emotions. The emotions can be combined in many ways to create more subtle variations of emotional experience. This suggests that any attempt to wholly eliminate negative emotions from our life would have the unintended consequence of losing the variety and subtlety of our most profound emotional experiences.

In cognitive therapy, the goal is to help people change negative styles of thinking as a way to change how they feel. This approach has been very successful, and changing how we think about other people, our future, and ourselves is partially responsible for this success. The thinking processes that impact our emotional states vary considerably from person to person. An ability to pull attention away from the chronic inner chatter of our thoughts can be quite advantageous to well-being. A change in our orientation to time can dramatically impact how we think about the nature of happiness. Seligman identified other possible goals: families and schools that allow children to grow, workplaces that aim for satisfaction and high productivity, and teaching others about positive psychology.

Efforts to increase positive emotions will not automatically result in decreased negative emotions, nor will decreased negative emotions necessarily result in increased positive emotions. Russell and Feldman Barrett (1992) described emotional reactions as core affects, which are primitive emotional reactions that are consistently experienced but often not acknowledged; they blend pleasant and unpleasant as well as activated and deactivated dimensions that we carry with us at an almost unconscious level.

From the time it originated in 1998, this field invested tens of millions of dollars in research, published numerous scientific papers, established several masters and Ph. D programs, and has been involved in many major news outlets. The International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) is a recently established association that has expanded to thousands of members from 80 different countries. The IPPA’s missions include: (1) “further the science of positive psychology across the globe and to ensure that the field continues to rest on this science” (2) “work for the effective and responsible application of positive psychology in diverse areas such as organizational psychology, counselling and clinical psychology, business, health, education, and coaching”,(3) “foster education and training in the field.”


Several humanistic psychologists—such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm—developed theories and practices pertaining to human happiness and flourishing. More recently, positive psychologists have found empirical support for the humanistic theories of flourishing. In addition, positive psychology has moved ahead in a variety of new directions.

Positive psychology began as a new area of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association, though the term originates with Maslow, in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, and there have been indications that psychologists since the 1950s have been increasingly focused on the promotion of mental health rather than merely treating illness. In the first sentence of his book Authentic Happiness, Seligman claimed: "for the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only - mental illness", expanding on Maslow’s comments. He urged psychologists to continue the earlier missions of psychology of nurturing talent and improving normal life.

How to become happier?

If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.
—Edith Wharton

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but
rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
—Frederick Keonig

Research studies show that our enduring level of happiness (H) is determined by our happiness set point (S), life circumstances (C) (influenced by aspects of temperament and character such as depression and sleep quality) and intentional or voluntary activities (V). Martin Seligman proposed an equation for happiness: H = S + C + V.

Further, Sonja Lyubomirsky, a prominent researcher in the field of happiness and author of The How of Happiness, attached percentages to these components. She suggested that our ―set point, or happiness level determined by birth or genetics, accounts for 50 percent of happiness; circumstances such as marital status, earnings, and looks determine 10 percent; and the remainder of our happiness comes from intentional activities or things we can do to change our happiness level.

Contributor: Mona Safi, GNH Institute

Sources: Wikipedia and Stanford University and GNH Research Library

To learn more check Psychology of Happiness - Stanford University



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