Your subjective well-being is a measure of how you personally feel about your own levels of happiness, satisfaction and emotional health – in short, your own evaluation of your quality of life. Having a high SWB means that you are happy with your life; you experience your life as being predominately positive and unpleasant feelings are uncommon and generally situational and temporary in nature. On the other hand, someone with a low SWB rates their life as dreary, stagnant or unpleasant, and considers happiness, joy and pleasure to be uncommon and mostly transient sensations.
According to Ed Diener, et al, in their paper “Recent Findings on Subjective Well-Being” (http://www.psych.uiuc.edu/~ediener/hottopic/paper1.html), there are three components to subjective well-being: Satisfaction, pleasant affect, and low levels of unpleasant affect. Satisfaction is a measure of how satisfied you are with your life. Pleasant affect refers to pleasant or positive emotions – joy, happiness, pleasure, love, pride, etc. And unpleasant affect refers to unpleasant emotions – guilt, anger, unhappiness, helplessness, etc. The sum of these factors, as you see them, makes up your overall perception of you subjective well-being.
Having a high SWB contributes immensely to your state of mental and physical health, you’re ability to cope with change and crisis, and your enjoyment of life in general. Here are a few ways you can boost your own personal happiness, and improve your chances of enjoying a long, happy life.
1. Don’t worry so much about money. One thing studies tell us for sure is that beyond the level required to meet basic needs, making more money won’t make you happier. In fact, people with extremely high incomes consistently rate themselves as only marginally happier than those with median incomes. Every increase in income comes with issues such as “keeping up with the Jones,” the discomfort of finding yourself dealing with unfamiliar cultural environments, concerns over financial planning, higher taxes and greater worries of theft, mismanagement and protection of existing assets. The more you have, it seems, the more you have to lose – and the more time you spend worrying about that loss.
2. Stay close to your family. One of the strongest predictors of happiness is having a network of supportive family ties. People who are surrounded by loving family members, and who feel they can call on their family for help and support, rate themselves as substantially happier. Making time to spend with your family will provide you with a happier, more stable and more secure outlook on life.
3. Make more friends. Another predictor of happiness is the number and depth of friendships that a person has. Similar to family ties, having strong friendships contributes significantly to a person’s subjective well-being, and thus to their overall quality of life.
4, Shut off the television. Exposure to television is directly correlated with unhappiness. Regular television viewers consistently rate themselves as less satisfied with their financial status, more insecure about life in general and dissatisfied with themselves and their relationships. One possible reason is that commercials, and the exaggeratedly wealthy and exciting lifestyles of television characters, work together to make us feel bad about our own normal lives and possessions. Another issue is that physically ideal people are incredibly over-represented on television, therefore making us unhappy and unsatisfied with how our own looks, and the physical attractiveness of those around us, fares in comparison.
5. Keep the faith. Finally, people who report feeing very happy or satisfied with their lives consistently report having a strong religious faith or spiritual belief system in their lives. It doesn’t seem to matter what religion or spirituality they believe in, just that they believe in something and those beliefs are an important part of their lives.
Although there is some basis for the idea that you have a certain level of base happiness to which you tend to return after changes in one direction or another, there’s no argument that changing some aspects of your life can make you happier in general. The resources at the Slow Down Fast (http://www.slowdownfast.com/) website can help you find ways of working on some of the tips above, so why not look into working on whichever seems especially problematic for you?
Thanks to Credit Card Lowdown for including this post in the Carnival of Money, Growth, and Happiness, and to The Mellow Monk for featuring this on The Mellow Monk Green Tea Blog.