Happiness, Subjective Well-Being
and Positive Affect
Louise Cooper, Lynne Doran,
Derek Laffan & Sarah McSweeney.
Learning Outcomes
• Understand definitions of Happiness, Subjective
Well-Being (SWB) & Positive Affect
• Understand theories of Happiness
• Be aware of the measures available for Happiness,
SWB & Positive Affect
• Identify factors that influence happiness
• Be aware of global happiness
• Be aware of “happiness boosting” interventions and
be able to apply it into your everyday life
Activity: What is Happiness?
Subjective Well-Being
Positive Affect
How people evaluate
their own lives in
terms of cognitive
(life-satisfaction) and
affective explanations
(Boniwell, 2008)
Various positive
emotions, feelings and
moods that we
frequently experience
and easily recognise
(Boniwell, 2008)
• Sonja Lyubomirsky – What is Happiness?
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HFL9Mn
Three routes to happiness
Seligman (2002)
• The Pleasant Life
– Having many pleasures in life and the skills to amplify
• The Good Life
– Knowing your signature strengths, and recreating your
life (work, love, friendship, leisure, parenting) to use
those strengths to have more ‘flow’ in life
• The Meaningful Life
– Using your signature strengths to serve something
that you believe is larger than you are
Set-Point Model
Set- point (genetics)
Voluntary Control
Adaptation Theory
• Strong reaction to recent events
– High levels of happiness after winning the lotto
– Returns to set-point (3 months)
• Linked to ‘zero-sum’ theory
– Happy and unhappy periods are cyclical
• Brickman et al. (1978). Longitudinal study on
“happiness among lotto winners”
• Hedonic Adaption Prevention Model
Discrepancy Theories
• Increase in wealth in the last 50 years but
happiness levels have stayed the same, why?
• SWB is a function of comparison processes
– Social, past-self, internalised standards
• Status anxiety & Materialism
– Linked with lower SWB and depression
• Too much Choice
– Satisficers V Maximisers
Global Measures of Happiness
1. Subjective Happiness Scale
(Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999)
2. Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985)
3. PANAS Questionnaire (Watson et al., 1985)
4. Meaning of Life Questionnaire (Steger et al., 2006)
5. Flow Experience Scale (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988)
Global Measures of SWB
• Psychometrically sound
• Valid
• Reliable
• Efficient
• Cost effective
• Requires accurate reflection and
unbiased assessment of one’s
• Influence of immediate
• Sensitive to information
accessed before measurement
• Social comparisons
 Kurtz, J. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (in press).
Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
• More suitable (than global measures) for
assessing the affective component
– frequent positive affect and infrequent negative affect
• Aggregate of momentary affective experiences
encountered throughout daily life
• Comes from Csikszentmihalyi’s work on ‘flow’
• Costly & requires a great deal of participants’
time and co-operation
Day Reconstruction Method (DSM)
• Proposed by Kahneman et al., (2004)
• Short-term daily diary of distinct episodes
• Appropriate for large scale data collections of
SWB indicators
• More cost-effective than ESM, but also
requires a lot of participants’ time
• Provides unique and novel information about
what people do and how they feel in their
everyday lives
Who is happy?
• It appears that most of us
are indeed happy (Myers,
• Five ways to wellbeing –
two recent studies, The
Foresight Report and
Gallup’s most recent
world poll, have shown
similar finding. The
findings suggest that
there are five necessary
elements for wellbeing
The Foresight report
• Connect (relationships)
• Be active
• Take notice
– “stop to smell the roses”
• Keep learning
• Give (random acts of kindness)
The Gallup organisation
• Career wellbeing
• Social wellbeing
• Financial wellbeing
• Physical wellbeing
• Community wellbeing
Activity: What makes us happy?
True or False
Income and Happiness
• Does money make us
happy? YES…well a little bit.
• Individuals who live in
countries with high GDP,
such as the USA, on average
score higher on wellbeing
measures than those living
in countries with low GDP,
such as Togo (Deaton, 2008)
Income and Happiness
• In order to maintain balanced levels of
wellbeing, individuals must take home
approximately $5000 per month, anything
more will do little to enhance happiness.
• An extra $10,000 per annum will only bump
up your happiness levels by approximately 2
per cent (Christakis & Fowler, 2009).
Relationships and Happiness
Being around others enhances
individual wellbeing.
Spending time in social
settings enhances levels of
wellbeing among both
introverted or extroverted,
(Froh et al., 2007).
Happier people are more
likely to get married, while
reporting a happy marriage
as they stay together.
Relationships and Happiness
• The relationship between children and marital
satisfaction shows high levels of life satisfaction at
marriage, and then drops at the birth of the first child
• The levels of life satisfaction also continue to drop
throughout childhood and adolescence, then returns to
high levels when the children leave the home
• Therefore, having children actually decreases levels of
SWB (Heffernon & Boniwell, 2011)
Work and Happiness
• An individual’s job
perception can
influence wellbeing
• One third of employee’s
perceive work as a
‘calling orientation’
– Job orientation
– Career orientation
– Calling orientation
Health and Happiness
• Diener and Biswas-Diener
(2008) have categorised the
effects of SWB on physical
health into 3 groups;
– The likelihood a person
will contract a specific
– How long the person will
live after contracting a
life threatening illness
– How long a persons
lifespan is
Religion and Happiness
• Religious people have
reported having slightly
higher levels of SWB
than those who do not
– E.g. Belief in something
higher, spirituality,
Other Factors and Happiness
• Age
• Gender
• Education
– High levels of SWB were found in those with
higher educational status
• Take a break. Have a.....
Global Happiness
• Evidence indicates that SWB levels of given countries
are stable (Inglehart & Klingemann, 2000)
• Social comparison theory
– gains and losses of different individuals in a nation result in
no noticeable shifts in happiness levels for the society as a
• The SWB and happiness of Americans has been
examined since 1946 (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson &
Welzel, 2008)
Global happiness
• Inglehart et al. (2008) found that a sense of
control over your life is conducive to
• Democratic countries generally report higher
happiness levels
• Happy people are more likely to
successfully sustain a democracy
Activity: Happiest Countries
Answers for Activity
Activity 1
Costa Rica
Activity 2
Costa Rica
D) China
Happiest Places on Earth
1. Costa Rica
2. Denmark
3. Puerto Rico
4. Iceland
5. Switzerland
6. Canada
7. Finland
8. Mexico
9. Norway
10. Sweden
(World Database of Happiness, 2010)
Why is Denmark so Happy?
• For past 30 years research has consistently
shown that Danes tend to be happier
(Inglehart & Klingleman, 2000)
• Welfare state
• High tax rates
– people could pay between
50 and 70% tax
• Social equality
Gross National Happiness
• Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an
alternative to the Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) as a means of measuring progress
within a country
• Increased wealth isn’t always an indicator of
happiness or progress
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zqdqa4Y
Well-being and Global Policies
Set Point Theory
Brickman et al. (1978)
Lykken and Tellegen (1996)
Set Point Theory
• Fujita and Diener (2005) found that there is a
modest stability in life satisfaction but that
around quarter of the population’s life
satisfaction does change significantly
• A major flaw of the studies investigating the
set point theory was that they were all carried
out within a single country
Situational Factors
• People’s circumstances account for only 10%
of their happiness levels
• Situational factors refer to one time changes
that usually occur independently of effort and
engagement (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)
– a person’s education level, the country they live in
and marriage
Intentional Activity
• Intentional activity (IA) involves continual effort
and engagement in some intentional process
(Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)
– essentially this is what we do everyday
• Accounts for 40% of our happiness
• IA allows for increases in happiness above the
levels set out by our circumstances and set point
– i.e., it is the only aspect of our happiness within our
Intentional Activity
• Lyubomirsky, Sheldon and Schkade (2005)
suggest that when choosing activities we
1. Find activities that fit our needs and
2. They should vary, i.e., changing your exercise
3. Timing of activities should vary
Happiness Boosting
Increasing Your Happiness
Happiness Boosting Activity
• In Your Groups
• You will be assigned an Intervention and
administered the Subjective Happiness Scale
(Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999)
• Score it and bring results to the top
Happiness Interventions
• Up until now, the focus has been on what
exactly happiness is and the kinds of things
that make us happy.
• Now, the focus is on how to INCREASE
happiness or in other words; “Happiness
Happiness Boosting
• Happiness “Boosting” usually happens in the
form of interventions
• Happiness Boosting interventions are important
for two reasons:
– to make people generally happier and,
– to allow happy people to develop other positive
• (Snyder & Lopez, 2005)
Past Happiness Interventions
• Fordyce (1977)
• Found that people tend
to become happier
when they mimic the
positive characteristics
of people they perceive
are happier than them
Past Happiness Interventions
• Seligman, Reivich,
Jaycox & Gillham (1995)
• Found that children
who were at risk of
developing depressive
and mood disorders
were significantly less
depressed after training
in optimistic thinking
and problem solving
Recent Happiness Interventions
• Lyubomirsky (2007)
• The How of Happiness: A
Practical Guide to Getting
the Life You Want
12 Happiness Activities:
Lyubomirsky (2007)
Expressing Gratitude
Cultivating Optimism
Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison
Practicing Acts of Kindness
Nurturing Social Relationships
Developing Strategies for Coping
Learning to Forgive
Increasing “Flow” Experiences
Savoring Life’s Joys
Committing to your Goals
Practicing Religion and Spirituality
Taking Care of your Body (Meditation/ Acting like a Happy Person)
Recent Happiness Interventions
• Live Happy™ iPhone
application (Signal
Patterns & Lyubomirsky,
• Designed based on
positive psychological
research findings in the
area of happiness
Live Happy™ and Signal Patterns
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGrwPnX
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSaOnWq
Recent Happiness Interventions
• Walls (2010) launched a
marketing campaign
about sharing to the
world the link of ice
cream and happiness
• http://www.youtube.co
Ice Cream and Happiness
Van Oudenhove et al. (2011)
• 12 healthy, non-obese
volunteers had their brains
scanned using FMRI
• Each had a gastric feeding
tube positioned
• Listened to pieces of sad or
neutral classical music while
they viewed images of
human facial expressions
depicting either sad or
neutral emotion
Van Oudenhove et al. (2011)
• The brain's responses to
sadness were significantly
reduced when the fatty
solution was infused into
the stomach
• Respondents also
reported less hunger and
a better mood when the
fatty solution was given
• Think, Pair, Share
Q. What did you find most interesting/important
while learning about happiness?
– Write down one or two points
– Discuss with the person beside you
– Share with the class
Questions to Think About
1. What is happiness, SWB & Positive Affect?
2. Can happiness be measured? Give examples.
3. Is happiness signified by an individual’s global
evaluation of his or her life, or is it the aggregate
of many moments, as measured by ESM?
4. What factors influence happiness?
5. Can happiness be acquired?
6. What happiness interventions are available?
Further Reading
• Articles
– Cohen et al. (2003). Emotional Style and the Susceptibility to
the Common Cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4):652-7
• Books
– Heffron, K. and Boniwell, I. (2011). Happiness and
Subjective Wellbeing across Nations. In: Positive
Psychology Theory, Research and Applications. p44 - 75.
• Websites
– www.authentichappiness.org
– http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/65/4/65
Boniwell, I. (2008). Positive psychology in a nutshell (2nd Ed). London: PWBC.
Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 36, 917-927.
Diener, E. and Biswas-Diener, R. (2008) Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Boston, MA:Blackwell Publishing.
Fordyce, M.W. (1977). Development of a program to increase personal happiness. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 24, 511-521.
Fujita, F., & Diener, E. (2005). Life satisfaction set point: Stability and change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 158-164.
Heffron, K, and Boniwell, I. "Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing Across Nations." Positive psychology: Theory, Research and Applications.
Buckingham: Open University Press, 2011. 44 - 75
Inglehart, R. and Klingemann, H-D. (2000) ‘Genes, culture, democracy and happiness’, in Diener and Suh (2000).
Inglehart, R., Foa, R., Peterson, C., & Welzel, C. (2008). Development, freedom and rising happiness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3,
Kristoff, N. D. (2010). The happiest people. The New York Times. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/opinion/07kristof.html
Kurtz, J. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (in press). Positive psychology. In M. R. Mehl & T. S. (Eds.), Handbook of research methods for studying daily life.
New York: Guilford Press.
Lykken,D. & Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomena. Journal of Psychological Sciences, 7, 186-189.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Press.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General
Psychology, 9, 111-131
Seligman, M.E.P., Reivich, K., Jaycox, L., and Gillham, J. (1995). The Optimistic Child. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Seligman, M. E. (2006). Pleasure, Meaning & Eudaimonia. Retrieved from
Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: Change your actions, not your circumstances. Journal of
Happiness Studies, 7, 55–86.
Signal Patterns and Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Live Happy. Pleasantville, NY.
Snyder, C.R., & Lopez, S. J. (2002). Handbook of Positive Psychology (Eds). New York: Oxford University Press.
Unilever. (2010). Ice cream served with a smile. Retrieved from http://www.unilever.com/mediacentre/news/icecreamsmile.aspx
Van Oudenhove, L., McKie, S., Lassman, D., Uddin, B., Paine, P., Coen, S., Gregory, L., Tack, J. and Aziz, Q. (2011). Fatty acid–induced gut-brain
signalling attenuates neural and behavioral effects of sad emotion in humans. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121(8), 3094
White, A. (2007). A global projection of subjective well-being: A challenge to positive psychology? Psychtalk :56, 17-.20
Thank you for listening!
ice cream

Happiness, Subjective Well Being and Positive Affect