The definition for happiness is the mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from gratification to intense joy. Though this is a reasonable explanation, happiness can mean many different things to other people, for it is a concept that can vary significantly according to context or conditions. It is because of this variety of interpretation that psychologists emerged and tried to determine these distinctive concepts of happiness, in order to help the public change their negative style of thinking as a way to make normal life more fulfilling. Psychologists have studied the nature of happiness for quite some time, but there are some who are cynical about whether we can or even should study happiness. One psychologist by the name of William James believed that his own field of positive psychology was no science at all, as it is only “the hope for a science.” James’s pessimism, in relation to psychological science, brings up the question, “is it truly possible to study happiness when we undermine our experiences of this concept by focusing on achieving it?”
Before we can examine our cynical views on happiness, we must understand what determines our happiness. According to Sonja Lyubormirsky, there are three primary types of factors that allow us to address whether it is even possible to become happier, given our strong inherent influences on happiness and how a person might take action to pursue this happiness. An individual’s happiness is first determined by her or his set point, which is the central or expected value within a person’s set range. It is genetically determined and assumed to be stable over time, immune to influence or control. The set point implies that our happiness can be increased, but focusing solely on our set point can hinder the process of obtaining happiness (Lyubormirsky117). Therefore, we look into the circumstantial factors, that is, the incidental but relatively stable facts of an individual’s life. These circumstantial factors can range from the geographical and cultural region that a person resides in to the individual’s personal history that can affect his or her happiness. Though these circumstances affect how our lives unfold, it has limited potential for producing sustainable lasting changes in happiness. This leads into the most promising means to altering one’s happiness, called intentional activity. In other words, we choose to engage and put effort into the activities we believe will make us happy. It can be as simple as being kind to others to improve your own well being to looking at things in a positive light and setting personal goals. These events are so varied and episodic that they allow us to never fully adapt and lose interest from the desired effect. In the end, these three factors come together to help us better understand the sources of our happiness and how they play into our own subjective well-being.
Our subjective well-being encompasses moods and emotions as well as the evaluations of one’s satisfaction with general and specific areas of one’s life. Like our determined set points, subjective well-being tends to be stable over time and strongly relates to our personality traits in more ways than one. First off, subjective well-being is closely tied to personality traits associated with emotional tendencies that affect our positivity. Relationship-enhancing traits is also important for subjective well-being. For example, trust, a trait substantially related to subjective well-being as opposed to cynicism, involves making positive rather than negative attributions about others and their partners. Happy people tend to have strong relationships with others and are good at developing them. Making positive, optimistic attributions rather than negative pessimistic ones facilitates subjective wellbeing. The final element is the way in which people think about and explain events. Appraising events in an optimistic fashion,...
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