I know many people who would say they are happy and highly satisfied with their life. I also know many people who are dissatisfied and discontent with their life situation.
What is the difference between those who have positive well-being and those who are suffering?
There are many personal and social factors that play a role in our level of happiness, though they may not be what you would expect. For instance, it’s not money or intelligence that makes the difference in these individuals’ lives.
Fortunately psychological research has explored this concept and provided us with valuable insight into how we can be happier and more satisfied.
Various reviews of literature reveal that there are 6 primary variables that relate to subjective well-being.
Feeling positively about ourselves is a major factor in whether we are satisfied with our life or not. A high self-esteem aids us in navigating relationships, confidently seeking growth and achievement, as well as experiencing positive emotions and dealing with adversity.
Sense of perceived control
Think of a time you felt out of control. What was this like? I imagine things felt chaotic and overwhelming. This is why a sense of control is a crucial predictor of subjective well-being. Believing we are in control of our life circumstances and having a sense of security is empowering. It prompts our motivation to achieve our goals and gives us the courage to build hope and faith in our future.
In a study of college students who were asked to report their mood over the course of a week, those students who were extroverted rated themselves at a “2” out of “3,” where “3” was happy and zero was neutral. On the other hand, introverts rated themselves at a “1.” Extraverts overall rated themselves as happier.
This may be due to extraverts’ propensity to experience more positive emotions or that extraverts, being more sociable, are likely to make more positive and supportive relationships.
People who are more optimistic about the future tend to report being happier and more satisfied. They believe that good things will happen and that adversity can be turned around. They may feel a sense of security and confidence about achieving their goals and dealing with life effectively.
It is important to mention that unrealistic optimism that cause problems when we overlook risk and disregard clear signs of trouble, however, a healthy dose of optimism can really have a positive impact on how we engage in life and the success we experience.
Positive social relationships
This is another clear predictor of subjective well-being. There are two main components to positive social relationships: social support and emotional intimacy. Social support offers us the ability to cope more effectively, manage problems, and ultimately feel better about ourselves.
Emotional intimacy is when we’re connected with others through a deep and meaningful relationship.
Both of these factors combine to offer us joyful and productive relationship.
A sense of meaning and purpose to life
Having life-satisfaction comes from uncovering our life purpose and living out our personal mission and vision. When we are living from a purpose, we can develop a greater sense of meaning for what happens in our life, and a positively correlated topic with this is religiosity. Having a spiritual or religious relationship seems to aid in the cultivation of purpose and meaning.
Most of these variables are interrelated and build on one another, and they can be learned and developed if we are willing to put in the time to grow in these areas. Determine where you feel you could use more balance and development and set some goals to bring more of this into your life.
Photo credit: eric albee
Compton W. C. (2005). An Introduction to Positive Psychology. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.