What is Happiness as per psychologists? it’s definitions, formula types, theories

Everyone has his/ her own happiness definition but whose is the true one. to get what exactly the happiness is we can get help from psychologist who research this construct/ concept. lets begin with Martin Seligman, father of positive psychology.

The origin of the term “Happiness” comes from the Old Norse term “Happ” which means “luck” or “chance.” Old English word “Hæpic” which means “equal” is also taken as ‘Happiness’.

The early senses of happiness such as “good luck,” “success,” and “contentment,” are dating from the 1500s are still very much in use today.

Martin Seligman (2002) gave formula for Happiness –


S=Set range, everyone is born with a certain ‘set-point’ of happiness, determined by genes.
C= Circumstances one lives in influence his/her level of happiness.
V= Voluntary control (past, present, future).

Definitions of Happiness 

According to Myers & Diener (1995) Happiness is the experience of frequent positive effect, infrequent negative effect and an overall sense of satisfaction with life as a whole.

Veenhoven (1997) defined the term happiness as the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life-as-a-whole positively.

Argyle & Hills (2002) defined happiness as a combination of life satisfaction and frequency of positive and negative affect which is measured through subjective well-being (SWB).

Carr (2004) defined happiness as a positive psychological state characterized by a high level of satisfaction with life, a high level of positive affect and a low level of negative affect.

Dyke (2007) viewed happiness as inward, and outward and asserts that it does not depend on what you have, but on what we are.

Lyubomirsky (2007) took happiness as the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.

Webster’s Online Dictionary (2008) defines happiness as a state of well-being and contentment, a pleasurable or satisfying experience of a person.

Shivani and Oberoi (2015) is of view that happiness is not dependency it is a decision.

Sources of Happiness

There are two major sources of happiness.

2.  Hedonic basis of happiness- Subjective Well-being:.
3. The Eudaimonic basis of happiness Self-Realization:

Theories of Happiness

The “Stressors and Successes Theory,” sees happiness as the balance of positive and negative emotional experiences one has experienced over the years.

The “Bom to be Happy Theory,” pointing to basic genetics as the root of happiness. The set points for happiness is 98% (0.55/0.54) heritable . Some allocate happiness to basic temperament and disposition that is either learned
early in life or inborn, the “Happy No Matter What Theory.” Others say it’s due to physiological and biorhythmic changes. The “Naturally Happy Theory.”

1. Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Theory (2002)

He integrated most of theories of happiness which were considering following. The pleasant life is about happiness in Hedonism’s sense. The good life – is about happiness in desire’s sense. The meaningful life – is about happiness in objective list sense.

The theory holds the notion that happiness could be analyzed into three different elements that we choose:

  1. Positive emotion -The first is in having positive emotions such as pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth and comfort.
  2. Engagement- The second is about flow as of getting engaged in something which one desires of and letting him being loss of self-consciousness during that activity.
  3. Meaning –  The third element of happiness propounded by this theory is meaning. One might be feelings some positive emotions and getting engaged in enjoying the things they desire of, but those things are only momentary. To have happiness for lifelong one must have some meaning or purpose in life.

2. The “Happiness Skills Theory,” (HST)

This theory proposes that state of happiness- subjective sense of. well-being – is achieved by:

  1. Experience,
  2. Valuation,
  3. Anticipation,
  4. Hedonic acquisition
  5. Habit formation.\

3. Evolutionary theory of Happiness

It insists upon the connection between the objective property of fitness and the subjective experience of feeling well.

Biologically, feelings function to orient an organism away from dangerous situations (signaled by unpleasant affects such as fear, hunger or pain) and towards positive situations (signaled by positive effects, such as enjoyment, love, satisfaction).

Therefore, positive feelings will normally indicate that the organism is approaching the optimal state. Happiness can, therefore, be seen as an indication that a person is biologically fit (near to the optimal state) and cognitively in control (capable of counteracting eventual deviations from that optimal state).

Types of Happiness:

1. The Pleasant life — Defined by how you feel.
• Contentment about the past (Gratitude, forgiveness)
• Pleasure, positive emotions in the present (“Savoring a Beautiful Day” exercise)
• Hope, optimism for the future.
2. The Engaged life— Being in a state of “flow,” fully in the present moment. Knowing and deploying one’s highest strengths.
3. The Meaningful life — Feeling that one’s life serves a larger purpose. “Not just fidgeting until one’s dies.”

Over time, positive emotions build personal resources and increase wellbeing. The positive emotions are not just a marker of well-being, but they also produce it for the future. Positive affect is the single most important active
ingredient within human flourishing.

Negativity is important as well, to keep us grounded and to avoid a poUyanna syndrome, but people tend to flourish when their positivity to negativity ratio is 3:1 or higher. When there is a low level of positive emotion, people tend to get stuck.

Test you happiness with standard psychometric tests click on tab below –
Oxford happiness Questionnaire

Baumgardner, S. R., & Crothers, M. K. (2009). Positive Psychology: Pearson Education.
Carr, Alan (2007). Positive Psychology: The science of human happiness and human strengths. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group-London.


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