Subjective well-being (SWB) is the scientific term for happiness and life satisfaction—thinking and feeling that your life is going rather well. People’s levels of subjective well-being are influenced by both internal factors, such as personality and outlook, and external factors, such as the society in which they live. Some of the major determinants of subjective well-being are a person’s inborn temperament, the quality of their social relationships, the societies they live in, and their ability to meet their basic needs. To some degree, human beings adapt to external conditions in such a way that over time their circumstances may not influence their happiness as much as one might predict they would. Researchers have also studied the outcomes of subjective well-being and have found that “happy” people are more likely to be healthier and live longer, to have better social relationships, and to be more productive at work. In other words, people high in subjective well-being seem to be healthier and function more effectively compared to people who are chronically stressed, depressed, or angry.
According to researchers, there are three major types of happiness:
- High life satisfaction
- Frequent positive feelings
- Infrequent negative feelings
Some people experience all three elements of happiness—they are very satisfied, enjoy life, and have only a few worries or other unpleasant emotions. Other unfortunate people are missing all three. Most of us also know individuals who have one type of happiness but not another
Ingredients for a happy life
In his latest book, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener lists four central ingredients for a happy life:
- Psychological wealth is more important than money. It is also your attitudes, goals and engaging activities at work.
- Happiness not only feels good, but is beneficial to relationships, work and health.
- It is helpful to set realistic expectations about happiness. No one is intensely happy at all times.
- Thinking is an important aspect to happiness. His theory of Attention, Interpretation, and Memory (AIM) helps people to increase their psychological wealth.