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The Psychology of Happiness: tips to be a happier/well-being individual

Posted on July 13, 2017 in People Development


Ever wondered what is your happiness scores? A simple question, how often do you feel happy in the past 7 days? On a scale of 0-10, zero for extremely unhappy and 10 for extremely happy. The next question is, are you in the normal range of happiness score?

Interesting database showing worldwide average happiness scores from year 2005 to 2014 of continuous 10 years study with survey to collect data in each country as follow, have randomly selected some countries in Figure 1. Lowest average happiness scores in the world is Tanzania 2.5 and the highest is Costa Rica 8.5. Where we live – Malaysia scores 6.6, we are fairly happy people. So, are you happier than the average Malaysian? (Further reading for pleasure The World Happiness Report 2017 can be found here)

Figure 1 Happiness by country 2005-2014. Source: Veenhoven, R., World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Here are some common questions on the psychology of happiness.

Question: “what is the meaning of “happiness” to you?”

Psychologists talked about unhappiness as a contemporary society’s illness; people are sick if there were unhappy. Happiness related to mental health state, well-being of a person leads to higher satisfaction with life, optimistic and have purpose in life. While ill-being caused depression, unpleasant moods and nervousness, which then leads to unhappiness.

Surprisingly, people tend to feel happier when they are alone; therefore, the society is getting lonelier – moving toward individualism. Do you notice people tend to smile when they are looking at their phone or devices, but they may tend to not smile to people around them? Individualism is a lifestyle nowadays; people tend to be eating alone, shopping alone, watch movie alone, travel alone, take selfie more than wefie because they are alone, there is very little emotional connection with real human. Are you one of them? Is this type of happiness healthy? You be the judge.

Question: How to be happy person?
10 years ago, positive psychology was a new trend. The approach suggested positive mindset encourages happiness, self-realization, and well-being ultimately promotes physical health. To be a happy person, there are a few aspects to take care of, such as acceptance of individual’s strengths and weaknesses, finding a purpose of life, realize self-potential, having close relationship with loved ones, able to generate income and support living. The ability to achieve the above positively related to physical health state.

No matter where you are, take good care of your own physical and mental health, because no one can help you on that. You are in charge of your own happiness. If either one of the above went wrong, it will also affects people around you, so do not be selfish, take good care of yourself so others can work/live with you well.

Question: Happy people don’t fall sick? Really?
Do you believe happiness prolong human lifespan? Apparently healthy and happy people do live longer life, but happiness does not cure patients from their ill-being. World Health Organization (WHO) did a research about relationship of health and well-being comparing to health and income; The result shows that the relationship of health and well-being is greater than health and income. Do you work late everyday because you are the sole breadwinner of your family? Put aside the financial burden, does that make you a happy person? If you have a choice, would you choose to be happy or wealthy? 

Question: Can money buy happiness/well-being?

My family friend – Amy, she was an optimistic person who was always smiling and absolutely loves food. Recently, she passed away at the age of 42, leaving behind her husband and her 13 years’ old child. The caused of death was heart complications after angioplasti operation, whereby two of her coronary arteries had blockage up to 98%. Amy found out her heart problem six months ago due to chronic chest pain. But she choose to delay her treatment due to many reasons, workload that never finishes, worried about her insurance which may not be able to cover her medical expenses, worried about if she was hospitalized, there is is no one to take care of her family and etc. She was a person who was always putting others before herself. However, she was happily doing it for her family. Although she didn’t live a lavish life, she had lived a comfortable life. I would think that Amy’s happiness scores 9.

Afterall, it is your choice isn’t it? To be happy or not to be? To hold on to a grudge or not to hold on? To put on a smile or not to smile? To work for money or happiness/passion? An expensive and lavish lifestyle may be desired lifestyle for some but it doesn’t mean that it is a happy choice. Materialistic lifestyle may bring pleasure but it may not make you happy in the long run. Look at founder of Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Pricilla Chan, they are living example of happy people, who works for passion, promote healthy lifestyle with lots of exercise, prioritise family time and pledging part of their fortune for the needy. I would think their happiness scores 9 too.

Question: So, what are the tips to happiness?

Mother Teresa once said, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

Here are 10 inspiring individual you can learn to live happily, as they do:

Help Others in Need; Mother Teresa, she promotes world peace and she extended help to those in need and did not ask for return.

Be authentic; Arnold Schwarzenegger, he has an amazing resume but he choose different path during different stage of his life and to be true to himself.

Know yourself; Oprah Winfrey said, “turn your wound into wisdom”. She knows she has to pick herself up when something unfortunate happened to her. She found herself through hardship.

Connect to the world; do not forget your interpersonal relationships, family, friends, loved ones and keep in touch, not sure how to do it? Read about Dale Carnegie’s famous book “How to win friends and influence people.” He has written great deal of ways to connect with real human.

Meditate; have some me-time and self-reflect, think about one reason to be happy every day. Carl Jung famous psychologist once said, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart.” 

Think positively; Nick Vujicic the man without limbs who never gave up, despite he had painful childhood where he had been bullied. He remains optimistic as he finds every little reasons to be happy and thankful for it.

Take control; ensure work like balance, have sufficient good rest, eat well, manage working hours and family time. Warren Buffett, 86 years old this year, he is a man who taken well control of his life, he even plan for his money after he dies.  

Live healthily; choose healthier diet, exercise, and stay on top of your health status. Robert Downey Junior, he had a messy adolescent life, but he made a choice to change and stay healthy most importantly, he plays well as Tony Starks because he made a choice.

Live simply; adopt minimalism lifestyle to reduce stress level, manage your lifestyle and be happy about that. Steve Jobs, the spirit of Apple, demonstrated minimalist lifestyle perfectly, though sometimes I wonder does he ever change his clothes.

Follow your gut feelings; acknowledge your inner thoughts and go with the flow. Emma Watsons, the ambassador of feminism, has a strong voice about feminism. Despite all the negative comments about her, she follows her heart and she had transformed from an 11 year old girl in Harry Potter as Hermione to win MTV's first gender-neutral acting award.

These people are no lesser or more than you and I as human being, though the measurement of happiness is different for every individual, but we have a choice. If you have a choice now to make a change, will you choose to be “0” or “10”? It’s all up to you.

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