Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Happiness: A Central Objective of Positive Psychology

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Happiness: A Central Objective of Positive Psychology

Article excerpt

In western history, the Greeks are said to have views happiness as the ability "to exercise powers in pursuit of excellence in a life free from constraints (Nisbett, 2003, pp 2-3). In Eastern philosophy, happiness is described as having the "Satisfaction of a plain country life, shared with a harmonious social network" (Nisbett, p 5-6). In Buddhist teaching, when people reach a state of nirvana, they have reached a peacefulness entailing" Complete harmony, balance and equilibrium" (Sangharakshita, 1991). Aristotle believed that euidamonia (human flourishing associated with living a life of virtue), or happiness based on a lifelong pursuit of meaningful development goals, was the key to the good life. America's founders reasoned that the pursuit of happiness just as important as our inalienable rights of life and liberty. These age old definitions of happiness have had clear influences on the views of 21st century researchers. As a scientific enterprise, positive psychology focuses on understanding and explaining happiness.

Happiness is a positive or pleasant emotional state and it is subjectively defined by each person. Happiness refer to both positive feelings such as joy or serenity and to positive states such as those involving flow or absorption. Modem psychology has focused primarily on a post materialistic view of happiness (Diener, et al. 2002) that emphasizes pleasure, satisfaction and Ufe meaning. Seligman (2002) suggests that a pleasant and meaningful Ufe can be built on the happiness that results from using our psychological strengths.

Theories ofHappiness

Theories of happiness have been divided into three types:

Need/Goal Satisfaction Theory: Psychoanalytic and humanistic theorists suggested that the reduction of tension or the satisfaction of needs lead to happiness. In short, it was theorized that we are happy because we have reached our goals. Such "happiness as satisfaction" makes happiness a target of our psychological pursuits.

Process/ Activity Theory: In the process / activity camp, theorists posit that engaging in particular life activities generates happiness. Theorists proposed that people who experience flow (engagement in interesting activities that match or challenge task-related skills) in daily life tend to be very happy, other theorists (Emmons, 1986; Snyder, 1994) have emphasized how the process of pursuing goals generates energy and happiness.

Genetic and Personality Predisposition Theory: Those who emphasize the genetic and personality predisposition theories of happiness (Diener & Larsen 1984; Watson, 2000) tend to see happiness as stable. Lucas and Fujita (2000) showed that extroversion and neuroticism factors of personality were closely related to the characteristics of happiness.

Effects ofHappiness

It is interesting to know how the happiness influence some domains of life of a person. Three main effects have been pursued by various investigators.

Creativity and Productivity

Evidence shows that positive emotions can facilitate creativity and problem solving, it is not surprising that happiness also increases work productivity. Staw et al. (1994) in a study of over 200 workers found that over an 18 month period happier people obtained better evaluations and higher pay than their less happy counterparts.


Evidence from longitudinal studies shows that happiness has important effects on longevity. In a follow-back study of 180 nuns in the USA, Danner et al. (2001) found that the happiness expressed in essays that the nuns wrote as they entered the order was associated with their longevity. Ostir et al. (2000) in a longitudinal study of more than 2000 Mexican Americans over 65 years of age, found that after two years, positive emotions at the start of the study predicted who lived or died and who showed greater functional independence or disability. The researchers showed one happy participants were twice as likely to service and to remain functionally independent compared with their unhappy counterparts. …

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