Subjective well-being is not the same as happiness, even if such terms are often used as synonymous. Subjective well-being, as defined by Ed Diener, covers “a broad category of phenomena that includes people’s emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgements of life satisfaction. Subjective well-being consists of two distinctive components: an affective part (evaluation guided by emotions and feeling), which refers to both the presence of positive affect (PA) and the absence of negative affect (NA), and a cognitive part (information-based appraisal of one’s life, evaluated using expectations and “ideal life” as benchmark)”. It is commonly abbreviated as SWB.
The usage of the term “subjective well-being”, or even the term “joy”, is much less widespread then the one “happiness”. While we use happiness in the title of this blog because that is what people search for and it is widely mentioned in the field of positive psychology, a suitable way to rephrase it is, in our opinion, “living joyfully” (when referred to the ordinary meaning of the word), and to use the already mentioned “subjective well-being” which is the accepted standard when it comes to scientific research.
This is a selection of scientific findings about subjective well-being; as every selection, more could have been add, and we can discover more about it by reading in full the books of the authors mentioned here, and their colleagues:
– Mindfulness: as reported by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, study participants who appreciate positive moments of their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression”.
– Money can’t buy you subjective well-being: researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan found that “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there. The satisfaction has a short half-life—it’s very fleeting”. Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization. These findings are consistent across nations and cultures.
– Have meaningful goals: this has been a recurrent them along this book. “People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable” according to Tal Ben-Shahar.
– Exercising matters: exercising delivers a sense of accomplishment, plus opportunity for interaction with people and environment, releasing endorphins and boosting self-esteem. And, under the supervision of a doctor, it may be very effective in healing depression.
– Positive outlook: “Happy people…see possibilities, opportunities, and success. When they think of the future, they are optimistic, and when they review the past, they tend to savour the high points,” say Diener and Biswas-Diener.