“Subjective well-being” (SWB) is a term that researchers often use to represent the construct of happiness. SWB is generally understood as the cognitive and affective evaluation of one’s own life.
Simply, how happy you are has a lot to do with how satisfied you are with important aspects of your life such as your family, friends, home, health, money, employment and livelihood, opportunity for fun and recreation.
Some researchers believe that there is actually a biological “set-point” that determines about half of one’s level of happiness. This point varies across individuals, ranging from low, to moderate, to high levels of happiness. Nearly 90% of this set-point is thought to be genetically determined! As a consequence, even though positive or negative events may send some people to the lower or upper regions of their set-point, your feelings of positivity may actually be surprisingly stable!
Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness,” has developed what he refers to as the happiness formula:
H = S + C + V
In this formula, H represents your enduring level of happiness, S is your set-point (or what Seligman calls “set range”), C stands for the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control.
James A. Roberts in his book “Shiny Objects” uses Seligman’s happiness formula to address one important life circumstance: consumption. He states that “the importance of money and material possessions in our current consumer culture has given money the power to dramatically sway our happiness.”
“The last component of Seligman’s happiness formula is V which represents factors under your voluntary control. As it relates to money and possessions, what is under your control is the value you place on those material goods relative to the myriad of other things competing for your attention. How you relate to money and possessions impacts how you feel about yourself, the quality of your personal relationships, and your involvement in the larger community.”
For fun, measure your own happiness level and see how you stack up against the rest of us! The happiness scale attached was devised by Sonja Lyubomirsky, and will give you a good sense of your level of enduring happiness. What did you learn about yourself from completing this short scale?
Roberts, James A., (2012). Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy. Harper One.