This book tells the story of the scientific study of what makes us feel happy, content, joyous, and satisfied with our lives. The book considers how economic factors such as unemployment, income inequality, economic growth, and social welfare policies impact happiness. It examines how workplace and governmental policies interact with work-to-family interference to raise or lower happiness. The book describes the importance of more immediate social environments by examining marriage, parenthood, and friendships. It is thoroughly grounded in the scientific literature, providing empirically verified answers to some of the preceding questions, as well as answers to questions about how happiness can be increased. This book is intended as a primary text for students in undergraduate courses in happiness or Positive Psychology with minimal background in psychology, statistics, and research methods. It also can be used as a supplementary text for courses in social, introductory, or health psychology or psychology of adjustment. The book balances coverage of both socio-structural issues and the more individualistic concerns of positive psychology. It emphasizes the science of the psychology of happiness. There is a chapter on personality. The book examines how positive emotions can build happiness, and the importance of how we construe or interpret events. There is also extensive coverage of positive psychology interventions that can improve individuals' happiness. The book includes a chapter exploring evolution and happiness. It discusses the effects of social relationships, money, materialism, religion, and health on happiness. The book describes research methodologies and discusses whether causal attributions are appropriate. It analyzes the results of many of the studies; and invites students to interpret tables and graphs from primary source articles. The book also discusses mediated and moderated relationships. It guides students through the results by pointing toward important findings and explaining how they should be interpreted.
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This chapter brings together topics discussed throughout the book to examine ways we might be able to increase happiness. It first discusses the effectiveness of using positive psychology to increase individual happiness. The chapter then examines some Positive Psychology interventions (PPIs) directed toward institutions such as schools or workplaces. It also examines socio-structural approaches that drive toward the intersection of economics, government, public policy, psychology, and other social sciences. The chapter explores institutional-level approaches to increasing happiness by changing institutions with the hope that these changes will have widespread effects for individuals. The PPIs offer effective ways we can improve our own happiness by changing the way we think about events and the goals we choose to pursue. Rethinking social policies regarding taxes, social welfare systems, family and work balance, and so on, offers the opportunity to improve the happiness of our society as a whole.
This chapter talks about important personality predictors of happiness. Personality predicts life satisfaction (cognitive well-being) and positive affect equally well but predicts negative affect less well. Personality researchers have identified a “Big Five” set of traits that are important predictors of behavior. This model proposes five independent dimensions: agreeableness; extraversion; conscientiousness; neuroticism; and openness to experience. The chapter explores how and why the big five predicts well-being. Although the personality of happiness is complex and is certainly not unidimensional, there are multiple personality characteristics that predict well-being. For a long time psychologists thought that happiness was relatively fixed, and the idea of a happiness set point dominated the field. Set Point Theory predicts that happiness is relatively stable across time and across situations. Once an individual’s personality becomes well-developed, Set Point Theory predicts that the individual’s happiness will not change much over long periods of time.
This introductory chapter provides a brief about the book and explains the themes of the chapters involved in the book. The book tells the story of the scientific study of what makes us feel happy, content, joyous, and satisfied with our lives. It explores factors that affect our happiness. The psychology of happiness, perhaps even more than other areas of psychology, has important political implications. The scientific study of the psychology of happiness is not really new. Positive psychology’s emphasis on human strengths and the factors that create happiness is not really new. Although positive psychology did bring these emphases more to the forefront of psychology, they have always been there. Although there is no consensus on how to define happiness or well-being, there are well- established schools of thought that most researchers choose between. The two most prominent of these are the hedonic and the eudaimonic traditions.