Happiness and a Good Life

Updated on January 25, 2018

How to Have a Happy Life


Happiness and a good life is defined by each of us in different ways. What we value and how we desire to live each day is based on our own individual preferences and needs. What does it mean to live a successful life?

The answer you seek can’t be found in google, in the library, or by asking other people. You hold the answer. Happiness, quality of life, life satisfaction and a good life—how do we measure these?

How happy we feel is subjective based on the feelings and emotions we experience at any given moment. Happiness comes from our life satisfaction. Life satisfaction has to do with our overall self-evaluation about how we are doing in life and the big picture we see for ourselves in relation to what we value. It is related to our emotional state.

"The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination."

— Carl Rogers

Quality of Life

Our quality of life is related to our happiness and achieving a good life. Our quality of life is more than a state of happiness. It has to do with how closely our life matches our wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, aims, and recollections of our past experiences.

Some people confuse quality of life with standard of living. A standard of living has to do with the materials, wealth, comfort, and necessities that we need to maintain our socioeconomic class. Our standard of living is based on income, employment availability, quality of jobs, affordable housing, costs of goods, opportunities, available services climate, life expectancy, how much you have to work to purchase necessities, and other considerations. It is also related to how much leisure time we have, access to affordable health care, education, life expectancy, mental and physical well being, costs of acquiring goods and services, financial stability, religious and political freedom.

Standards of living are costs that can be measured by income and socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status is a person’s social position in relation to others. It is measured by combining the education, occupation, and income of a group of people.

Our quality of life is based on our personal evaluation of how well we believe we are doing based on our health, income, education, self-fulfillment, social life, and environmental conditions. Quality of life is often a tradeoff between things we have to do and things we value. To some people, a spacious home in the suburbs is worth a long commute. To some people, taking a job earning less money but time with kids is more important.

Life Satisfaction

Both our happiness levels and our life satisfaction can range from negative to positive at a particular point in time. Life satisfaction is a combination of:

  • Our actions

  • Our behavior

  • Our experiences: current, past, future

  • Our thoughts

  • Stable personality

  • Our environment

  • Other chance factors

  • Our desire to change

  • Influences from our nuclear family

Life satisfaction is related to our state of emotion, and whether we feel happy or sad. Happiness comes from our life satisfaction. Living conditions are a major determining factor in life satisfaction. Higher income and higher education tend to lead to more life satisfaction. Mental and physical health, energy level, outgoing and empathetic people are strongly related to people who are satisfied, but it is difficult to determine if these come about because of life satisfaction, or as a result of life satisfaction.

Our past affects the way we think and how satisfied we feel. The way we think and relate to the environment influence our level of life satisfaction. Life satisfaction is subjective. We can all feel more satisfied with our life. Friends, ambitions, and what your life story is increase life satisfaction. Our relationships influence how satisfied we feel with ourselves.

Positive Psychology and Happiness

Life satisfaction is a measurement of how people evaluate their overall life, while our happiness is based on our current feelings.

According to the field of positive psychology which focuses on strengths and success from well being, positive psychology believes it is relationships that matter most. In a Harvard University study from the late 1930s and early 1940s, it showed the most important predictor of successful aging and satisfaction with life at 75 years old was having close relationships. The study collected data over 7 decades and conclusively showed that the only thing in life that mattered was a connection with other people. It was also important to not put yourself last. Self-sacrifice and neglecting your own well being does not help to cultivate quality relationships.

Are you happy with your life overall?

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A Good Life

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also sought to find the answers to what makes a good life. The OECD was created to promote policies to improve the economic and social well being of people across the globe. It is a think tank of 34 mostly rich countries to provide a forum so governments can work together to seek solutions to common problems. The organization looked at 23 indicators about well being from the cost of housing, life expectancy, and leisure time off from work.

How you define a good life depends on what your preferences are. According to the research done by OECD, about different countries, if you define a good life by financial wealth and income the United States wins. If you value time off from work France wins. Overall, Northern European countries such as Iceland and Norway had a higher score for people’s well being in terms of job security, clean air, water, and environment. Mexico and Turkey did not offer a good quality of life. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States offered larger homes and better perceived health care. While the U.S. far surpassed other countries for income and wealth, it is far behind other countries for time off.

While income, luxury items, prestige, and finances may enhance a better quality of life and bring life satisfaction, having a good life is really dependent on many factors. Ask yourself, what is a good life?

The answer most likely comes from good health, relationships, leisure time, spirituality, and financial security. Other aspects of daily living contribute to a good life and include:

  • Feeling productive

  • Having good friends and a support system

  • Traditions—a sense of roots from your culture, your family, your ancestry

  • Spirituality—being in touch with nature, your inner self, and deepest values

  • Vitality—being active and involved and experience all that is around you

  • Family—being inspired and inspiring loved ones. Hug, love, communicate, praise, care for others—it will last all day long.

To some people, a successful life is a based on wealth and prosperity. Some people look to achieve recognition and fame. Some look for respect, glory, or power. Some people look for pleasure, leisure, joy. How we define success and happiness is based on our personal values.

The Secret to Happiness and a Good Life

The secret of a happy and good life is within you. Nothing is perfect. Nothing ever works out exactly how you think it will. Nothing is permanent. Taking all these factors into account, mixing in flexibility, resiliency, knowing what you value and what has meaning to you, and being realistic about what you can achieve will guide you towards happiness and a good life. Most of all, appreciate what you have, accept what you can do, trust in yourself that things will work out better than you think, and be mindful that nothing stays the same. As things change, things will sometimes be better and sometimes not. Overall, through the humps and the high points, you can achieve happiness and a good life. Be your best every day and the best is yet to come.

What area of your life are you most satisfied

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