Happiness is the overall feeling of well-being that one must cultivate to maintain. There are always circumstances that have the potential to cause one to feel unhappy; however, it is the resiliency factor that allows one to be truly happy despite these circumstances (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). Happiness has two foundations: There are objective roots to happiness and subjective roots to happiness (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). This essay discusses these two foundations for happiness and the current psychological practices which increase happiness.
Objective happiness. Objective happiness is that which is reinforced by external circumstances such as money, prestige, marital success, and social approval (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). These external factors are typically based in the culture that one belongs to; one’s values and beliefs are based on this culture (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). A good example of objective happiness is the idea of living the American Dream, but this is because culture plays a huge role in determining this (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). This dream basically shows that happiness is thought to be based on financial wealth. Therefore, it makes sense that one is happy when one is able to succeed at mastering these cultural values (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016).
One of the intriguing things about objective happiness is that it does not affect one’s happiness by any significant amount; instead, one needs to have a subjective base of happiness from which to build a resilient happiness (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). The only form of objective happiness that has been shown to significantly increase one’s happiness is social approval (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). However, one thing to consider is that social approval can fluctuate, so any happiness based externally on social approval is going to fluctuate as well. This effect is referred to as the “hedonic treadmill” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016).
Subjective happiness. Subjective happiness is not based externally, but is found from within. Studies have shown that: “Happiness appears to lie more in our outlook and personality than in our circumstances” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). Since external circumstances determine objective happiness, this explains why it is that these factors do not significantly increase happiness. The greater part of our happiness is cultivated internally, and is a subjective experience that is not based on any external factors.
Subjective happiness is a sort of “baseline” that individuals have that exist regardless of the circumstances that challenge or reward them (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). This is the baseline that an individual will return to when they go up or down on the happiness scale (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016). One study measured the happiness patterns of people over the course of a decade with the conclusion that the greatest indicator of future happiness is current happiness—or that people who were happy ten years ago are likely to be happy today (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016).
Psychological practices that increase happiness. In today’s modern world, there are many ways that we try to increase our psychological objective happiness: One outstanding example is social media. The use of social media has created social networks that reinforce the objective roots of happiness by creating immediate networks of social approval. Since social approval is the best objective source of happiness (Baumeister & Bushman, 2016), the reliance on social networking is logical. Therefore, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are the current psychological practice of increasing one’s objective happiness. There are also practices that one can do by oneself: practice positive thinking, being thankful, reflecting on the things that one is grateful for, and acting kindly to others have proven to increase happiness. The most important thing is that one must think happily in order to feel happy.
- Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2016). Social psychology and human nature. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, pp.194-98.