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Happiness into Well-being

Happiness can be described as a state of being, a disposition a person believes in about themselves and lives accordingly. It is a topic of continued research and interest from an academic and community point of view. Happiness has been looked at and discussed by renowned researchers within three distinct areas; hedonism or momentary pleasure, the emotional state, and life’s satisfaction.

Well-being is often seen as a broader term, and many researchers commonly refer to it as a form of subjective happiness, one that is dependent on a number of values, principles of living, including happiness. Well-being is a more multi-dimensional state of being, when compared to happiness, and can include the state of the body, mind and the community environment of the individual.

Martin, Seligman, considered to be an expert in the area of Positive Psychology developed a well-established formula for happiness: H=S+C+V, where H stands for happiness, S for Set conditions such as genetics, C for external circumstances such as geography, financial status, and finally V for voluntary actions the individual takes. He allocated values to each and stated that S has a 50% influence on happiness, C has 10% and V has 40%.

Keeping in mind Seligman’s work, we can see that Happiness is significantly influenced by how an individual lives their life, the Voluntary actions they take to make the right choices, across the dimensions of body, spirit and community. Continued research shows that in ensuring healthy lifestyles, through diet, exercise, the right amount of sleep, through achieving equanimity, learning to de-stress and having positive relationships, an individual can also influence their predisposition to genetic conditions and their circumstances.

For example, someone who is predisposed to diabetes, who’s family members have this health condition, can influence the onset if they take the necessary steps from early on to be careful as to what they eat, make sure they exercise regularly. Similarly, certain circumstances, such as education and financial status can be influenced by taking the appropriate actions and developing positive peer relationships and positive thinking. Both the aforementioned examples will allow the individual to increase the levels of Happiness through increasing the values of S and C, using V, as per Seligman’s formula.

A more extreme example is an individual who has gone through a specific trauma, which has caused disturbance in how they function, such as an accident that causes paraplegia. In a case like this, research suggests that the individual in fact can return to a level of happiness that is similar, as before the trauma. This shows how people are able to adapt to circumstance. Using V, and well-being tools, the individual in fact can work towards increasing the state of happiness by learning, with guidance, how to maintain their physical and emotional equilibrium, and use techniques to maintain positive relationships that give meaning to their current state of living. In this example, the individual may not be able to entirely change the circumstance, but what they eat, how they sleep, the relationships they have and their own emotional and mental states can significantly influence their level of happiness.

The Voluntary actions taken in both examples above can be considered as the practical tools of well-being. In both the aforementioned cases, by making the healthy choices, within the areas of body, spirit and community. Eating the right foods can influence a person on a physical level, and also as we’ve learned, their mental and emotional states. The dimensions and tools of well-being are interconnected and interrelated and can be used to influence the state of happiness. Similarly sleeping right and moving right can have influence on the individual’s level of happiness by impacting all three well-being dimensions.

The relationship between happiness and well-being is a complex one whereby one can influence the other on various levels. However a valuable learning from Seligman’s formula is that, from a practical viewpoint, we can consider happiness is achievable and definitely within reach, through paying attention and changing behaviour and preferences using the tools of well-being as our Voluntary actions.

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