Psychology of Happiness

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Psychology of Happiness
Abstract

Happiness is considered by many philosophers as the ultimate desire of every individual,
and that every action and endeavor is geared towards increasing the degree of pleasure and
reducing pain. This research paper studied the effect of practicing acts of kindness on bolstering
one’s happiness. Two measurement tools were used: the Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale
and the Oxford Happiness Inventory/Questionnaire. Acts of kindness of varying nature were
undertaken two days each week, and the questionnaires filled before and after the exercises. For
the first week, the OHI had the following results: 4.8; while the second week had 5.20. On the
other hand, the PANAS revealed that on the first week, the Positive Affect had an average of
36.25 and 39.5; for the first and second weeks; while the Negative Affect had 14.5 and 12.5 for
the first and second weeks. These tools were found to be efficient in measuring an increasing or
decreasing trend of happiness in an individual, or a group of participants.
Keywords: happiness, PANAS, OHI.

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 2

Introduction

According to most psychological researches, happiness is the experience in life that is
characterized by a preponderance of emotional positivity. Stuart Mill believes that happiness is
the greatest thing a human being can ever pursue; that it is the root to all other desires in life. In
this regard, happiness is pleasure in the absence of pain, while unhappiness brings pain, and
deprives one of pleasure (Alipour, Pedram, Abedi & Rostami, 2012). Individuals differ in their
level of happiness, as studies show that an individual’s enduring level of happiness is a function
of one’s happiness set point, as influenced by factors such as character and temperament.
Psychology of happiness holds that happiness comprises three main components: that
about 50% of individuals derive their happiness from a genetic set point; 10% of the happiness
experienced is dependent on circumstances such as gender, race, age, wealth, and personal
history; while 40% of individuals’ happiness is derived from sets of intentional activities
(Rathschlag & Memmert, 2013). Lyubomirsky (2012), supports that over half of people’s
happiness is due to genetic and external circumstances, while the remaining less than half is
dependent on specific thinking and behavior patterns of an individual. There are several activities
that one can carry out, which would go a long way in bringing happiness. Some of these include:

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 3
expressing gratitude or counting blessings, imagining oneself in the best possible condition,
adopting a positivistic perspective, and practicing acts of kindness.
As Stuart states in his theory of Greatest Happiness Principle, happiness is the ultimate
desire in each person’s life, and all persons are always in pursuit of happiness. He supports that
every action that tend to promote happiness is right, though wrong if it brings unhappiness to the
people affected by the actions (Alipour, Pedram, Abedi & Rostami, 2012). Practicing acts of
kindness, for example, is an action that tends to promote happiness, and in consequence, makes
the people affected by it happier. Scientific evidence shows that practicing kindness and helping
others have profound effects on a person’s state of mind, which feature strongly in one’s
prudential deliberations and evaluations. Allan Luks, in his article the Healing Power of Doing
Good, states that the true path to altruism is practicing acts of kindness randomly. He introduces
a phenomenon known as helper’s high, which describes a feeling of warmth and revitalization, as
well as euphoria, that people feel when they are kind to others (Warner & Vroman, 2011). A link
has been established between kindness and a neurotransmitter known as dopamine, which incites
a feel-good sensation in the brain. Evolutionary phenomena might have oriented human beings to
feel good towards giving, since a large number of people who are altruistic toward their fellows
have higher chances of survival, as opposed to the group that is keen on self. The latter have
been found to be more prone to dejection, depression, stress and anxiety than the former.
A research that was conducted in the University of British Columbia among students
revealed astounding results on the power of altruism. In this study, students were given some
cash ranging from $5-20 and were instructed to spend it in any manner they liked. After the
expedition, it was observed that those who spent their money on others were subjectively happier
than those who concentrated on themselves (Rathschlag & Memmert, 2013). This research

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 4
fulfills the popular adage that goes: “when you sit down to ponder on the things you have done in
life, you will tend to derive more happiness from the pleasure you brought to other people’s
lives, than that you brought on yourself.
Lyubomirsky (2012) states that most people who are happy do not just sit down and do
nothing; instead, they make things happen, are in pursuit of new achievements, seek fresh
understandings, control and monitor their thoughts and feelings, and make others happy. The
secret of happiness is not hidden in a person’s set point, but how well one can manipulate things
around him, by changing those he can and asking for serenity to accept those he cannot change.
In lieu of this, it is an individual’s effortful and intentional activities that have an outstanding
impact on one’s happiness (Warner & Vroman, 2011). Various acts of kindness proposed by
Sonja include plating flowers in a neglected, public place; forgiving a debtor; making an honest
compliment to someone who deserves it; offering a few hours to babysit for busy parents;
leaving a tip for the waiter; carrying out charity work; doing some shopping for an old granny;
and sending a letter to a lost friend among others (Lyubomirsky, 2012). Practicing these acts
several times a week is an exciting challenge that can massively bolster one’s level of happiness,
and make a permanent shift on the genetic set point of happiness. Seligman buttresses this
argument by expressing that everyone is capable of happiness, as long as one’s efforts are
dedicated towards enriching one’s mental health, core values, and character strengths as well as
focusing on the lives of the people and environment. This research paper thus proceeds from the
thesis that practicing acts of kindness, among other ebullient activities, is a sure path to
happiness, as opposed to concentrating on self.
Method

Materials and Apparatus

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 5
The research entailed carrying out two acts of kindness each week for a period of two
weeks. Measures used were PANAS and OHI (Positive and Negative Effect Schedule, and
Oxford Happiness Inventory). The acts of kindness included giving blood, picking up groceries
for an elderly person, saving some time to babysit for busy mothers, calling lost friends,
genuinely complementing someone on an achievement, planting trees on a neglected public
place, doing some shopping for a needy person, and helping a child with his homework. The
Oxford Happiness Questionnaire was an important tool in this study, as well the PANAS scale.
These were duly filled during the study, and later used to compute the results of the happiness
study.
The Oxford Happiness Inventory was used as a data collection tool, alongside the
Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale. The OHI was developed by Hills and Argyle as a
happiness assessment tool, with 29 items in along a 6-item Likert-corresponding scale, where
1=Not agree, and =fully agree. In this research, a correlation between the two scales of
measurement was established. On the other hand, the Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale was
developed by Watson, Clark and Tellgen. It has a total of twenty effective expressions, 10 of
which are positive, while the remaining ten are negative. It utilizes a 5-item Likert-corresponding
scale, where 1 represents “not appropriate” while 5 represents “fully appropriate”. The scale has
an inner consistency of 0.86-0.90 for the positive expressions, and 0.84-0.87 for the dimensions
of the negative emotions (Alipour, Pedram, Abedi & Rostami, 2012). The reliability coefficients
for the positive emotions and negative emotions were 0.83 and 0.86 respectively.
Results were presented in charts and graphs, to clearly bring out the comparative nature
of the old and new self after performing these acts of kindness.
Procedure

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 6
This research involved practicing of one specific strategy of bolstering happiness, which
is practicing acts of kindness. Each week, various acts of kindness were performed and the two
questionnaires filled. The first week, the following acts were practiced: giving blood, picking up
groceries for an elderly person, saving some time to babysit for busy mothers, and calling lost
friends. On the second week, the following were performed: genuinely complementing someone
on an achievement, planting trees on a neglected public place, doing some shopping for a needy
person, and helping a child with his homework. Two days were chosen for this exercise per
week, making up to 4 days. The questionnaires were filled before and after the exercise, and
results gotten were calculated according to the outlined procedure of each measuring tool.

Results

The results gotten from the Oxford Happiness questionnaire were calculated as follows:
in the items marked ‘X’, the scores were reversed, in such a manner as to change 2 to 5, 3 to 4, 4
to 3, 5 to 2, and 6 to 1. The numbers awarded to all the 29 questions were then added, and then
the total divided by 29. The resulting figure was taken as the happiness score, which translated to
5.10 for the first week and 5.20 for the second week. On the Positive Affect Negative Affect
Scale, scores on items 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, and 19 were added as the Positive Affect
Score, and found to be 46, while the scores on items 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, and 20 were
recorded as Negative Affect Score, with the result of 15 being found for the first week, and 48
and 13 for the second week respectively.
PANAS
Week
1A
Week
1B
Week
2A
Week
2B
Averag
e
Before PA 30 35 37 43 36.25
After PA 34 36 42 46 39.5

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 7
Before NA 17 16 13 12 14.5
After NA 15 13 12 10 12.5

Average increase in positive affect (i.e., After -Before PA) = 3.25
Average decrease in negative affect (i.e., Before – After NA) = 2
1A = first day you do the strategy on the first week.
1B = the second day you do the strategy on the first week
2A = first day you do the strategy on the second week.
2B = the second day you do the strategy on the second week

OHI score

Time 1 4.8
Time 2 5.2

Graphical Representation of the Results

Time 1Time 2
0
1
2
3
4
5
6

OHI score

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 8

Week 1AWeek 1BWeek 2AWeek 2B
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50

PANAS results for Expressing

Gratitude

Before PA
After PA
Before NA
After NA

Discussion

The research revealed, as indicated in the results that in the first week, a happiness score
of 4.8 was derived from the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, while on the second week, a score
of 5.20 was found. This result shows an improvement in the emotional feeling of the participant,
which tends to being more lively and pleasant. In the first week, the various acts of kindness had
an effect on the individual, but it was not spontaneous. Some hesitations could still be noted in
the filling of the questionnaire, for instance, he is not absolutely sure whether he has warm
feelings towards almost everyone. As the acts of kindness continue to bolster his moods and have
effect, the performance on the questionnaire improves, thus improving the overall score. Most
parts which registered some aspects of hesitancy receive full scores, for example, “I am well
satisfied with everything in my life” moves from “5” to “6”.
Similarly, the Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale has a more or less the same trend,
with the first week registering a relatively low performance, which increases in the second week

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 9
as these acts take effect on the participant. The “Positive Affect” elements increase in their score
as the “Negative Affect” elements reduce. This shows an increase in emotional pleasantness, a
show of contentment and joy. The participant gradually finds himself blending well with his
emotions, as well as the surrounding.

Conclusion

These measures are very appropriate in measuring an increasing or decreasing trend of
happiness, as influenced by effortful and intentional acts. As earlier discussed, these acts have
been proven, through the use of PANAS and OHI, to increase an individual’s genetic set point of
happiness. In an elaborate and extensive study, it would be proper to incorporate the use of other
scales like Life Orientation Test, Life Satisfaction Scale, and Subjective Happiness Scale. These
would serve to increase the reliability of results, especially in the case of many participants.

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 10

References

Alipour, A., Pedram, A., Abedi, M., & Rostami, Z. (2012). What is Happiness?. Interdisciplinary
Journal Of Contemporary Research In Business, 3(12), 660-667.
Rathschlag, M., & Memmert, D. (2013). The Influence of Self-Generated Emotions on Physical
Performance: An Investigation of Happiness, Anger, Anxiety, and Sadness. Journal Of
Sport & Exercise Psychology, 35(2), 197-210.
Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). The challenge of staying happier: Testing the
Hedonic Adaptation Prevention model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38,
670-680.
Warner, R., & Vroman, K. (2011). Happiness Inducing Behaviors in Everyday Life: An
Empirical Assessment of ‘The How of Happiness’. Journal Of Happiness Studies, 12(6),
1063-1082.

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 11

Appendix

Appendix 1: OHI for Week 1

  1. Strogly disagree
  2. Moderately disagree
  3. Slightly disagree
  4. Slightly agree
  5. Moderately agree
  6. Strongly agree

Score Questions
2

  1. I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am. (X)

5

  1. I am intensely interested in other people.

4

  1. I feel that life is very rewarding.

4

  1. I have very warm feelings toward almost everyone.

1

  1. I rarely wake up feeling rested. (X)

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 12

  1. I’m not particularly optimistic about the future. (X)

5

  1. I find most things amusing.

4

  1. I am always committed and involved.

4

  1. Life is good.

3

  1. I don’t think that the world is a good place. (X)

5

  1. I laugh a lot.

5

  1. I am well satisfied with everything in my life.

4

  1. I don’t think I look attractive. (X)

4 14. There’s a gap between what I would like to do and what I have

done. (X)

4

  1. I am very happy.

4

  1. I find beauty in some things.

5

  1. I always have a cheerful effect on others.

4

  1. I can find time for everything I want to do.

3

  1. I feel that I’m not especially in control of my life. (X)

6

  1. I feel able to take anything on.

6

  1. I feel fully mentally alert.

6

  1. I often experience joy and elation.

4

  1. I don’t find it easy to make decisions. (X)

2 24. I don’t have a particular sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

(X)

6

  1. I feel I have a great deal of energy.

5

  1. I usually have a positive influence on events.

2

  1. I don’t have fun with other people. (X)

3

  1. I don’t feel particularly healthy. (X)

4

  1. I don’t have particularly happy memories of the past. (X)

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 13

The average score is:  5.10

Appendix II: OHI for Week 2

Score Questions
2

  1. I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am. (X)

6

  1. I am intensely interested in other people.

6

  1. I feel that life is very rewarding.

6

  1. I have very warm feelings toward almost everyone.

1

  1. I rarely wake up feeling rested. (X)

1

  1. I’m not particularly optimistic about the future. (X)

6

  1. I find most things amusing.

5

  1. I am always committed and involved.

6

  1. Life is good.

2

  1. I don’t think that the world is a good place. (X)

5

  1. I laugh a lot.

5

  1. I am well satisfied with everything in my life.

2

  1. I don’t think I look attractive. (X)

4 14. There’s a gap between what I would like to do and what I have

done. (X)

5

  1. I am very happy.

4

  1. I find beauty in some things.

6

  1. I always have a cheerful effect on others.

4

  1. I can find time for everything I want to do.

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 14

  1. I feel that I’m not especially in control of my life. (X)

6

  1. I feel able to take anything on.

6

  1. I feel fully mentally alert.

6

  1. I often experience joy and elation.

4

  1. I don’t find it easy to make decisions. (X)

1 24. I don’t have a particular sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

(X)

6

  1. I feel I have a great deal of energy.

5

  1. I usually have a positive influence on events.

2

  1. I don’t have fun with other people. (X)

1

  1. I don’t feel particularly healthy. (X)

3

  1. I don’t have particularly happy memories of the past. (X)

Appendix III: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 1A (Before)
1 2 3 4 5
Very slightly or not all A little Moderately Quite A Bit Extremely
1) Interested………3 11) Irritable………….2
2) Distressed………2 12) Alert……………..3
3) Excited………….3 13) Ashamed…………1
4) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….2
5) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
6) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….3
7) Scared……………2 17) Attentive………….2
8) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..1

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 15
9) Enthusiastic………3 19) Active…………….3
10) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..2
Appendix IV: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 1A (After)
1) Interested………3 11) Irritable………….1
2) Distressed………2 12) Alert……………..3
3) Excited………….3 13) Ashamed…………1
4) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….4
5) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
6) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….3
7) Scared……………1 17) Attentive………….3
8) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..1
9) Enthusiastic………3 19) Active…………….4
10) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1

Appendix V: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 1B (Before)
1) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….2
2) Distressed………2 12) Alert……………..3
3) Excited………….4 13) Ashamed…………2
4) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….3
5) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
6) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….3
7) Scared……………2 17) Attentive………….3
8) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..2

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 16
9) Enthusiastic………4 19) Active…………….3
10) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1
Appendix VI: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 1B (After)
1) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….2
2) Distressed………1 12) Alert……………..3
3) Excited………….4 13) Ashamed…………1
4) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….3
5) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
6) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….3
7) Scared……………2 17) Attentive………….3
8) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..2
9) Enthusiastic………4 19) Active…………….3
10) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1

Appendix VII: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 2A (Before)
11) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….2
12) Distressed………1 12) Alert……………..3
13) Excited………….4 13) Ashamed…………2
14) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….3
15) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
16) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….3
17) Scared……………1 17) Attentive………….4
18) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..2

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 17
19) Enthusiastic………4 19) Active…………….4
20) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1
Appendix VIII: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 2A (After)
21) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….2
22) Distressed………1 12) Alert……………..5
23) Excited………….4 13) Ashamed…………2
24) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….3
25) Strong……………5 15) Nervous…………..1
26) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….4
27) Scared……………1 17) Attentive………….4
28) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..2
29) Enthusiastic………5 19) Active…………….4
30) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1

Appendix IX: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 2B (Before)
31) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….1
32) Distressed………1 12) Alert……………..3
33) Excited………….5 13) Ashamed…………2
34) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….5
35) Strong……………4 15) Nervous…………..2
36) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….4
37) Scared……………1 17) Attentive………….5
38) Hostile…………..1 18) Jittery……………..2

PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINES 18
39) Enthusiastic………5 19) Active…………….5
40) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1
Appendix X: Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale for Week 2B (After)
41) Interested………4 11) Irritable………….1
42) Distressed………1 12) Alert……………..5
43) Excited………….5 13) Ashamed…………1
44) Upset……………1 14) Inspired………….5
45) Strong……………5 15) Nervous…………..1
46) Guilty…………….1 16) Determined……….4
47) Scared……………1 17) Attentive………….5
48) Hostile……………1 18) Jittery……………..1
49) Enthusiastic………5 19) Active……………..5
50) Proud…………….4 20) Afraid……………..1

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