Everyone wants to be happy but the life satisfaction theory goes deeper and evaluates your level of satisfaction with everything in your life, not just your basic happiness level. Of course, the determination is usually subjective because different people value different things in their life but it is still good to know some things about this theory and what it can do for you.
Some of the Basics
When it comes to life satisfaction, there are actually two different theories in existence, including:
- Bottom-up theories: These say that you are satisfied with your life because you are satisfied with the domains that are a part of that life.
- Top-down theories: These theories say that your satisfaction with life influences specific areas of your life, both personal and professional.
The bottom-up theory says that a person experiences true overall life satisfaction when he or she is happy with each and every aspect of life, including work, personal, relationships, health, and all other areas. Essentially, it says that life satisfaction is determined by a combination of many different aspects. On the other hand, the top-down theory says that people’s satisfaction with life influences their domain-specific satisfaction.
People’s life plans and the way they believe those plans are being fulfilled directly influence their total happiness level; simpler versions of life happiness and satisfaction may only take into account temporary or spontaneous periods of happiness. There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of happiness but it may not reflect a true picture of a person’s overall satisfaction with life.
What Is Happiness?
Life is short and everyone deserves to be happy, but what exactly is happiness? It can mean different things to different people but, according to many studies, there are four components that are necessary for a person to be truly happy. These four components include:
- True happiness can benefit your work life, your relationships, and even your overall health.
- When you think and boost your cognitive levels, you are naturally going to be happier.
- Being rich psychologically includes having the right goals, attitude, and work engagement.
- Being realistic about happiness is best; after all, no one is happy all the time.
Things that contribute to your level of happiness usually fall into one of four separate categories. This is a general rule, however, since no one has been able to truly understand everything that makes a certain person happy. Remember that happiness is a subjective term because what makes one person happy might not affect another person at all. The four categories that happiness usually encompasses are:
- Course of events in your life: includes factors such as need versus affluence and routine versus challenge
- Evaluation of your life: includes the average effect of many different interactions such as comparing one’s life to the “good” life or the average life
- Life chances: includes things such as economic welfare, physical fitness, and family bonds
- Your flow of experience: includes experiences such as loneliness versus love and excitement versus dullness
How Is Quality of Life Measured?
Studying life satisfaction theory brings you to all aspects of measuring and interpreting the happiness level in various countries or social groups because this is how life satisfaction is usually studied. For many decades, the quality of life has been studied and measured. When it is determined that a certain group has a low level of satisfaction, it is usually thought to be due to a lack or need that they have.
However, if there is dissatisfaction within a group, the studies often don’t tell what that group is actually dissatisfied with, which is why overall satisfaction levels sometimes go up and down over time. The factors that cause a group to be dissatisfied with life can change from year to year. When it declines consistently, it usually means that there is a problem within that group.
Each year, countries are assessed for their quality of life and the overall happiness of their citizens. How is this done? The methods aren’t that complicated but there are a variety of them available and different organizations use different methods to get their results. Some of these methods include the ones below:
- The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) number. The GDP represents the total number of goods and services produced in a country in a year’s time. To get the number, the GDP amount for the country is divided by the number of citizens who live there. The higher the number, the happier people are assumed to be.
- The Human Development Index, or HDI. Usually complemented by the GDP, the HDI number consists of factors such as life expectancy, average salaries, and gross national income per capita. If your country has a high HDI, it is assumed that it is happier on average than those countries with a low HDI.
- The Mercer Quality of Living Survey. This survey ranks 200 cities around the world and consists of factors such as political stability, culture and entertainment, public safety, and the quality of the environment, among others.
On a more personal level, you can interpret your own level of satisfaction and happiness by considering some of the same factors that these formalized studies have considered. If you aren’t sure why you feel unsatisfied or even satisfied with your life, the answer is usually related to the following factors:
- Your overall living conditions, including your income level and the safety of your neighborhood
- Your access to important services such as education and healthcare
- Your feelings of safety and security in your country
- The success of your personal interactions and relationships with others
- Your sense of meaning or purpose in life
As you can see, a person’s level of happiness and satisfaction with life is usually affected by numerous things, not just one certain factor. This makes sense and it is the main reason why people take numerous things into consideration when developing or interpreting a life satisfaction theory. These theories may vary regarding how they are developed but they all take numerous factors into consideration when studying a group’s satisfaction with life.
Why Is Life Satisfaction Study So Important?
In case you’re wondering why the theory of life satisfaction is so important, it is often used in monitoring or measuring other facets of life that most people consider important. If problems with happiness within countries or groups are discovered through one of these studies, the problem can then be improved upon a lot more easily and quickly.
All data discovered in these theories and studies can be used for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Measuring the overall quality of life in social groups or even countries
- Keeping an eye on social progress over time to see if it improves or gets worse
- Evaluating policies that may need to be changed in order to improve a group or country’s social and economic situation
- Identifying the conditions that most people consider necessary for people to experience the “good life”
These studies aren’t just devised to let people know how happy others around them are as compared to themselves. They are also great for studying country-wide trends in order to improve the lives of the people who live in those countries, which includes social policy-making. This is a good thing because the happier people are, the more productive both they and their countries will be.
Aspects of Happiness Studies Can Vary
Naturally, aspects of life satisfaction studies can vary from one study to another and even between the groups that are studied. These include changes in areas such as:
- The certainty of the people’s answers. Asking people if they’re happy is always going to result in subjective answers, especially if some of them have doubts about their answers.
- The appropriateness of the people’s appraisals. Perceptions can be distorted and the results can become a quality known as false happiness, which is just one of the problems associated with appraisals that are not appropriate.
- The quality of the people’s judgments. People usually judge intuitively or by elaborately contemplating the situation and the results may not indicate how well formed these judgments are.
- The stability of the people’s judgments. In other words, people can have the same evaluation every time or it can change each time that they are surveyed.
The gist of these aspects is that levels of happiness and life satisfaction are always subjective and should be complemented with other studies or measures in order to achieve consistency between them. This is the best way to determine how accurate the results of those studies or measures truly are.
More About the Theories of Life Satisfaction
There is more than just one life satisfaction theory in existence. This is because numerous professionals have studied the science of life satisfaction so that it can be better understood. There are now three generally accepted whole life satisfaction theories and they include the following:
- Cognitive whole life satisfaction theory, which makes a direct association between overall happiness and feeling as if your life plan is being fulfilled
- Affective whole life satisfaction theory, which is a little less intellectual than the cognitive theory and links a positive affective state with a person’s conception of his or her life
- Hybrid whole life satisfaction theory, which is a combination of the previous two and consists of both a cognitive and a positive affective state component
Of course, many experts consider most theories related to life satisfaction to be very simplified and easy but this is perhaps what makes them so reliable and accurate in the first place. Still, the theories that center on affective components are generally considered better indicators of true happiness than those that are based on cognitive components.
Why are affective theories considered so reliable and accurate? There are four general reasons:
- They fit better to the data currently available.
- They do better at providing a complete explanation of what makes people happy.
- They fit in great with other theories whereas the opposite is not always true.
- They are more plausible when you consider the evolutionary process.
Authentic Theories of Life Satisfaction
Another way to look at the basic life satisfaction theory is to look at authentic happiness, which is often broken down into other types of theories. Let’s face it; your level of happiness can affect how you raise your child, how you make important decisions in your life, and even how you vote so it is good to know where it comes from. Below are three types of happiness according to some experts:
- The theory of desire, which states that people aim for happiness as part of a plan to get what they want or desire
- The theory of hedonism, which states that people’s goals are to increase pleasure and decrease pain as much as possible
- The objective list theory, which puts happiness outside of how someone feels because that person instead goes after things that are worthwhile and valuable
In other words, people can either aim for the pleasant life (pleasure) or the good life (engagement), both of which are subjective, as well as the meaningful life (the objective list theory), which is a much more objective assessment. There are also other theories by other experts and the good news is that they are all easy to read, easy to analyze, and easy to understand.
When you research or study what makes people happy, you’re going to find a lot of different theories because there is no one study that perfectly explains what makes everybody happy. Happiness is measured differently and is often subjective but this doesn’t mean that you can’t discover some real truths when you want to know what makes a person happy.
Some Final Comments
Studying a life satisfaction theory gives you insight into measuring people’s happiness levels and determining what actually makes people happy. You can obtain information on individuals, various social groups, and even cities or countries once you know where to look. Once you find more and more comparisons and similarities between the different studies, you’ll learn a little more about the art and science of happiness.