What Doesn't Kill Us

The new psychology of posttraumatic growth

How Happy Are You?

The benefits of gratitude

There are numerous benefits to happiness. Happy people have healthier lives, are more creative, have lower blood pressure, more active immune systems, and are more productive in life to name just a few of the benefits. 

A number of statements that people have made to describe how they feel are given below. Some statements describe positive feelings and some describe negative feelings. You may have experienced both positive and negative feelings at different times during the past seven days. Please read each statement and answer how frequently you felt that way in the past seven days, including today on a four point scale:

 

                                                                              Never    Rarely    Sometimes     Often

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1. I felt dissatisfied with my life

2. I felt happy

3. I felt cheerless

4. I felt pleased with the way I am

5. I felt that life was enjoyable

6 I felt that life was meaningless

 

 

To work out your score, use the following scoring key to turn your answers into numbers.

 

For items 2, 4 and 5: Never = 0, rarely = 1, sometimes – 2, often = 3.

 

For items 1, 3 and 6: Never = 3, rarely = 2, sometimes = 1, often = 0.

 

Now using the scoring key above, add scores on all six items to give a total score. Your score will be somewhere between 0 and 18. Higher scores indicate greater levels of happiness. Most people score between 11 and 13. So if you score above 13 you may be happier than average.

It can be useful to know where we stand in relation to others. Most of us could be happier than we are, so what’s stopping us? For some people going through a crisis or loss it is understandable if they are less happy than they usually are. But for many of us what stops us being happy is the consumer dream sold to us by advertisers that happiness comes from having stuff. Some stuff we do need like food, shelter and a sense of safety, but beyond that stuff often makes us less happy because it diverts our attention from the fact that happiness comes from inside us.

Specifically, it comes from how we think and what we do. I’m not saying that people ought to go around thinking positively all the time, but it is easy to fall into the trap of always thinking negatively and forgetting to appreciate the good things in our lives. When we do take time out to appreciate the good things in our lives we experience more positive feelings, we sleep better, and we are more connected to other people and feel more optimistic.

So, take a few minutes now to think about three things that you feel grateful for. Think about the whole day and the things that went well, the pleasant moments and the friendly encounters. They could be big things that went well or little things. The point is to stop and notice them and reflect on how appreciative you feel.

Doing this can energise you, and it is even better if you make it a regular habit.

 

 

To find out more about Stephen's work see: http://www.profstephenjoseph.com

 

References

Questionnaire

Joseph, S., Linley, P. A., Harwood, J., Lewis, C. A., & McCollam, P. (2004). Rapid assessment of well-being: The short depression-happiness scale (SDHS). Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 77, 463-478.

Gratitude

Wood, A., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Gratitude: parent of all virtues. The Psychologist, 20, 18-21. 

Self-help

Foreman, E. J., Elliott, C. H., & Smith, L. L. (2008). Overcoming depression for dummies. John Wiley: Chichester.

If you scored very low on the questionnaire it is possible that you are in a state of depression. It might be useful to consider seeking information from a self-help book such as that listed above or asking for advice from your General Practitioner.

Stephen Joseph, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology, health, and social care at the University of Nottingham, UK, and author of What Doesn't Kill Us.

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