Happiness, Positive Psychology and Counselling

Happiness is perceived differently by people. Its basis is not the same for all. There are also different factors that make people experience their own kind of happiness. The degree of happiness also differs given the same instance thus making happiness very subjective to the person who is given the stimulus. The person’s response is different depending on the internal and external factors that the person may be undergoing at the time that the possible cause of happiness happened. But what is happiness and how can one say “I AM HAPPY?”

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What is Happiness?

If we look through the books and the dictionaries, we can find a lot of meaning of happiness. Searching through Google you will find the definition of happiness as a state of being happy (google.com). But what is that state of being happy? Is it because of love, money, friendship, family or a job?

Each one has their own definition of what happiness is. One thing that makes one happy may not be the same factor that the others can base their happiness on. Those who do not have food may be happy if they received instant noodles to be shared by the family, but this instant noodles if served to the elite may cause them rage.

One’s overall happiness is where one judges the degree of the quality of life that he or she has (Veenhoven, 2015). No one is a better judge than oneself when it comes to one’s happiness. People who have everything in life may not necessarily be happier people compared to those who can hardly afford to eat one meal a day.

No one can really define happiness as happiness definition is different from one person to another. There are different factors that people consider to really say that they are happy. The same circumstances may not necessarily make two people happy, thus making happiness complex and subjective.

Theories of Happiness

The first theory of happiness is Hedonism. Happiness is based on one’s happiness that is based on increased pleasure and decreased pain. This is a theory of happiness where pain and pleasure are the two important key elements to make a person happy. The definition of happiness, therefore, is dependent on the pleasure the person is receiving (Weijers, 2012).

Another theory of Happiness is Desire theory. This is where happiness gives more weight to getting what you want. This is where the fulfilment what one desires contributes to the happiness not giving weight to any amount of displeasure (Royzman, 2003).

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Objective List Theory is another theory of happiness. A person can find happiness in meeting their life’s objectives. This may include career advancement, love, friendship, family, or good conscience. This is where you feel happy when you reach certain goals in life (Royzman, 2003).

Measurement of Happiness

The three theories may have explained their perception of where happiness comes from but the basis of one’s happiness will not be the same for all. Say for example in the Hedonism theory, where people give weight to pleasure over pain to measure happiness. The things that make this person happy and the extent of happiness it gives to that person may not be the same with this kind of person. So how is happiness measured?

There are a lot of tools that researchers come up with when it comes to measuring happiness. Some examples of the happiness scale are the Oxford Happiness Inventory developed by Argyle and Hill (Hills et al, 2002), The Satisfaction with Life Scale by Deiner et. al (1985)., Panas Scale by Watson et.al., and Subjective Happiness scale by Lyubomirsky and Lepper (1999). These will help to evaluate the current level of happiness.

The Challenges and the Impact of Measuring Happiness

There may be a lot of ways on how you can measure happiness by using different tools developed by the researchers. However, the results of these tools may not be consistent depending on the current emotions of the person during the assessment. There are limitations that each of the tools has when measuring happiness. As to what is the basis of one’s happiness? Is it really measuring one’s happiness or is it measuring one’s self-esteem? Is it measuring one’s authentic happiness or is it just comparing his achievements with others (Kashdan, 2003)?

Sometimes studies would show that the more the person has achieved or the more the person has succeeded may indicate more happiness compared to those who are not successful. This creates a notion that unsuccessful people are not the happiest people which may not be necessarily so. Being a company’s CEO does not mean one would not have the same level of happiness compared to clerks or to the company’s cleaners. There is a remarkable difference in what they monetarily make giving more opportunities for the CEO to spend for family’s needs and wants while the company janitor may not be making enough for their needs. But does it mean the janitor is not happy?

Promoting Happiness in Counselling

Counselling plays a big part in promoting happiness to a person. This is also called positive Psychology. Previously, in giving counselling, it focuses more on what is the problem and what can we do to solve it. Counselling may have been teaching us to realize that this is your mistake and this is where you need to work on changing the person to what one may not want. Positive Psychology is where one will be made to realize his own potentials and actually have the power to change things for the better. It makes use of the person’s innate ability and turns it into positivity. There are circumstances that make people blind to their abilities and what they can actually do to make themselves a better person (Barnard, 2009).

Counselling to promote happiness does not teach you on how you will land as a CEO in the company, it will basically show one how he can be happy in his current state and how he can turn his life from feeling miserable to feeling happy with what he has. Happiness is subjective. It does not mean that having more in life means being happier.

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Positive Psychology is there to assist the individual in bringing out his potentials. Leading the person to be more self-trusting, independent and to be someone who believes in himself. This is where a person is being taught of optimism. This is where one is encouraged to see the beast within him to help improve his life’s focus and lead him to a path where he can find his own happiness not based on anybody else’s definition of happiness. This is a scientific approach that will help an individual cope and head on a positive life.

What is the Role of Positive Psychology in Counselling?

Positive Psychology applied in counselling can help a lot of people to cope with their miserable life. It is geared towards helping the person see the better side of the world rather than sulk and surrender in thoughts that nothing can be done to improve one’s quality of life.

Positive Psychology in a study presented by Burke that is able to help people with depression. The interventions were actually effective to the extent that they lessened the symptoms of depression among teens.

There are lots of positive interventions used in Positive Psychology and how it affects a person’s view of positivity. Here are some of the interventions that Positive Psychology used.


In a study done by Seligman and Royzman (2005), it is stated that the persons who were tasked to write a letter of gratitude to a person they are thankful for and asked them to deliver it to that person were found happier a month later compared to the control group who were only asked to write about their early memories.

Writing 3 Good things in Life

In the same study by Seligman and Royzman (2005) the participants were asked to write 3 things that positively happened to them within that day and the reason why it happened. This exercise promoted a person’s sense of well-being. These participants were shown to be happier and less depressed after six months.


In a study done by Shapira and Mongrain (2010), they implemented a project that promotes optimism. The participants on the optimism group were asked to write about their positive future giving it as many details as they could compare to the control group wherein they are only asked to write about experiences and how they felt about it as much as they can remember. The optimism group showed an increase in the level of happiness for over 6 months.

Positive Psychology plays an important role in counselling as it helps the person see that there is more to life rather than feeling inferior. This branch of Psychology helps a person see that no matter what the status in life is, regardless of who you will spend it with, no matter what your job is and no matter how much you earn, it does not affect somebody’s right to be happy. Positive Psychology will help individuals to see the best in themselves, their potentials and their worth that will contribute to their happiness in life. Happiness is not about your bank account or the house that you live in, or the position that you have right now, but it is the contentment of what you are and what you have and who you are with.

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Barnard, J. (2009). Concepts of Happiness. Web.

Deiner, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, R., and Griffin, S. (1985) The Satisfaction With Life Scale. Web.

Hills, P., & Argyle, M. (2002). The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire: a compact scale for the measurement of psychological well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 1073–1082.

Kashdan, T. (2003). The assessment of subjective well-being (issues raised by the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire). Web.

Lyubomirsky, S. & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137-155. Web.

Royzman, E. & Seligman, M. (2003). Authentic Happiness. Web.

Shapira, L. & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 377-389.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N. P., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.

Veenhoven, R. (2015). Concept of Happiness. Web.

Weijers, D.M. (2012). Hedonism and Happiness in Theory and Practice. Web.

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