How to be happy – 2. Measure your happiness level

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLesson: How to measure happiness

So now we’re clear what we mean by ‘happiness‘. But how do researchers measure it?

Since it’s subjective wellbeing we’re interested in, it makes sense that most research uses self-report questionnaires – that is, researchers find out how happy people are by asking them.

There are various self-report questionnaires designed to tap into aspects of happiness, some long and comprehensive and others just a single question, and they draw on many different types of questions.

By and large, using psychometrically validated questionnaires to gauge happiness is sound – the results match other, more detailed methods like

  • Asking family and friends about the person
  • Conducting in-depth interviews
  • Conducting projective tests (such as asking the person to make up a story about a neutral picture).

Happiness strategy: Score your happiness level

Scoring your happiness level gives you a starting point for the happiness strategies to come in this series.  Why not try some of the strategies over coming weeks and then test yourself again to see whether they’ve helped boost your happiness level?

There’s another reason for testing your happiness. Some people have a vague sense of unhappiness that disappears when directly measured. It might be based on past problems, unrealistic expectations or other unexamined ideas that just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Whether or not this is true for you, testing your happiness level helps you clarify where you are now, and can motivate you to take action toward a happier life.

You can try a variety of happiness measures for yourself at Martin Seligman‘s Authentic Happiness site – but you’ll have to register. Look for ‘happiness’ in the inventory title.

Or, for a quick and effective measurement, use this version of Andrews & Withey’s single-question Delighted-Terrible Scale (what a great name!). This measure is brief but comprehensive, spans time and life areas, and is designed to tap both feeling and thinking aspects of life satisfaction. It’s psychometrically valid and was even used as the quality-of-life measure in the ABS 2001 National Health Survey.


How do you feel about your life as a whole, taking into account what has happened in the last year and what you expect to happen in the future?

7  delighted
6  pleased
5  mostly satisfied
4  mixed
3  mostly dissatisfied
2  unhappy
1  terrible

When you answer the question, keep in mind that we’re talking about a long-term, overall, thinking and feeling idea of happiness.

And whatever your number, remember it’s just a starting point. We have a lot of strategies yet to cover.

Research sources:

Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being: Americans’ perceptions of life quality. New York: Plenum Press.

Diener, E., & Diener, C. (1996). Most people are happy. Psychological Science, 7(3), 181-185.

Diener, E. D. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31(2), 103.

Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. Journal of Personality, 61(3), 317-342.

Schmuck, P., & Sheldon, K. M. (2001). Life goals and well-being: To the frontiers of life goal research. In P. Schmuck & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving (pp. 1-17). Seattle: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.

How to be happy:
101 practical strategies drawn from positive psychology.

This post is part of a series covering simple, practical, research-inspired, happiness strategies you can use in your own life. For more information about the series, check out the 101 Happiness Strategies main page.

By Michele Connolly

Choose to be happier – and you will be.

1 comment

  1. Happiness is a state of mind and a decision and not a dependency! The poorest person can be happier than the richest. If one decides to be happy he/she will be happy, irrespective of what follows thereafter. I am aware of a formula to control frutration.
    Where, F- is frustration
    E- is expectancy
    V- is valence
    O- is occurence
    I – is input
    P- is publicity
    Can we derive a happiness formula? Measuring happiness is a very cumbersome & tedious process.
    How about happiness index ? How much happy or unhappy exactly a person is at a particular time? Are there authentic happiness measurement techniques like measurement of blood pressure or body temperature ?

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