How can we live happily ever after

We read fairytale storybooks when we were young and the story always end with- And they live happily ever after. I am sure everyone wants to lead a happy life. So how are we able to live happily ever after? What must we do to lead a happy life?

In Wikipedia, Happiness is conceptualized as a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure or joy. Happiness can also be described as the quality or state of being happy. According to Diener, Lucas and Scollon (2006), happiness is defined as having positive beliefs about life, life satisfaction, and frequent positive emotions relative to negative ones. I believe the word ‘Happiness’ are defined differently among all people. Happiness in this essay will be defined as life satisfaction level, subjective well being of individuals, and having contentment, pleasure and joy.

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What brings us happiness, and what don’t?

Material Purchases

Do most women shop when they are feeling upset? I’m one of the many women who shop even more when I’m upset. To many, shopping is like etail therapy. To a certain extent, retail therapy makes us to feel happy. So how true is this statement- Materialism brings happiness? According to Boven (2005), material purchases are made to attain the material possession. Why material purchases bring happiness? Yes, material purchases can bring happiness to many individuals. Material purchases such as branded handbags, cars increase the self esteem of individual. Buying of luxury goods actually show the social status of many individual and help to foster social relationship (Boven, 2005). Baumeister (1993) found that individuals with high self esteem have lower risks of anxiety disorders and lower risk of suffering from depression, this shows that individual who self esteem are higher are more likely to solve problems, and hence, having higher level of happiness. However, such happiness has very short life span. Though buying and shopping brings pleasure, but according to Kasser & Ryan (1996), people who go for materialistic goals are less happy and less satisfied with life. The short lived happiness given by material purchases brings long term unhappiness. This is because materialistic people incur a rather huge amount of costs to pursue the materials happiness. For instance, individuals who pursue materialistic goals tend to spend more, they are most likely to use credit cards and have loans (Watson, 2003). Thus, materialistic people are unhappy in the long term as they have to clear the credit cards debts, etc, because the act of clearing loans and debts does not bring them contentment and fulfillment.

Experiential Purchases

As defined by Boven (2005), experiential purchases are made with the intention of acquiring life experience. The difference between material purchases and experiential purchases is the difference in intention. People who do material purchases come with the intention of possessing material goods, whereas, experiential purchases comes with the intention of obtaining more real life experiences, and knowledge. Be it experiential or material purchases, it all depends on the consumer’s intentions, hence, it is rather subjective to categorize the type of purchases. Boven and Gilovich (2003) did a telephone survey, and they found that 57% of respondents feel happier when they made experiential purchases. So why does experiential purchases make one feel happy? Experiential purchases cause individuals to experience more positive feelings. Comparing to another study that was done among the university students by Kammann and Flett (1983), it’s found that students feel happier when they think about an experiential purchases than material purchases. Experiential purchases also bring more positive feelings as such experiences are more seen as more sociable. Also, experiential purchases give a positive image as compared to material purchases. In a study done by Boven and Gilovich (2003), they found that students who shared their experiential purchases story are more well-liked by the other participants than those who share on material purchases. People enjoyed having experiential conversation. Thus, this shows that experiential purchases are brings positive feelings, and individuals are more well-liked if they are not materialistic. Such positive feelings and being well-liked allows individuals to be happier.

Community Service

Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth. Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it. ~John Templeton

Doing community service or volunteer work can make one happy too. Like what John Templeton mentioned in his quote ‘Happiness comes from giving’. We can be happy when we give. Carlson, Charlin and Miller (1988) proposed that individuals have more positive mood when they help others. The joy that individuals got from helping actually acts as reinforcement. Also, when individuals are not feeling good, they tend to find ways to help others (e.g., giving up seats on train) so as to make themselves feel better. In short, doing community service or helping allows us to feel happy as helping induces positive emotions.


Think Positively

Does the way we think affects the way we feel? A lot of time when I am upset, my friends and family will say ‘Hey, don’t think about it anymore, think of something happy’. So does not thinking make me less upset? Does thinking of something happy makes me a happy person? Yes, indeed. The way we think indeed affects the way we feel. A study done by Holmes, Lang and Shah (2009) found that 1) participants in the imagery condition show lesser state anxiety than those in verbal condition, 2) participants in the imagery condition show greater increases in positive affect. Imagery encourages more self-relevant processing, and having positive imagery have a more impact in changing of mood than neutral imagery. Having self relevant processing mean that individual are able to step out their unhappy emotions and think logically, and this will most likely help them to feel better, thus eventually happier. Also, according to Scarr (1988), many a time, life events are all “cognitively processed”, this means that whatever that happened to us are all self-evaluated, interpreted and remembered. In other words, it is up to individuals to evaluate whether the event that happened is good or bad. Diener (1984) proposed that in order to be happy individuals, must all learn to construct our thoughts positively and have positive self-views, also, react to events and situations in a more positive, optimistic and adaptive ways. Therefore, the way we think and react to an event or incidents affects our level of happiness. To be a happy person, we must think positively.

Real life examples: I believe that everyone who is taking positive psychology is very stressed up with this essay. And I’ve seen many of my friends wrote that they are not feeling very positive writing the essays, etc. I stopped and look at their facebook status, and I realized that they are not thinking positively in the first place. Without positive thoughts, writing this essay seems dull, bleak and meaningless. Yes, I started having the same thoughts, but when I found that your cognitive thinking is important and it will influence your happiness, I told myself that indeed, this essay seems tough but by writing it, I am able to know the tips of becoming a happier individual. And this motivates me to continue in my research and writing of this essay.

Having Positive Social Relationship and Support

Isn’t it good to always have someone who you can lean on what something upsetting happens? Yes, I love it when there are many people care for me. Cronkite, Holahan, Moos and North (2008) did a study on family predictors of happiness, and they found that family income was not related to one being happy, but family support was positively associated with happiness. Why is this so? It was found that having family support meets the essential need for acceptance and belonging. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, individuals can only reach the self actualization stage when they fulfill the lower level of needs first. Having the love and belonging needs met, individuals are much closer to self actualization. I believe that when love and belonging needs are met, individuals are happier as they feel more love, knowing that they are accepted and love by their loved ones. And this will help to boost their self-view. Individuals will view themselves more positively, thus, eventually having higher self esteem because they will feel that they are more competent. Now, their esteem needs are met too. So now, individuals can proceed to self actualize. When one reaches the self-actualization stage, they are able to see things in a more different perspective. For example, a self-actualized person are more willing to accept individuals for their shortcomings, and they love conditionally, also, when facing a problem, they do not focus on the problem and dwell on the problem, but they will think of the positive lesson learnt that they can get from the problem itself. People with family support are happier because they are able to meet all the essential needs, and they tend to think more positively when they are faced with problems. The relationship of the family members does have an impact on the level of happiness. For instance, the closer the family members are the more emotional openness and sharing that will take place within the family (Cronkite, Holahan, Moos & North, 2008). This would mean that when individuals have family support and their relationship between their family members are strong; many of them will share all the stressors and problems that they faced with their family members. Thus individuals with strong family support are using the right problem solving method (to talk and hear from people) to help them in resolving issues. In the article by Cronkite, Holahan, Moos and North (2008), they found that family support was more related to happiness when the family income is low. Hence, in short, this finding shows that money doesn’t bring ones happiness. One can still be happy when they do not have money but all they have was- family support. There isn’t much research on friends as social support, but I believe that these findings found in a family support setting can be generalized to friends’ social support. The reason being individuals might see their close friends as one of their family members. The bond that friends could share will be similar to what the family members had, thus making enclosing of emotional issues and other problems. Hence, having a good social support is important to make one live happier.

Real life examples: I always feel good when I know that my parents are always there for me, and they love me unconditionally. Despite what I did, my parents and friends still love me. To me, I feel that having good social support is one of the most important factors for one to be happy especially when living in a collectivistic country. The feeling is always great when you know that you have your friends and family to go to when something happened, you are not alone when something happened. There’s always shoulder for you to cry on. I remembered I had a bad fight with my boyfriend, and I cried very terribly. Without my friends and family, I might not have gotten over this issue. This is because my family members and friends put in effort to talk to me and give me advices. Their advices give me very different perspectives and allow me to feel better. It was them who help me to move on. Sometimes all you need is a pair of listening ears. Don’t you agree?

Having Positive Emotions

Positive emotions can increase life satisfaction (Brown, Cohn, Fredrickson & Mikels, 2009). Fredrickson and Cohn (2008) came up with this theory- The Broaden and Build Theory. This theory proposes that positive emotions can help to build long term resources. Evidence have show that induced positive emotions produces more creative thoughts and actions, and more flexible goals and mindsets (Ashby, Isen & Turken, 1999, and Fredrickson & Cohn, 2008). A person’s life satisfaction increases as one uses the positive emotions as resources to help cope with life’s challenges. Having positive emotions allows individuals to expand their resources. It is unavoidable to face with negative emotions, however, for those who frequently have positive emotions are able to cope better with the negative emotions as they are able to use the resources they have to oppose the negative emotions (Baumeister, Bratlavsky, Finkenauer & Vohs, 2001). Positive emotions produce happy people. Positive emotions actively help people to create desirable outcomes (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Individuals who experienced frequent positive emotions are happier as they built resources that will help them to face life’s challenges. Another research done by Robert and Xu (2010), it was found the relationship between positive emotions and longevity. This research supports what Brown, Cohn, Fredrickson and Mikels (2009) found. It is said that positive emotions widen our attention span, helping us to undo what negative feelings done to us, thus build enduring psychological, physical and social resources. And with all these resources, we are able to have better health and longevity. Also, Waugh and Fredrickson (2006) found that positive emotions predict better social interactions; Berkman and Breslow (1983) found that positive emotions promotes healthier behaviors; Isen (1987) said that positive emotions enhance creativity. Positive emotions are predictors of physical and mental health too (Peterson, 2000). In conclusion, we can be happier individuals if we have more positive emotions because positive emotions allows us to be more creative, enable us to find more resources to fight life’s challenges and also, positive emotions allow us to see problems and issues in a different light. With all these, we see challenges as something to build us up and not tear us down. With appropriate problem solving skills, we are able to solve problems more efficiently and also, we learnt to see things in a different perspectives (more positive view- problems are challenges but not threats), and hence, a happier us are created. Not forgetting, positive emotions can undo problems rooted in negative emotions.

Real life examples: I have more ideas when I am happy. I was thinking of the topic of this essay. It was tough because firstly, this essay cost me 30 percent of my final grade. Secondly, everyone in this cohort is too competitive. I was trying to find an essay topic that my professor can relate to (especially if it’s her area of interest). By doing so, she might give me a higher grade. But however, I am not really happy to write something that I’m not interested in. At this point of time, I have to decide whether to please my professor or to please myself. And finally, I pluck out my courage to write a topic that I am interested in. After this decision is made, I feel slightly happier as I am doing something that I like. Once I chose to write something that I am interested in, I begin to have more ideas. But sadly, some ideas have to be forgone as there aren’t any journal articles supporting them.

Knowing of Personal Strengths

Let’s catch them doing right, not when they are doing wrong, says Mr. Glenn Lim, a youth public speaker. How true this statement is. A lot of time, we catch people doing wrong, and will go forward to correct them, but what about when they are doing right? We will just watch and say nothing about it. Mr. Glenn Lim also mentioned before that as youth workers, we should learn to build the youths up, like praise them for doing something and, builds on their strengths; this is where positive youth development comes in. In positive youth development (PYD) program, the focus here is on positive outcomes, unlike other programs, they focus on problems. More research on positive youth development should be done to show the effectiveness of such programs. This section was written based on personal experience and not on journal articles. I feel that it is important to know one’s strength and build on those strengths because we can work on our strengths, but that doesn’t mean we forget about our weakness. Weaknesses are for us to improve, and knowing our strengths make us feel good. Aren’t you happy when someone actually focus on your strengths and praise you for it? And yes, that is how exactly I feel. Whenever someone praised me for doing something right, I feel good and happy, and I’m more motivated to work hard and not disappoint anyone. To me, with me knowing my strengths, I will feel happier as there is a sense of self-worth. And when someone praised me for having doing something, I feel good and happy too.

Laugh more

We laugh when we are happy, but can we laugh to make ourselves happy? The answer is yes. Anyone can laugh without relying on jokes or comedy. Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between stimulated and real laughter. Laughter yoga is developed by Dr. Madam Kataria. Laughter yoga is an exercise that is started off with stimulated laughter, and eventually it leads to real and contagious laughter. Laughter yoga was introduced in schools in India, and many teachers have feedback that laughter yoga creates a happier atmosphere in the class. Science has shown that laughter gives health benefits. Loud and continuous laughter of 10-15 minutes allows our body to have physiological and biochemical changes and this actually make us healthier. And such loud and continuous laughter are contagious. Try laughing out loud, and you will experience what it really means by contagious laughter.


In conclusion, there are indeed many things we can do to make us happy such as having material purchases, experiential purchases and community services. But all these are all externally driven. To be happy people, we must first learn to think positively as our thinking usually shapes our behavior. Next, with positive social support, we are more effective problem in our problem solving skills. Thirdly, positive emotions actually make us optimistic individuals, and also, positive emotions help us to undo negativity that is within us. And also, it is important for us to know our strengths as this act as a motivator to do something well and keep wanting to improve. Lastly, to be happy, we should laugh more, and make laughter contagious so that we can spread this happiness within us to everyone. I strongly feel that before doing any volunteering work or helping acts, we should work on our own happiness first. When we are really happy, that is when we are ready to bring joy to the life of many others.

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