When we dig into the specifics of what yields life satisfaction, or the experience of having a “good life,” we can make a long list of contributing factors:
Sense of honor
Course of events
And on and on and on. And, it’s very possible that several of those concepts above are completely unimportant to you—this individual approach is an important factor of our understanding of life satisfaction.
The research tells us that living conditions do stand out as an important factor—countries with higher quality of life have higher life satisfaction scores. Education also matters, but only comparatively; having advanced education only impacts life satisfaction commensurate to the typical educational level of the country. (Highly educated in a lesser-educated country = more satisfaction, highly educated in a highly-educated country = less satisfaction.) Finally, we know that egalitarian societies have higher marks of life satisfaction than those with less freedom.
We also know from the research that life satisfaction has an impact on our health—higher life satisfaction even influences our mortality rates. It also influences things like chronic illness, sleep problems, pain, obesity, smoking, anxiety, and physical activity. These conditions are reciprocal; improve your health and your life satisfaction improves, improve your life satisfaction and your health will likely improve.
All that sounds great, but can we do anything intentional to improve our life satisfaction? Yes, you can, and Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps gives us 5 great questions to begin considering what might improve our life satisfaction:
Do you try new experiences? How can you break out of your routine?
Do you try your hardest in everything you do? How can you fulfill your purpose and passion?
Do you enjoy spending time with other people? Can you increase your connections with others?
In your everyday interactions, do you approach people with a desire to get along? Positive and agreeable social relationships are an upward factor for life satisfaction.
Are you easily upset by different kinds of problems? How can you actively address any anxiety, sadness, or unhappiness?
Today, consider your more global factors of happiness and satisfaction—where do you fall on the life satisfaction scale at the moment? How can you move the needle forward and increase that overall sense of satisfaction?
Becker-Phelps, L. (2012). The right questions can increase life satisfaction. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/making-change/201205/the-right-questions-can-increase-life-satisfaction
Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larson, R., & Griffin, S. (n.d.). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Retrieved from http://www.unt.edu/rss/SWLS.pdf
Heady, B., Veenhoven, R., & Wearing, A. (1991). Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24, 81-100.
Life Satisfaction. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/life-satisfaction/