Tuesday, 7 June 2016

In Search of Happiness

We all have the same aim in life; to go in search of it. We may seemingly see it in  different things, but ultimately we all want the same thing - Yes it is  happiness! Right from childhood, I have been pondering on happiness, the one thing that is ever evasive like the mirage in a desert...This search created in me an interest in spirituality. I was drawn  to the books of Osho, Eckhart Tolle and later to the teachings of the "Law of Attraction"explained in recent times in  the books of Rhonda Bryne ( The Secret, The Power, Magic) and Esther & Jerry Hicks (Ask and It is  given).

It's no wonder then that while browsing the internet, my curiosity and interest was aroused on reading the title of the doctoral thesis of  Dr Jaisri.M. Department of psychology, Sree Sankaracharya university of sanskrit, Kalady viz "Psycho Social Correlates of Happiness in Adults". The paper points out that a number of demographic, psychological and social factors are correlated with happiness. Although this has been borne out by earlier studies, "not many researchers have explored this aspect in India, especially the psychological variables."

Dr Jaisri's study seeks to examine whether there are significant differences in happiness among different age groups of adults ( early young, late young early middle, late middle), between the genders, in respect of socio demographic variables like religion, place of residence, education,occupation,income,type of family, marital status, age at marriage, dwelling pattern, engagement in organizational activities and participation in religious activities.

The study also examines the relationship between happiness and factors such as satisfaction with life, gratitude, optimism, hope,perceived social support, personality, coping resources, positive affect and negative affect.It also seeks to find out the whether the said factors ( satisfaction with life..... ..positive affect and negative affect )  are predictors of happiness. Studying the state of happiness among adult population and bringing out the correlates of happiness could help in "developing suitable programmes for promoting the well being and happiness of people which will ultimately help in building a welfare society."

In her study Dr Jaisri has quoted eminent scholars on the concept of happiness- "Happy people gain tangible benefits in many different life domains from their positive state of mind,including larger social rewards like more friends, stronger social support, and richer social interactions (Harker & Keltner,2001). Subjective happiness may be integral to mental and physical health; happy people are more likely to evidence greater self control and self regulatory and coping abilities (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002); to have a bolstered immune system(Stone,etal, 1994) and even to live a longer life (Danner, Snowdon & Friesen, 2001).

The sample comprised of 1513 adults ( men= 561; women= 952 ) belonging to the age range of 20 to 60 years.The subjects were drawn from various institutions, organizations and households of Trissur, Ernakulam and Kozhikode revenue districts of Kerala. They have a minimum educational qualification of SSLC and are adults having no identified physical / mental disorder.

The major findings of the study are as follows:-

1) In  respect of various age groups , there are no significant differences among the four age groups  ( early young, late young, early middle, late middle) in happiness, gratitude, optimism, hope agreeableness and coping resources.

However, there are significant differences among these groups in satisfaction with life, perceived social support, extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience, positive affect, and negative affect.

The early young adults have higher levels of perceived social support,extraversion, neuroticism, positive affect, and negative affect than the middle adults.

The late young adults have higher levels of satisfaction with life and conscientiousness than the early young adults.

2) In terms of gender, there are no differences in happiness, satisfaction with life, optimism, perceived social support,coping resources,extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiouness, openness to experience and negative affect.

However, there are significant differences in gratitude, neuroticism, hope and positive affect. Males have higher levels of of positive affect and hope whereas females have higher levels of neuroticism and gratitude.

3) Looking at different religious groups, there are no significant differences in happiness, satisfaction with life, gratitude, optimism,perceived social support, extraversion, neuroticism, coping resources and negative affect among the adults.

However, there are significant differences in hope, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and positive affect .The adults of Hindu religion have higher levels of conscientiousness compared to other religious groups.

4) From the urban - rural comparison,  there are no significant differences in happiness, satisfaction with life, gratitude, optimism, hope,perceived social support, big five personality factors, coping resources and positive and negative affect.

5) Different educational status: The higher educated group had higher levels of gratitude, agreeableness,openness to experience and lower negative affect. ( No significant difference on other factors)

6)  Different occpational groups: Advocates have higher levels of openness to experience, agreeableness and positive affect.Teachers have higher levels of gratitude and perceived social support.( No significant difference on other factors)

7) Different Income Groups: The higher income groups have higher levels of happiness, satisfaction with life, hope, perceived social support, conscientiousness,and lower levels of neuroticism and negative affect than the lower income groups.

However, there are no differences among these groups in gratitude, optimism,extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, coping resources and positive affect.

8) Categorised on the basis of family type: Adults belonging to nuclear families have higher levels of optimism and negative affect than those belonging to extended families. ( No significant difference on other factors)

9) Difference between married and unmarried adults: Married adults have higher satisfaction with life and conscientiousness whereas unmarried adults have higher gratitude, perceived social support, extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, positive affect and negative affect.

10) On the basis of  the age at marriage:  The adults who got married late (31-35 years of age) have higher happiness, extraversion, agreeableness, coping resources, positive affect and lower neuroticism than those who got married early. ( No significant difference on other factors)

11) Length of marriage: No significant difference in respect of all the factors.

12) Adults with/ without children: No significant difference in respect of all the factors.

12) On the basis of dwelling patterns: Those who stay regularly in their own houses have higher life satisfaction, conscientiousness, positive affect and coping resources.The also have lower neuroticism and negative affect. ( No significant difference on other factors)

13) Participation/ Nonparticipation in various organizations: Adults who actively  participate in various organizations have higher happiness, gratitude,extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experiences and positive affect.They also have lower neuroticism. ( No significant difference on other factors).

14) Participation/ Nonparticipation in religious activities: No significant difference in respect of all the factors.

15) The study reveals significant and moderate positive relationship between happiness  and satisfaction with life, gratitude, optimism, hope, positve affect, all dimensions of  coping resources, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness,and openness to experience.

 On the other hand happiness is having significant and moderate negative relationship with neuroticism and negative affect,

16) The significant predictors of happiness among adults, according to the study are coping resources, satisfaction with life, neuroticism, gratitude,extraversion, positive affect, perceived social support, optimism, openness to experience and negative affect in that order.

Implications  of the Study

The study which has provided base line information on happiness & it's psychological correlates has significantly contributed to the existing body of research on happiness. The following are interesting implications:-
  • The study reiterates the findings of previous research that as against middle aged adults, the early young adults have higher levels of social support, coping resources. positive affect, negative affect extraversion, consientiousness,neuroticism and openness. It clearly calls for suitable intervention programs to help adults adjust better to middle age crisis.
  • The finding that blue collared employees have lower levels of happiness, social support and gratitute compared to other occupational groups draws attention to the need for designing policies to ensure job security and job enrichment initiatives to enhance their self esteem, wellness and happiness.
  • The finding that adults marrying after thirty years of marriage are happier and score high in other positve parameters has significant theoretical and practical implications. We may have to look at social and cultural changes with regard to  age norms for marriage, 
  • The findings of the study calls attention to the need to engage in various social  activities for enhancing the physical and mental well being of people.
  • An important aspect brought out by the study is that the crux of happiness lies not only in one's life circumstances/ environment but also on one's long term dispositional factors and attitudes ( gratitude, optimism, hope etc) . This calls for developing congenial environments,cultivating positive attitudes and  personality development training.
  • The results of the study has provided information on predictive factors to happiness with "Coping resources"being on the top. Developing programs for enhancing coping resources and other variable factors will go a long way in increasing the happiness levels.
  • Therapists, counsellors, Government bodies  and all those concerned with enhancement of happiness  can fruitfully utilise the findings of this study.

This then is the brief of Dr Jaisri's study which had to be compressed by me to meet the requirement  of the blog being  crisp. Those interested in more details may like to read it on the net where the researcher has given a large number of references of authorities on the subject of 'happiness'. At the bottom , I have given meaning of a couple of terms which may not be familiar to those who are not in the field of psychology, yet necessary for a better appreciation of Dr Jaisri's interesting and rewarding doctoral thesis "Psycho Social Correlates of Happiness in Adults".

Wishing all my readers happiness at all times which incidentally is the essence in the teachings of the Law of attraction-Feel Good!

Meaning of terms

Positive Affect: 

refers to the extent to which an individual subjectively experiences positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness.

Negative Affect :  subsumes a variety of negative emotions, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, and fear, and nervousness. Low negative affect is characterized by frequent states of calmness and serenity, along with states of confidence, activeness, and great enthusiasm.

Conscientiousness: Controlled by or done according to one's inner sense of what is right 
Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness.[