No one’s happy all the time—right? But some people do seem happier, on average, than others. Humans have likely been pondering the question, “How do you measure happiness?” as long as we’ve understood that happiness is an emotion worth having. So what does the research today show?
Author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar and Unilever Japan’s HR and GA, Yuka Shimada share findings and perspectives at the G1 Global Conference on September 16, 2019.
How Do You Measure Happiness?
Sheena Iyengar: The “how do you measure happiness” question. Probably the best measure to date is still the one that Dan Gilbert originated. He actually created the very old-fashioned version of the app, but now you have more advanced apps where it just asks you a single question “How happy are you?” multiple times a day.
It turns out that, while there are some variants over the course of a day, we are, on average, fairly consistent. We’re also on average, fairly consistently affected by similar things that make us more happy or less happy. We’re not always aware of it, but that’s probably the most consistent measure.
And they’ve now correlated that also with things like body temperature and other physiological measures.
Yuka Shimada: One thing regarding the “how to measure happiness.” On top of what Sheena said, one direction that I know happening in Japan is, learning from the path of psychology. There are five dimensions that we always pay attention to to see whether we have a high score or high level of wellbeing.
By the way, happiness and wellbeing are a little bit different. So we should also pay attention to that word itself. Happiness is the emotion that you can feel at this moment. Happy and unhappy. That can be a really up and down, everyday, every moment thing. But wellbeing is much more longer span.
So what psychology tells us is that the person who has the longer time of wellbeing, the higher level of wellbeing, those people will have a longer life. Performance is good, resilience is stronger, those kind of things. The five dimensions for good wellbeing is P-E-R-M-A. “PERMA,” we call it. And that P represents positive emotions. So people who have the more positive emotions have a tendency to have the better wellbeing.
E, engagement. R, relationship. M, meaning. And A, accomplishment.