In a recent review, Ed Diener and Micaela Chan (2011)* reported that people in the top range of happiness – that is, the top 25% or so – live longer, and by around four to ten years. That means, that if you can get to the top 25% in your happiness, you can expect to see a nice improvement in your physical health. Emotional health grows physical health.
Ed and his son, Robert Biswas-Diener published this Flourishing scale recently, and I am quite impressed with how it taps various components of happiness, such as a sense of purpose and meaning in life, connection with others, and engagement, or using one’s talents and innate gifts. Take this test, and then work at the happiness exercises in my book, Enjoy Life: Healing with Happiness until you are around the 30% or 20th percentile.
We call this “matching to sample.” That means that we have a sample of people who have much better health. They are in the top 25% of happiness. So when we raise our happiness to match that sample, we are very likely to see the benefits of being in that group, such as a longer, healthier, and more energetic life.
Try it and see. Not only does the Flourishing Scale give you a notion about where you are compared with the general population, it suggests ways to raise your sense of flourishing. For example, if you are a bit low on the connection questions, that is, #2 and #4, then start to put more energy into your relationships. Increase compassion, what the Buddhists call Lovingkindness, increase the time you spend with friends, increase the effort you make to be helpful to others.
I think you will find Ed and Robert’s scale of great value. I appreciate their generic permission to reprint it. You can use this same scale, as long as you keep the copyright notice with it. If you are a mental health professional, you can use this scale with your clients, which again Ed and Robert are happy for you to do. I think it will generate some very helpful dialog.
©Copyright by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, January 2009
Below are 8 statements with which you may agree or disagree. Using the 1–7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by indicating that response for each statement.
• _7 – Strongly agree
• _6 – Agree
• _5 – Slightly agree
• _4 – Neither agree nor disagree
• _3 – Slightly disagree
• _2 – Disagree
• _1 – Strongly disagree
____ I lead a purposeful and meaningful life
____ My social relationships are supportive and rewarding
____ I am engaged and interested in my daily activities
____ I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others
____ I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me
____ I am a good person and live a good life
____ I am optimistic about my future
____ People respect me
Scoring: raw score of 46 = average happiness, 47 = 70th percentile; 48 = 80th percentile
By the way, I started out as a grouchy kid, and through hard work I have raised my happiness very nicely. If I can do it, you can too. Leave a comment below on what you are doing.
*APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY: HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, 2011, 3 (1), 1–43