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One goal shared across the globe is the pursuit of happiness. Within the field of positive psychology, there is detailed evidence being gathered through surveys and questions, supporting the notion that we are able to improve our own happiness, both individually and collectively, through various mechanisms.
As researchers and practitioners within the field gather evidence on how we can gain and maintain our subjective well-being across cultures and continents, we are learning more and more about which factors impact us.
What we know this far is that our happiness is impacted by our experience of life satisfaction and our perceived well-being is improved through factors such as having positive relationships, increased financial income, and physical health.
However, at some point, all these external factors can reach a plateau where we no longer achieve the same satisfaction as before.
“The very good news is there is quite a number of internal circumstances […] under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (and be warned that none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.” (Seligman, 2002)
The field of positive psychology considers these internal circumstances as fundamental to our individual and collective well-being, and in order to continue growing the science of happiness, it is necessary to gather evidence on internal experiences.
Various positive psychology surveys and measures have been developed to gain insight into happiness, through assessing factors such as life satisfaction, gratitude, meaning in life, and flourishing among other variables.
In this article, we present a collection the top positive psychology surveys from Jarden (2011) and we hope that through the use of these surveys you can contribute to the pursuit for human happiness.
Positive Psychology Surveys and Questionnaires
The Happiness Measure (HM)
Also known as Fordyce Emotion Questionnaire, the HM uses two items to assess intensity and frequency of happiness. This is done by measuring emotional wellbeing as an indication of an individual’s perceived happiness and as a component of social well-being (SWB).
The first item presents a ‘happiness/unhappiness scale’ with 11 descriptive phrases on a 0-10 scale. The second item estimates the percentage of time that the respondent feels happy, neutral, and unhappy.
Compared to all the other measures of wellbeing, HM has the strongest correlations with the daily life satisfaction.
The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SwLS)
The SwLS scale has five items alongside with seven-point Likert scales that assess the respondent’s global judgment of life satisfaction. The items are then calculated to get a total score ranging from 5 to 35 with those below 9 as having extreme dissatisfaction with life and those with 26 and above as having satisfaction with life.
SwLS takes 2 minutes to complete and can be used in a variety of settings to monitor changes in life satisfaction.
The Temporal Satisfaction with Life Scale (TSWLS)
The TSWLS assesses past, present, and future satisfaction in life to offer an accurate view of how a person’s life is going regardless of time. The scale is useful in forecasting a person’s life satisfaction and is the only scale which looks at predicting future life satisfaction.
The Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS)
The Subjective Happiness Scale is a four-item measure that assesses global individual happiness as a whole. Respondents rate four items with different Likert scales.
In comparison to the HM, which evaluates the frequency and intensity of individual happiness and SwLS that measures the cognitive components of life satisfaction, the SHS scale measures subjective well-being on a global overall scale.
The SHS is strongly correlated with other psychological well-being scales and has good psychometric properties.
The Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6)
The GQ-6 is a short, self-report questionnaire that assesses a person’s disposition toward gratitude. The GQ-6 consists of 6 times each on a scale of 1 to 7.
This measure holds excellent internal reliability with scores between .82 and .87. There is also substantial evidence showing how the GQ-6 relates to optimism, hope, spirituality, life satisfaction, empathy, religiousness, forgiveness, and so many more variables which contribute to our happiness.
The Adult Hope Scale (AHS)
This scale measures a person’s positive motivational state based on two points; 1) their goal-directed energy and 2) their plans to meet their goals.
It has 12 items with four measuring goal strategy, the next four measuring goal-directed energy, and the final four being fillers which respondent must complete an 8-point scale.
The AHS is related to learned optimism, optimism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem, where higher hope is linked to better performance outcomes and a sense of competence resulting in greater satisfaction with life (Snyder et al., 1991).
The Meaning of Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
The MLQ assesses two dimensions of the meaning of life. These being the presence of meaning and the search for significance, which are measured through a ten-item questionnaire and seven-point scale.
This questionnaire is an effective measure of life satisfaction as the presence of meaning is positively related to subjective well-being.
The Flourishing Scale (FS)
This scale has eight items that assess various aspects of happiness including positive relationships, competence, purpose, and meaning.
While the FS does not measure each component of wellbeing separately, the scale provides an overview of the respondent’s positive functioning across different areas and contexts which make it an essential part of your positive psychology toolkit.
Take Home Message
In the pursuit of understanding human happiness, the above scales, presented by Jarden (2011), are not exhaustive but are amongst the most significant surveys and questionnaires we have for measuring individual and collective well-being, life satisfaction, and feelings about life. Numerous variables expound on individual’s wellbeing, and different stages and such aspects can be measured since there are dozens of measures that people can use in various contexts.
With this in mind, there are numerous variables which expound on individual’s well-being at different stages of life and within different contexts. The body of evidence is continually growing as we learn more about what makes happiness universal and how its internal and external factors differ and overlap across culture, continent and time.
Looking for more on Happiness?
This TEDtalk by Gen Kelsang Nyema explains why happiness is just in your head. Enjoy and we wish you luck in your pursuit of well-being!
Jarden, A. (2011). Positive Psychology Assessment: A practical introduction to empirically validated research tools or measuring wellbeing. Ziskano, 2(20), 2014.
Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., et al (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual- difference measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.