The Science of Happiness: What You Need to Know

Mike Schoultz
8 min readSep 2, 2022

I am always on the hunt for ways to enhance my happiness. Today I will explore the science of happiness.

What is happiness, anyway?

The phrase “the science of happiness” refers to a new field of social science called positive psychology. Contrary to popular belief, it is not “positive thinking” or self-help. It is a broad empirical field of research and application worldwide.

According to one of its pioneers Chris Peterson, simply put, positive psychology is the study of those things that make life worth living. While traditional psychology is mitigative, helping us get less of what we don’t want and fix the things that are wrong with us, positive psychology functions constructively in helping us get more of what we do want. That is making ourselves better, happier people.

Theories about happiness go back to before the time of Aristotle, and even today, there are many theories on what constitutes well-being and happiness. Some are focused on the societal level (exploring issues of justice, for example), while some focus on psychological health.

Why happiness matters

Americans want to be happy. But some recent studies have found a paradox: The pursuit of happiness tends to make individual Americans unhappy.

A new study sheds some light on this peculiar American contradiction, suggesting that the relationship between pursuing happiness and decreased well-being, far from being universal, maybe a product of our individualistic culture.

Brett Ford, of the University of California, Berkeley, teamed up with researchers from around the world to look at the pursuit of happiness in four culturally-distinct locations: the United States, Germany, Russia, and East Asia. College undergraduates living in each location answered questionnaires measuring their psychological and physical well-being, their motivation to pursue happiness, and the extent to which they viewed happiness in social terms.

This means that, for them, happiness was linked to social engagement and helping others. Ford and colleagues then analyzed the data to find out how these factors interacted with one another in different cultural settings.

Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz writes about improving the performance of business. Bookmark his blog for stories and articles.