Across the globe, the pursuit of happiness is a common thread in the human journey.
Within the field of positive psychology, there is detailed evidence being gathered through surveys and questionnaires 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 thus 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.
Positive Psychology Surveys and Questionnaires
In this article, we present a collection of the top positive psychology surveys from Jarden (2011) and we hope that through the use of these surveys you can contribute to the pursuit of human happiness.
It may be worth your time to try several of these before you find what survey best to your life ambitions and of course, the pursuit of happiness.
1. The Happiness Measure (HM)
Also known as the Fordyce Emotion Questionnaire, the HM uses two items to assess the intensity and frequency of happiness. This is done by measuring emotional well-being 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 daily life satisfaction.
2. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SwLS)
The SwLS scale has five items alongside seven-point Likert scales that assess the respondent’s global judgment of life satisfaction. The responses are then calculated to get a total score ranging from 5 to 35, with those below 9 rated 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.
3. 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 that looks at predicting future life satisfaction.
4. 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.
5. 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 items 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 many more variables that contribute to our happiness.
6. 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 divided as follows: 4 items measuring goal strategies, 4 items measuring goal-directed energy, and the final 4 items being rated by respondents on 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).
7. The Meaning of Life Questionnaire (MLQ)
The MLQ assesses two dimensions of the meaning of life—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.
8. 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 well-being separately, the scale provides an overview of the respondent’s positive functioning across different areas and contexts, which makes it an essential part of your positive psychology toolkit.
In the pursuit of understanding human happiness, the above scales, presented by Jarden (2011), are not exhaustive but are among the most significant surveys and questionnaires we have for measuring individual and collective well-being, life satisfaction, and feelings about life.
With this in mind, there are numerous variables that contribute to an 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, continents, and times.
Did you try any of these surveys? If so, what are your findings and thoughts? We would love to hear from you in our comments section below.
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.