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Indian Journal of Positive Psychology
© 2014 Indian Association of Health, Research and Welfare
2014, 5(4), 393-397
Exploring college student's conception of happiness
Amity Institute of Psychology and Allied Sciences
Noida, Uttar Pradesh
School of Social Sciences
IGNOU, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi
Happiness is a state we all want to achieve,but what exactly is happiness and how to be in that state is very subjective
and depends upon person to person. The present study was aimed to explore the meaning and conception of
happiness among College students. Total 48 college students (ages range 18 to 24 year old) were selected from
private universities of Greater Noida. The study employed qualitative-descriptive research design. Findings
showed that happiness is a multifaceted construct as: Self orientation, Enjoyment, Other oriented, Positive
Thoughts, Achievements, Work Life Balance, Purpose in Life, satisfaction, Determination, Spend time with love
ones. Self orientation as components of happiness was found difference on the level of age. The findings of the
research conclude the several of happiness and provide further research suggestions in the psychology of happiness.
Keywords: happiness, qualitative research, college students
Happiness is the cherished goal of every person in every phase of life,
but what constitute happiness is very subjective. According to
Veenhoven (1991), the interest in happiness and well-being dates
back to Greek philosophers. Dating back to Aristotle's (384322 BCE)
who gave the notion of eudemonia according to which happiness is a
lifetime of virtuous activity (excellence) made possible by the
opportunity of leisure, leisure being the condition of freedom from
the need to labour as well as freedom for the noble exercise of a
person's highest capacities, as quoted by (Sylvester, 2005). Further
more, according to Aristuppus (435366 BCE), who tried to explain
happiness with Hedonism i.e., happiness is a matter of raw subjective
feelings maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Combining the
two views Eysenck and Eysenck (1990) states that happiness is equal
to satisfaction plus hedonic level, hedonic level is the degree to
which pleasant emotions overweight unpleasant emotions.
In the recent times Myers and Diener did lot of research on
happiness and concluded that happiness is primarily a subjective
phenomenon “for which the final judge is whoever lives inside a
person's skin” (Myers & Diener, 1950). According to Lyubomirsky
(2001), happiness is relative to our past experience as also to our
comparisons with others, Happiness is an imaginary condition,
formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed
by adult to children and by children to adults [Thomas Sazz as quoted
in Mayer & Dyner, 1995)]. According to Csikzentmihalyi (1990),
happiness comes from engagement in mindful challenge, which he
termed as flow, an activity in which one get so caught up that the
mind does not wander, one become oblivious to surroundings and
Seligman (2003) revolutionized the concept of happiness with his
notion of Authentic happiness. He holds that there are three distinct
kinds of happiness: the Pleasant Life (pleasures), the Good Life
(engagement), and the Meaningful Life. The first two are subjective,
but the third is at least partly objective and lodges in belonging to and
serving what is larger and more worthwhile than the just the self's
pleasures and desires.
It can be observed that Seligman's concept of authentic happiness
includes each and every concept of happiness, it includes the
Correspondence should be sent to Parnika Sharma
Amity Institute of Psychology and Allied Sciences, Noida, U.P.
Pleasant Life, that is about happiness in Hedonism's sense. The
Good Life in Desire sense. The Meaningful Life is about happiness
that consists of achieving certain things from a list of worthwhile
pursuits: such a list might include career accomplishments,
friendship, freedom from disease and pain, material comforts, civic
spirit, beauty, education, love, knowledge, and good conscience
(Nussbaum, 1992; Sen, 1985). Here it is worth to quote Ed Diener's
term for happiness which is "subjective well-being" Subjective
well-being includes experiencing pleasant emotions, low levels of
negative moods, and high life satisfaction (Diener, 2002).
The Indian perspective on happiness has flourished with the ideas
of harmony, evolution and connectivity across life forms.
Upanishadic concept of Pancha Koshas (Annamaya, Pranamaya,
Vigyanmaya, Manomaya & Anandmaya), which articulates human
existence in terms of a multilayered organization. In this scheme, the
idea of 'being' is of a conscious being and not of a reactive organism.
It operates following the principles of complementarity,
interdependence, sharing and reciprocity between self and tasks
externally, through persistence (Dalal & Misra, 2000).
Bhagavad Geeta, the Indian spiritual scripture, says that there are
three kinds of happiness, Sattwik, Rajasik and Tamasik. Sattwik is
the best kind of happiness, which initially appears to be bad but in
the end is felt like nectar. Rajasika is the sensory happiness, which
appears to be nectar in the beginning but creates problem at the end.
Tamasika is the worst kind of happiness, which deludes the self, such
as, laziness, negligence etc. (Bhagabat Gita, Chapter-18, Sloka 37- 39).
Ananda has been described as the highest state of higher self. Real
happiness, is an inherent state of the soul, a quality we can use only
when we have a true perception of our nature of soul. (Sharma, 2010).
As early as 1960's, happiness was being explored through the use
of different survey forms (Argyle as cited in Primasari & Yuniarti,
2010). Some of them focused on possible predictors of happiness
which majority fall into the result of social economic status of a
person (Kozaryn, 2010). On the contrary, Piccolo, Judge, Takahash,
Watanabe, and Locke (2005), claimed that positive self-regard is the
most important predictor of happiness and as well as life
satisfaction. Using the Big Five Personality Model, Tkach, and
Lyubomirsky (2006) found out that personality traits can mediate
happiness, especially extraversion. Howell, Chenot, Hill, and
Howell (2011) concluded that satisfaction of daily psychological
SHARMA AND PATRA/ EXPLORING COLLEGE STUDENT'S CONCEPTION
and family relationship (Holder & Coleman, 2007) as similar with
the adolescents (Chen & Lu, 2009) and romantic relationship for
married adults (Demir, 2008; Demir, 2010) while best friend and
mother relationship arouse for single adults (Demir, 2010). In an
another study done by Datu, Jesus Alfonso, Valdez, Jana Patricia,
(2012); “Exploring Filipino adolescents' conception of happiness”.
Researchers aimed to explore the meaning and conception of
happiness among selected Filipino adolescents. Findings showed
that happiness is a multifaceted construct that involved the following
major themes: satisfaction of wants, absence of worries, expression
of positive emotions, motivational drive, and fulfillment of relational
needs. A study done by Luo Lu ( 2001) on 'Understanding happiness;
A look into the Chinese folk psychology' This qualitative study using
a folk psychology approach explored what Chinese people think
about happiness. Using thematic analysis, four main themes were
found. (1) Happiness can be defined in terms of (a) a mental state of
satisfaction and contentment; (b) positive feelings/emotions; (c) a
harmonious homeostasis; (d) achievement and hope; and (e) freedom
from ill-being. (2) Happiness is a harmonious state of existence,
under the following conditions: (a) the individual is satisfied or
content; (b) the individual is the agent of his own happiness; (c)
spiritual enrichment is emphasized more than material satisfaction;
and (d) the individual maintains a positive outlook for the future. (3)
The relationship between happiness and unhappiness is dialectical.
These two distinct entities are locked in a never-ending relationship
of interdependence: each depends on the other for contrast and
meaning. Moreover, this relationship between the two opposites is
also dynamic and constantly changing. (4) Happiness can be achieved,
provided that one has the following abilities: (a) the wisdom of discovery;
(b) the wisdom of contentment and gratitude; (c) the wisdom of giving;
and (d) the wisdom of self-cultivation.
Various definitions of happiness highlights importance of factors
such as ethics (Aristotle, (384322 BCE), Flow (Csikzentmihalyi, 1990),
pleasure (Aristuppus, 435366 BCE), a relative sense (Lyubomirsky,
2001), gratitude (Cicero, 54 BC as quoted in Frederiksen, 1996)
meaningful life (Seligman, (2003). Still the benefits one derive from
being happy are multitude. Diener, Lyubomirsky, and King (2005)
asserted that happiness can be directly related to success. As people
attain success, they tend to have positive affect which leads to
happiness. That hypothesis was similar to the findings of Heady
&Veehoven (as cited in Primasari & Yuniarti, 2010) which
capitalized on the influence of happiness to the feeling of
satisfaction. What remained constant across different studies is the
formulation that happiness is an antecedent, correlate and predictor
of positive psychological outcomes (Parks, Della Porta, Pierce,
Zilca, & Lyubomirsky, 2012; Lyubomirsky, Diener, & King, 2005).
Adolescents have long been regarded as a group of people who are
searching for themselves to find some form of identity and meaning in
their lives (Erikson 1968). According to Pittman, (1993) youth is a
time when individuals are engaged in attempting to (1) meet their basic
personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful,
and be spiritually grounded, and (2) to build skills and competencies
that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives. Identity
theorists, from Erikson (1968) to Loevinger (1976), have marked
adolescence as the period in the life-span when people first begin to
dedicate themselves to systems of belief that reflects compelling
purposes. Keeping this view in the mind, the specific objective of
present study was to address the qualitative study of conceptions of
happiness among college students. The general objective of the study
was: 1) to address the conceptions of happiness in college students, 2)
to study the relationship with age and various components of
happiness for college students. To accomplish this, all the participants
were enquired open ended interview with happiness question.
Total 48 college students (age range from 18 to 25 year) from various
private universities were selected. They were students of
managements and engineering courses enrolled in Noida and
Greater Noida Institutions.
Instrument and procedure
The current research utilized open ended questionnaire as a way to
collect responses from the participants. It has ten questions in total.
Some of the sample questions include; a) What exactly is happiness,
b) Describe a moment of perfect happiness, c) What changes can you
effect in your work and home environment that cultivate happiness
and d) How can one become happier.
The investigator had first established rapport with each
participant to elicit sincere and can did responses in college and
university settings. After establishment of rapport the sociodemographic and conceptions of happiness characteristics of the
participants was written using a personal data sheet. Each
participant was tested individually. It took around 20 to 30 minutes
for the questionnaire to be filled by each participant. The
investigator promised not to disclose the information given by
participants to anyone. As soon as they completed, the data was
scored and analyzed according to the research objectives.
The content analysis method was used for data analysis. The major
theme and categories emerged from data analysis along with
frequencies has been presented in the following tables and figures.
Table 1: Conceptions of Happiness in college students.
Conceptions of Happiness
Work life balance
Purpose in Life
Spend time with love ones
Figure 1: Graphical Presentation of Conceptions of Happiness.
Indian Journal of Positive Psychology 2014, 5(4), 393-397
Table: 6 Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
namely achievements of goal.
Looking at Table 1, it clearly appeared that participants have
perceived ten conceptions about happiness as self oriented,
enjoyment, other oriented, positive thought, achievement goals,
work life balance, purpose in life, satisfaction, determination and
spent time with love ones. However, the participants have perceived
three conceptions of happiness above 80 percent as self oriented,
other oriented and spent time with love ones. Three conceptions were
identified below 25 percentage as work life balance, purpose in life
To investigate the relationship with age and various components
of happiness, Chi-square tests of independence were performed.
The age range of participants was 18 25 years. It was devised in two
parts: 18-21 and 22-25 year old. To apply the chi square test of
independence, each theme of happiness was divided into two groups of
high and low. After that each theme was analysed on the bases of age.
Age level High work life balance Low work life balance
Table: 2 Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
namely self orientation
High self orientation
Low self orientation
Table- 6 reveals that 57.14 percent (n=14) of the high achievements
of goal and 44.12 percent (n=34) of the low achievements of goal
expressed by 18-22 years. The difference was not statistically
significant [ c
(1, N=48) = .67, p >.05].
Table 7: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
namely work life balance.
Table- 7 reveals that 67.67 percent (n=6) of the high work life balance and
45.24 percent (n=42) of the low work life balance expressed by 18-22 years.
The difference was not statistically significant [c
(1, N=48) = .96, p >.05].
Table 8: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness namely
purpose in life.
Table-2 shows that 68.18 percent (n=22) of the high self orientation
High Purpose in life
Low purpose in life
and 38.46 percent (n=26) of the low self orientation expressed by 222
25 years. The difference was statistically reliable at the .05 level [c
(1, N=48) = 4.21, p <.05].
Table- 8 presents that 62.5 percent (n=8) of the high purpose in life
and50 percent (n=40) of the low purpose in life expressed by 22-25
years. The difference was not statistically significant [c
(1, N=48) =
.41, p >.05].
Table 3: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
Table: 9 Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
Table-3 indicates that 70 percent (n=10) of the high enjoyment and
42.11 percent (n=38) of the low enjoyment expressed by 18-21 years.
The difference was not statistically significant [ c
(1, N=48) = 2.46, p
Table- 9 presents that 52.5 percent (n=40) of the low purpose in life
Table 4: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
and 50 percent (n=40) of the high satisfaction in life expressed by
namely other oriented.
22-25 years. The difference was not statistically significant [c
High other oriented
Low other oriented
N=48) = .017, p >.05].
Table: 10 Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
Table- 4 suggest 53.33 percent (n=30) of the high other oriented and 50
percent (n=18) of the low other oriented expressed by 22-25 years. The
difference was not statistically significant [c
(1, N=48) = .05, p >.05].
Table 5: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
namely positive thoughts.
High Positive thoughts
Low Positive thoughts
Table- 10 suggest that 60 percent (n=5) of the high determination
51.62 percent (n=48) of the low determination expressed by 222
25 years. The difference was not statistically significant [c
N=48) = .14, p >.05].
Table 11: Percentage of participant's age in conception of happiness
namely spent time in love.
Table- 5 tells that 64.29 percent (n=14) of the high positive
thoughts and 41.18 percent (n=34) of the low positive thoughts
High spend time in love
expressed by 18-22 years. The difference was not statistically
significant [ c
(1, N=48) = .221, p >.05].
Low spend time in love
SHARMA AND PATRA/ EXPLORING COLLEGE STUDENT'S CONCEPTION
Table- 11 suggest that 60.61 percent (n=33) of the high spend time in
love and 33.33 percent (n=15) of the low spend time in love
expressed by 22-25 years. The difference was not statistically
significant [(1, N=48) = 3.07, p >.05].
Thus, overall ten concepts were found among university students.
Conceptions of happiness were equal for all the 18 to 25 year
participants. One component of happiness as self orientation was
found significant difference on the level of age.
Seligman. These two happiness-increasing behaviours were
consistently seen in the study of Tkach and Lyubomirsky (2006) that
hypothesized these strategies under social affiliation. It also
validates the premises from past theoretical and empirical
underpinnings that socially-engaging endeavours enhance
happiness (Lu & Gilmour, 2004; Lu & Shih, 1997; Csikszentmihalyi
& Hunter, 2003).
The study can be beneficial for the teachers, psychologi ...
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