Happiness or well-being is most frequently described as consisting of an affective component (i.e. the experience of relatively frequent positive and relatively infrequent negative emotions) and a cognitive component (i.e. life satisfaction or the overall evaluation of a person’s life) (Diener, 1984; Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). Most research has focused on the affective component, showing the benefits of positive emotions.
In 2011, Gallup conducted a poll asking respondents in 148 countries about their positive emotions. In Singapore, 46 percent (less than half) of the respondents said they had had a happy experience in the previous few days, while in the happiest country, Panama, 90 percent of the respondents experienced positive emotions (Ghosh, 2014). The poll also showed that Singaporeans are the most unemotional. This is a concern because positive emotion predicts well-being in many studies. There is other evidence that Singaporeans are unhappy. Randstad’s Wold of Work Report indicated that Singaporean workers are the unhappiest in Asia (Ghosh, 2014). Tan (2014) mentioned in The Straits Times that more young professionals in Singapore are suffering from burnout, and a few psychiatrists have revealed that up to 90 percent of their patients are grappling with mental health issues caused by stress from work. Being emotionally taxed and overburdened with stress may result in physical and psychological health problems, and impaired professional competence (G. Corey, M. Corey, & Callanan, 2011).
Previously as a Child Protection Officer, I experienced relatively frequent negative emotions in managing cases with complex family dynamics. However, I realized it was through positive emotions generated from interactions with colleagues that helped me to cope with the stress. Subsequently, I learnt that positive emotions can be generated on our own.
Specifically, a focus of research for improving individual’s well-being and copying response to stress has been the deliberate cultivation of positive emotion. For instance, investigators observed that gratitude helps people cope with stress through positive reinterpretation of stressful life experiences (Lyubomirsky, 2007). Shin and Lyubomirsky (in press) defined gratitude as the practice of attending to, savouring, and being thankful for one’s circumstances and loved ones. Senf and Liau (2012) discovered in an Asian context that there may be a link between gratitude and a group of positive emotions such as contentment, happiness, pride, and hope.
How do we practice gratitude? Stay tuned for the next article…
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542-575.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E. and Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276-302. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276
Ghosh, P. (2014, January 22). Singaporeans ‘unhappiest’ workers in Asia, Indians ‘happiest’: Randstad. International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/singaporeans-unhappiest-workers-asia-indians-happiest-randstad-1545990
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want. United States of America: The Penguin Press.
Senf, K., & Liau, A. K. (2012). The effects of positive interventions on happiness and depressive Symptoms, with an examination of personality as a moderator. Journal of Happiness Studies. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9344-4
Shin, L. J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (in press). Positive activity interventions for mental health conditions: Basic research and clinical applications. In J. Johnson & A. Wood (Eds.), The handbook of positive clinical psychology. New York: Wiley.
Tan, A. (2014, April 14). More young professionals suffering from burn-out. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-young-professionals-suffering-from-burn-out