Life satisfaction is the way a person perceives how his or her life has been and how they feel about where it is going in the future. It is a measure of well-being and may be assessed in terms of mood, satisfaction with relations with others and with achieved goals, self-concepts, and self-perceived ability to cope with daily life. It is having a favorable attitude of one's life as a whole rather than their current feelings. Life satisfaction has been measured in relation to economic standing, amount of education, experiences, and the people's residence as well as many other topics.
Life satisfaction and personality
Life satisfaction can reflect experiences that have affected a person in a positive way. These experiences have the ability to motivate people to pursue and reach their goals. There are two emotions that may affect how people perceive their lives. Hope and optimism both consist of cognitive processes that are usually oriented towards the reaching of goals and the perception of those goals. Additionally, optimism is linked to higher life satisfaction whereas pessimism is related to symptoms in depression. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) is a single scale that is used by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR to measure how one views his or her self-esteem, well-being and overall happiness with life. Previous modeling showed that positive views and life satisfaction were completely mediated by the concept of self-esteem, and the different way ideas and events are perceived by people. Several studies found that self-esteem plays a definite role in influencing life satisfaction. There is also a homeostatic model that also supports these findings. One's mood and outlook on life can also influence one's own perception of their life satisfaction.
In past research, personality has been narrowed down into five categories; openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In a study carried out by Deneve and Cooper in 1998, multiple studies were analyzed and certain personality questionnaires that linked subjective well-being (SWB) and personality measures. They found that neuroticism was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction and negative affect while the personality measure 'openness to experience' correlated equally to life satisfaction and positive affect.
According to Seligman, the more happy people are, the less they are focused on the negative. They also tend to like others more, which creates an overall happiness which then correlates to a higher level of satisfaction with their life. However, others have found that life satisfaction is compatible with profoundly negative emotional states like depression (Carson 1981).
In a study carried out by Serrano JP, Latorre JM, Gatz M, and Montanes J, Department of psychology at Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, life review therapy using Autobiographical Retrieval Practice for older adults with depressive symptoms showed that with increased specificity of memories, individuals show decreased depression and hopelessness and increased life satisfactions. A test was designed to measure participants’ ability to recall a specific memory in response to a cue word while being timed. They presented a list of 30 words to a focus group, who identified which words were more familiar positive, negative, and neutral. These words were presented orally to the participant. In this experiment, they used five positive words (e.g., funny, lucky, passionate, happy, hopeful), five negative words (unsuccessful, unhappy, sad, abandoned, gloomy), and five neutral words (work, city, home, shoes, family). Words were presented in a fixed, alternating order. To make sure the participants understood the instructions, they provided examples of general memory (e.g., summers in the city) and specific memory (e.g., the day I got married). In this test, participants were asked to share a memory that the cue word reminded them of, one that should have occurred at a particular time and place and lasted no longer than a day. Participants were given 30 seconds to produce a memory. If no memory was recalled in 30 seconds, it was not counted. Each memory was rated on whether it was general or specific. If the recalled event lasted no longer than a day, it was rated as specific. If the memory happened on a number of occasions, it was rated as general. Two psychologists served as raters and independently scored the responses of all participants; The raters were not aware of the hypotheses of the study, the experimental or control group, and the pretest or posttest.
Life events and experiences
It has been suggested that there are several factors that contribute towards our happiness. Positive and negative experiences, both those that are acute events (e.g., death of a loved one) and chronic, daily experiences (e.g., ongoing family discord) influence LS reports. In the book “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar, an author and lecturer at Harvard University, he argues that happiness should be people’s ultimate goal, the primary factor in evaluating alternative choices. As the subtitle implies, Happier recommends for us to pursue immediate joyful experience in ways that contributes to more long-term, meaningful satisfaction. Furthermore, Ben-Shahar argues that pursuing genuine self-motivated goals, rather than just instant pleasure or selflessness in service of long delayed enjoyment, results in an optimal combination of short- and long-term happiness.
It is proposed that overall life satisfaction comes from within an individual based on the individual's personal values and what he or she holds important. For some it is family, for others it is love, and for others it is money or other material items; either way, it varies from one person to another. Economic materialism can be considered a value. Previous research found that materialistic individuals were predominantly male, and that materialistic people also reported a lower life satisfaction level than their non-materialistic counterparts. The same is true of people who value money over helping other people; this is because the money they have can buy them the assets they deem valuable. Materialistic people are less satisfied with life because they constantly want more and more belongings, and once those belongings are obtained they lose value, which in turn causes these people to want more belongings and the cycle continues. If these materialistic individuals do not have enough money to satisfy their craving for more items, they become more dissatisfied. This has been referred to as a hedonic treadmill. On the contrary, if an individual does not hold the acquisition of wealth as a high priority, his or her personal financial state will not make a difference on how happy he or she is with life overall. Individuals reporting a high value on traditions and religion reported a higher level of life satisfaction. This is also true for reported routine churchgoers and people who pray frequently. Conveniently, the idea of religion and church are selfless, non-materialistic acts, which logically concludes why the opposite effect is true of people who hold opposite values as priority. Other individuals that reported higher levels of life satisfaction were people who valued creativity, and people who valued respect for and from others—two more seemingly qualities not related to material goods. Because hard times come around and often people count on their peers and family to help them through, it is no surprise that a higher life satisfaction level was reported of people who had social support, whether it be friends, family, or church. The people who personally valued material items were found to be less satisfied overall in life as opposed to people who attached a higher amount of value with interpersonal relationships
Life satisfaction and age
The psychologists, Yuval Palgi and Dov Shmotkin (2009), studied the old-old — people who were primarily in their nineties. This subject group was found to have thought highly of their past and present. But generally the group thought lower of their future. These people were very satisfied with their life up until the point they were surveyed but knew that the end was near and so were not quite as hopeful for the future. A large factor that was talked about in life satisfaction was intelligence. The experiments talk of how life satisfaction grows as people become older because they become wiser and more knowledgeable, so they begin to see that life will be better as they grow older and understand the important things in life more.
In persons aged 65 to 88 years, studies have shown that highly older persons tend to increase in religiousness over the course of their lives, those who were low in religiosity tended to report a decrease. There is a low moderate positive relationship between religiosity and life satisfaction. Gender may also play a role in religiousness. Women tend to have greater religiosity, the basis may be due to biological differences or psychological role in society. Association for Psychological Science  Mothers are reported to have had the strongest pro-religious influence, although both parents are perceived to be an important influence in religious development of their children.
Personal religious identity is positively associated with life satisfaction throughout the world, but the association increases in size under conditions of greater governmental regulation; and the association between participation in organized religion and life satisfaction, is attenuated as government regulation increases, and becomes negative when government regulation is high.
Studies have proven that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than nonbelievers. In people who attended a religious service weekly, many were "extremely satisfied" with their lives. According to the American Sociological Review, religious people gain more life satisfaction thanks to the social networking they build by attending religious services. According to study researcher Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "We show that life satisfaction is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion. We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation."
People with more than ten friends in their congregation were reported to almost be twice as satisfied with life as people with no friends in their congregation. The religious propensity toward charity and volunteerism can be connected with close church friendship, as well. The benefits of religious social support have been found to explain the link between attendance at religious services and life satisfaction.
Defining culture by reference to deeply engrained societal values and beliefs. Culture affects the subjective well-being. Well-being includes both general life satisfaction, and the relative balance of positive affect verses negative affect in daily life. Culture directs the attention to different sources of information for making the life satisfaction judgments, thus affecting subjective well-being appraisal.
Individualistic cultures direct attention to inner states and feelings (such as positive or negative affects), while in collectivistic cultures the attention is directed to outer sources (i.e. adhering to social norms or fulfilling one’s duties). Indeed, Suh et al. (1998) found that the correlation between life satisfaction and the prevalence of positive affect is higher in individualistic cultures, whereas in collectivistic cultures affect and adhering to norms are equally important for life satisfaction.
Life satisfaction can also be looked at in a new one as influenced by a family. Family life satisfaction is a pertinent topic as everyone's family influences them in some way and most strive to have high levels of satisfaction in life as well as within their own family. As discussed by Gary L. Bowen in his article, "Family Life Satisfaction: A Value Based Approach" he examines how family life satisfaction is enhanced by the ability of family members to jointly realize their family-related values in behavior (459). It is important to examine family life satisfaction from all members of the family from a "perceived" perspective and an "ideal" perspective. Greater life satisfaction within a family increases through communication and understanding each members attitudes and perceptions. A family can make all the difference for someone's life satisfaction.
In the article "Family System Characteristics, Parental Behaviors, and Adolescent Life Satisfaction" by Carolyn S. Henry, adolescent life satisfaction has much different origins than the life satisfaction of adults. An adolescent's life satisfaction is heavily influenced by his or her family's dynamic and characteristics. Family bonding, family flexibility, parental support are all huge factors into the adolescent's life satisfaction. The more bonding, flexibility, and support there is within a family the higher the adolescent's life satisfaction. Results of this study also revealed that adolescents living in a single-parent family home had significantly lower life satisfaction that adolescents in a two-parent home. An adolescent's age is extremely important in terms of life satisfaction coming from their family (Henry).
Family also relates to life satisfaction in a very different way: a woman's decision to have children or not. In the "Relationship between Information Search in the Childbearing Decision and Life Satisfaction for Parents and Nonparents" article by Carole K. Holahan, reveals that childless women have much higher life satisfaction than women with children. Women who consciously decided not to have children overall had very high life satisfaction. From the study, it was found that most of the life satisfaction came from careers instead of children. On the other hand, women who did have children had high life satisfaction which depended on the reasons and decision making for having children. These are just generalizations and life satisfaction comes from many different sources which are unique and different for every person. Life satisfaction can shift all of the time from events, situations, family and friend implications and many different things that all must be taken into consideration.
In reference to money, life satisfaction does play role. Higher income substantially correlates (~.44) with reports of a more positive life satisfaction outlook (Kahneman & Deaton 2010; Diener et all 2010).
On the other hand, life satisfaction is also affected by parenthood and couples introducing children into their relationship. Research has shown that adults with children are less happy (McLanahan & Adams 1987) due to less life satisfaction, less marital satisfaction, more anxiety and more depression.
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