Beyond Happiness: The Role of Life Satisfaction in Human Flourishing

Beyond Happiness: The Role of Life Satisfaction in Human Flourishing

I’ve never hidden my strong belief that happiness, and other positive emotions, are important.

In fact, this isn’t just my belief, it’s the conclusion I’ve come to based on numerous scientific studies.

But I’ve also never hidden my belief, also based on the science PLUS based on personal experience, that there’s MORE TO LIFE than just enjoying positive emotions.

Thriving and flourishing also require a number of other factors, some of which are summed up nicely in this Psychology Today article by Tyler VanderWeele …


  • Happiness involves both emotions and beliefs; the latter, cognitive dimension is often called “life satisfaction.”
  • Life satisfaction has stronger effects on other aspects of human flourishing than does the merely emotional dimension of happiness.
  • Human flourishing, however, extends beyond just satisfaction with life.
  • Perfect happiness is ultimately only possible if all aspects of life are good, and this is not fully attainable here and now.

This research update from the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard discusses the role of happiness and life satisfaction in human life, its effects on other aspects of flourishing, and what it is that we are ultimately seeking.

People want to be happy. Aristotle thought it uncontroversial that people, above all else, desire “happiness.” However, he hastened to add: “To say that happiness is the chief good seems a platitude, and a clearer account of what it is is still desired.” He recognized that we are fallible in understanding what we desire when we desire “happiness,” and are too apt to confuse it for pleasure. What is happiness, and what is its role in human life?

Happiness is sometimes understood as a momentary emotion, as when people say, “I feel happy.” But most of us recognize that this is not all there is to happiness. This insight into the incompleteness of affective happiness prompted Aristotle, along with other classical and medieval philosophers, to insist that happiness is better understood as a judgment about one’s life as a whole. Happiness is thus sometimes also understood as more of a cognitive state, as life satisfaction, such as when people say, “I am happy with life.” Our own flourishing measure assesses both affective and cognitive happiness but using different questions for each…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE