Skip to main content

How Do People Pursue Happiness?: Relating Personality, Happiness-Increasing Strategies, and Well-Being

Abstract

Five hundred ethnically diverse undergraduates reported their happiness strategies – that is, activities undertaken to maintain or increase happiness. Factor analysis extracted eight general strategies: Affiliation, Partying, Mental Control, Goal Pursuit, Passive Leisure, Active Leisure, Religion, and Direct Attempts at happiness. According to multiple regression analyses, these strategies accounted for 52% of the variance in self-reported happiness and 16% over and above the variance accounted for by the Big Five personality traits. The strongest unique predictors of current happiness were Mental Control (inversely related), Direct Attempts, Affiliation, Religion, Partying, and Active Leisure. Gender differences suggest that men prefer to engage in Active Leisure and Mental Control, whereas women favor Affiliation, Goal Pursuit, Passive Leisure, and Religion. Relative to Asian and Chicano(a) students, White students preferred using high arousal strategies. Finally, mediation analyses revealed that many associations between individuals’ personality and happiness levels are to some extent mediated by the strategies they use to increase their happiness – particularly, by Affiliation, Mental Control, and Direct Attempts.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • V.H. Adams SuffixIII (1997) ArticleTitle‘A Paradox in African American Quality of Life’ Social Indicators Research 42 205–219 Occurrence Handle10.1023/A:1006806601848

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • G.W. Allport (1955) Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality Yale University Press New Haven, CT, US

    Google Scholar 

  • C.S. Anshensel G.J. Huba (1983) ArticleTitle‘Depression, Alcohol Use, and Smoking over One Year: A Four-wave Longitudinal Causal Model’ Journal of Abnormal Psychology 92 119–133 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0021-843X.92.2.119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.M. Baron D.A. Kenny (1986) ArticleTitle‘The Moderator-Mediator Variable Distinction in Social Psychological Research: Conceptual, Strategic, and Statistical Considerations’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51 1173–1182 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1173

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • C.D. Batson P. Schoenrade W.L. Ventis (1993) Religion and the Individual: A Social-Psychological Perspective Oxford University Press New York

    Google Scholar 

  • P.M. Bentler D.G. Bonett (1980) ArticleTitle‘Significance Tests and Goodness of Fit in the Analysis of Covariance Structures’ Psychological Bulletin 88 588–606 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.88.3.588

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • N.M. Bradburn (1969) The Structure of Psychological Well-being Aldine Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • P. Brickman D. Coates R. Janoff-Bulman (1978) ArticleTitle‘Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36 917–927 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.36.8.917

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • M.W. Brown R. Cudeck (1992) ArticleTitle‘Alternative Ways of Assessing Model Fit’ Sociological Methods and Research 21 230–258

    Google Scholar 

  • C.S. Carver M.F. Scheier (1981) Attention and Self-Regulation: A Control-Theory Approach to Human Behavior Springer-Verlag New York

    Google Scholar 

  • N. Chodorow (1978) The Reproduction of Mothering University California Press Berkeley CA US

    Google Scholar 

  • S. Cohen T. A. Wills (1985) ArticleTitle‘Stress, Social Support, and the Buffering Hypothesis’ Psychological Bulletin 98 310–357 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.98.2.310

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • A.L. Comrey (1962) ArticleTitle‘The Minimum Residual Method of Factor Analysis’ Psychological Reports 11 15–18 Occurrence Handle10.2466/PR0.11.5.15-18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • A.L. Comrey (1967) ArticleTitle‘Tandem Criteria for Analytic Rotation in Factor Analysis’ Psychometrika 32 143–154 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF02289422

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Comrey, A.L. and H.B. Lee 1992, A First Course in Factor Analysis (2nd ed., Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, US)

  • P.T. Costa R.R. McCrae (1980) ArticleTitle‘Influence of Extraversion and Neuroticism on Subjective Well-being: Happy and Unhappy People’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38 668–678 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.38.4.668

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • P.T. Costa R.R. McCrae A.B. Zonderman (1987) ArticleTitle‘Environmental and Dispositional Influences on Well-being: Longitudinal Follow-up of an American National Sample’ British Journal of Psychology 78 299–306

    Google Scholar 

  • M. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Harper and Row New York

    Google Scholar 

  • M. Csikszentmihalyi J. Hunter (2003) ArticleTitle‘Happiness in Everyday Life: The Use of Experience Sampling’ Journal of Happiness Studies 4 185–199 Occurrence Handle10.1023/A:1024409732742

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Darwin, C.: 1965, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (University of Chicago Press, Chicago) (original work published in 1872)

  • K.M. DeNeve H. Cooper (1998) ArticleTitle‘The Happy Personality: A Meta-analysis of 137 Personality Traits and Subjective Well-being’ Psychological Bulletin 124 197–229 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.124.2.197

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • E. Diener (1984) ArticleTitle‘Subjective Well-being’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 95 542–575

    Google Scholar 

  • E. Diener M. Diener (1995) ArticleTitle‘Cross-cultural Correlates of Life Satisfaction and Self-esteem’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68 653–663 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.653

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • E. Diener R.A. Emmons R.J. Larsen S. Griffin (1985) ArticleTitle‘The Satisfaction with Life Scale’ Journal of Personality Assessment 49 71–75 Occurrence Handle10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • E. Diener E.M. Suh R.E. Lucas H.L. Smith (1999) ArticleTitle‘Subjective Well-being: Three Decades of Progress’ Psychological Bulletin 125 276–302 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • P.M. Dubbert (2002) ArticleTitle‘Physical Activity and Exercise: Recent Advances and Current Challenges’ Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology 70 526–536 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-006X.70.3.526

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • S.E. Duclos J.D. Laird E. Schneider M. Sexter L. Stern O. Lighten ParticleVan (1989) ArticleTitle‘Emotion-specific Effects of Facial Expressions and Postures of Emotional Experience’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 100–108 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.57.1.100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.A. Emmons (1986) ArticleTitle‘Personal Striving: An Approach to Personality and Subjective Well-being’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51 1058–1068 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.51.5.1058

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.A. Emmons E. Diener (1985) ArticleTitle‘Personality Correlates of Subjective Well-being’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 11 89–97

    Google Scholar 

  • R.A. Emmons E. Diener (1986) ArticleTitle‘A Goal-affect Analysis of Everyday Situational Choices’ Journal of Research in Personality 20 309–326 Occurrence Handle10.1016/0092-6566(86)90137-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.A. Emmons E. Diener R.J. Larsen (1986) ArticleTitle‘Choice and Avoidance of Everyday Situations and Affect Congruence: Two Models of Reciprocal Interactionism’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51 815–826 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.51.4.815

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R. Erber (1996) The Self-regulation of Moods L.L. Martin A. Tesser (Eds) Striving and Feeling: Interactions among Goals, Affect, and Self-regulation Lawrence Erlbaum Hillsdale NJ, US 251–275

    Google Scholar 

  • M.W. Fordyce (1977) ArticleTitle‘Development of a Program to Increase Happiness’ Journal of Counseling Psychology 24 511–521 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-0167.24.6.511

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • M.W. Fordyce (1983) ArticleTitle‘A Program to Increase Happiness: Further Studies’ Journal of Counseling Psychology 30 483–498 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-0167.30.4.483

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • J. Freedman (1978) Happy People Harcourt Brace Jovanovich New York

    Google Scholar 

  • J. Gartner D.B. Larson G.D. Allen (1991) ArticleTitle‘Religious Commitment and Mental Health: A Review of the Empirical Literature’ Journal of Psychology and Religion 19 6–25

    Google Scholar 

  • J.J. Gross O.P. John (2003) ArticleTitle‘Individual Differences in Two Emotional Regulation Processes: Implications for Affect, Relationships, and Well-being’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85 348–362 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.348

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • J.G. Hull C.F. Bond (1986) ArticleTitle‘Social and Behavioral Consequences of Alcohol Consumption and Expectancy’ Psychological Bulletin 99 347–360 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.99.3.347

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • James, W.: 1950, The Principles of Psychology (Vol. 2, Dover, New York) (original work published 1890)

  • O.P. John E.M. Donahue R.L. Kentle (1991) The “Big Five” Inventory: Versions 4a and 54 Institute of Personality Assessment and Research Berkeley, CA, US

    Google Scholar 

  • R. Kammann (1983) ArticleTitle‘Objective Circumstances, Life Satisfactions, and Sense of Well-being: Consistencies across Time and Place’ New Zealand Journal of Psychology 1 14–22

    Google Scholar 

  • T. Kasser R.M. Ryan (1996) ArticleTitle‘Further Examining the American Dream: Differential Correlates of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22 280–287

    Google Scholar 

  • Kenny, D.A., D.A. Kashy, N. Bolger: 1998, `Data Analysis in Social Psychology’, in D.T. Gilbert and S.T. Fiske (eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 2 (4th ed. McGraw-Hill, New York), pp. 233–265

  • L.A. King C.K. Napa (1998) ArticleTitle‘What Makes a Life Good?’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75 156–165 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.75.1.156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.J. Larson T. Ketelaar (1989) ArticleTitle‘Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Susceptibility to Positive and Negative Mood Induction Procedures’ Personality and Individual Differences 10 12221–1228 Occurrence Handle10.1016/0191-8869(89)90084-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • J.C. Loehlin (1998) Latent Variable Models: An Introduction to Factor, Path, and Structural Analysis EditionNumber3 Lawrence Erlbaum Mahwah, NJ, US

    Google Scholar 

  • Lyubomirsky, S.: 1997, The Meaning and Expression of Happiness: Comparing the United States and Russia Paper presented at the Ninth Conference of the American Psychological Society Washington, DC

  • S. Lyubomirsky (2001) ArticleTitle‘Why are Some People Happier than Others? The Role of Cognitive and Motivational Processes in Well-being’ American Psychologist 56 239–249 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lyubomirsky, S., L.A. King and E. Diener: in press, ‘The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?’, Psychological Bulletin

  • S. Lyubomirsky H.S. Lepper (1999) ArticleTitle‘A Measure of Subjective Happiness: Preliminary Reliability and Construct Validation’ Social Indicators Research 46 137–155 Occurrence Handle10.1023/A:1006824100041

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • S. Lyubomirsky K.M. Sheldon D. Schkade (2005) ArticleTitle‘Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change’ Review of General Psychology 9 111–131 Occurrence Handle10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • S. Lyubomirsky C. Tkach (2004) The Consequences of Dysphoric Rumination’ C. Papageorgiou A. Wells (Eds) Depressive Rumination John Wiley and Sons Ltd. West Sussex, England 21–43

    Google Scholar 

  • R.R. McCrae P.T. Costa (1991) ArticleTitle‘Adding liebe und arbeit: The Full Five-factor Model and Well-being’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 17 227–232 Occurrence Handle10.1177/014616729101700217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.R. McCrae P.T. Costa (1996) Toward a New Generation of Personality Theories: Theoretical Contexts for the Five Factor Model J. S. Wiggins (Eds) The Five Factor Model of Personality: Theoretical Perspectives Guilford Press New York 51–87

    Google Scholar 

  • W.N. Morris N.P. Reilly (1987) ArticleTitle‘Toward the Self-regulation of Mood: Theory and Research’ Motivation and Emotion 11 215–224 Occurrence Handle10.1007/BF01001412

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D.S. Moskowitz S. Coté (1995) ArticleTitle‘Do Interpersonal Traits Predict Affect? A comparison of Three Models’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69 915–924 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.69.5.915

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D.G. Myers (2000) ArticleTitle‘The Funds, Friends, and Faith of Happy People’ American Psychologist 55 56–67 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D.G. Myers E. Diener (1995) ArticleTitle‘Who is Happy?’ Psychological Science 6 10–19 Occurrence Handle10.1111/j.1467-9280.1995.tb00298.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • S. Nolen-Hoeksema (1991) ArticleTitle‘Responses to Depression and their Effects on the Duration of Depressive Episodes’ Journal of Abnormal Psychology 100 569–582 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0021-843X.100.4.569

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • W. Pavot E. Diener F. Fujita (1990) ArticleTitle‘Extraversion and Happiness’ Personality and Individual Differences 11 1299–1306 Occurrence Handle10.1016/0191-8869(90)90157-M

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • W.J. Rejeski L. Gauvin M.L. Hobson J.L. Norris (1995) ArticleTitle‘Effects of Baseline Response, in-task Feelings, and Duration of Activity on Exercise-induced Feeling States in Women’ Health Psychology 14 350–359 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0278-6133.14.4.350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • C.L. Rusting (1998) ArticleTitle‘Personality, Mood, and Cognitive Processing of Emotional Information: Three Conceptual Frameworks’ Psychological Bulletin 124 165–196 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-2909.124.2.165

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • P. Salmon (2000) ArticleTitle‘Effects of Physical Exercise on Anxiety, Depression, and Sensitivity to Stress: A Unifying Theory’ Clinical Exercise Review 21 33–61

    Google Scholar 

  • S.C. Segerstrom (2001) ArticleTitle‘Optimism and Attentional Bias for Negative and Positive Stimuli’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 27 1334–1333

    Google Scholar 

  • K.M. Sheldon A.J. Elliot (1999) ArticleTitle‘Goal Striving, Need-satisfaction, and Longitudinal Well-being: The Self-concordance Model’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76 482–497 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.76.3.482

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • F. Strack L.L. Martin S. Stepper (1988) ArticleTitle‘Inhibiting and Facilitating Conditions of the Human Smile: A Nonobtrusive Test of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54 768–777 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.54.5.768

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • E. Suh E. Diener F. Fujita (1996) ArticleTitle‘Events and Subjective Well-being: Only Recent Events Matter’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70 1091–1102 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.70.5.1091

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.E. Thayer R. Newman T.M. McClain (1994) ArticleTitle‘Self-regulation of Mood: Strategies for Changing a Bad Mood, Raising Energy, And Reducing Tension’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67 910–925 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.67.5.910

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tsai, J.L., B. Knutson and H.H. Fung: in press, ‘Culture vatiation in affect valuation’, Journal of personality and Social Psychology

  • D.M. Wegner (1994) ArticleTitle‘Ironic Processes of Mental Control’ Psychological Review 101 34–52 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0033-295X.101.1.34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • R.M. Wenzlaff D.M. Wegner S.B. Klein (1991) ArticleTitle‘The Role of Thought Suppression in the Bonding of Thought and Mood’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60 500–508 Occurrence Handle10.1037/0022-3514.60.4.500

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chris Tkach.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank Sabine French for comments on earlier drafts and Andrew Comrey, Dan Ozer, and Chandra Reynolds for their valuable statistical advice.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tkach, C., Lyubomirsky, S. How Do People Pursue Happiness?: Relating Personality, Happiness-Increasing Strategies, and Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 7, 183–225 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-4754-1

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-4754-1

Keywords

  • affiliation
  • Big Five
  • factor analysis
  • goals
  • happiness
  • leisure
  • mediation
  • mental control
  • personality
  • subjective well-being