Sunday, February 28th, 2021

Simple Steps toward Improving Life Satisfaction

Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015

Meghan Colley, PsyD, Psychologist
Bowen Center for Human Services

Happier people are more likely to be married, have good friendships, be employed, earn higher incomes, perform better at work and have better psychological health. For years, scientists have been studying what makes us happy and what leads to more life satisfaction. This article provides a short summary of what they’ve found, but first, just how satisfied are you?

How Satisfied Are You? Complete the Life Satisfaction Scale by rating the following items from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). In most ways my life is close to my ideal; the conditions of my life are excellent; I am satisfied with my life; so far, I have gotten the important things I want in life; and if I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing. To score, add up the numbers for each response (totals from 5 to 35). 31-35 = Extremely Satisfied, 26-30 = Satisfied, 21-25 = Slightly Satisfied, 20 = Neutral, 15-19 = Slightly Dissatisfied, 10-14 = Dissatisfied, 5-9 = Extremely Dissatisfied.

How to Increase Satisfaction

To increase life satisfaction, try to pursue goals and activities that allow you to stay true to your personal strengths and values. People who do this are more satisfied with life in the long term than those who pursue immediate pleasures. This means that you should figure out and develop your strengths and then use those strengths to build more meaning into your life. Aren’t sure what your inner strengths are? Try taking the free online survey available at, the Values in Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths. There are both adult and child versions. This website also has some awesome resources and surveys related to improving life satisfaction and happiness.

All in all, research shows that if you want to improve your happiness and well-being, do the following: 1) make more friends and spend more time with them; 2) find leisure activities and jobs that are engaging, those that require us to use character strengths above are the best; 3) embrace religion if that’s something you like; 4) improve health and fitness; 5) experience more pleasures; 6) become more optimistic; and 7) see a therapist to help banish anxiety or depression.

There are also activities you can do that have been shown to increase well-being, like the one below: Three Good Things Exercise: Every day for at least one week write down three good things that happened each day. The three things can be smaller in importance (examples: “I finished the laundry” “Cindy complimented me on my outfit today” “A stranger held the door open for me” or “my daughter gave me a hug this morning”) or larger in importance (examples: “I got a raise” or “I was asked out on a date” or “I bought a new TV”). Next to each good thing, write about one of the following: “why did this good thing happen?” “What does this mean to you?” “How can you have more of this good thing in the future?”

Want to Learn More?

The following books are an excellent way to learn more about the research and theories related to happiness: Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Atria. Myers, D.G. (1993). The pursuit of happiness. New York: Avon. Magem, Z. (1998). Exploring adolescent happiness: Commitment, purpose and fulfillment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lykken, D. (2000). Happiness: The nature and nurture of joy and contentment. New York: St. Martin’s. 1. Diener, E., Emmons, R.A., Larsen, R.J. & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-75.