By Chan Li Chuin

One way to define happiness is through life satisfaction. Masuda, Williams, and Tallis (2020) investigated the relationship among free time, income, and life satisfaction of over 5000 US respondents. Their research looked at whether more time and money were associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.

Their results supported the idea that people who have more of both are happiest. Yet, findings also showed that there was lower than expected life satisfaction beyond the usual income poverty threshold. There is evidence that the amount of discretionary time (I.e. free time beyond work and household requirements) plays a significant role in a person’s life satisfaction.

Before taking this at face value, consider that happiness can have different meanings across cultures (Gardiner et al., 2020). Generally, the Western perspective of happiness takes on a more independent meaning, emphasising personal achievement whereas the Eastern perspective of happiness depends on positive connections in social relationships. Interdependence and balance are seen as key.

To further complicate matters, a study by Oishi and Westgate (2021) has shown that some people value psychological richness when considering happiness and well-being. A psychologically rich life is one where you are able to experience a multitude of interesting and perspective-changing experiences.

What is happiness to you? In these challenging times, the above definitions might seem grandiose, and difficult to achieve. Perhaps, another concept might be more appropriate: 소확행, sohwakhaeng, a phrase which means small but certain happiness (Park, 2018). Living in a stressed and fast-paced lifestyle, taking a small amount of time for yourself, to live in the moment, might be just what you need.

Examples of 소확행 for you to try out: Eating freshly baked goods, Enjoying a cup of coffee, Finishing a book you’ve always wanted to read, Talking to a loved one, Watching your favourite series on Netflix.

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