Happiness vs. Satisfaction: A Psychologist On Which Is More Important

Elizabeth Della Rocca

The Difference Between Happiness & Satisfaction: A Psychologist Explains

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct.” As humans, we often believe that when we buy a house, or fall in love, or receive that well-deserved promotion at work, we will be truly happy. But why do we infer that happiness is only attainable through milestone events or achievements? 

The reality of this tendency is that it may not be happiness that we are seeking and experiencing on a daily basis but instead satisfaction. Perhaps we live our day-to-day lives pursuing the things that make us happy, which then contributes to our overall sense of satisfaction.

If you look up happiness and satisfaction in a dictionary, the two definitions are quite similar. Both use words such as “joy” and “contentment,” describing a pleasant and delighted emotion. But why is it then that people often say, “Do what makes you happy” but never think to advise “Pursue what satisfies you”? It may have a different ring to it, but it is a good indicator of a different sense of contentment.

We reached out to cognitive behavioral therapist and clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D., to better distinguish happiness and satisfaction.

The difference between happiness and satisfaction.

Research shows that the most frequent uses of the word happiness revolve around describing someone’s personality, as in being characterized as a happy person. It is also used in association with materialism and experientialism, conveying that when you purchase or experience something, you may experience happiness. Although definitions are vague and vary, happiness ultimately seeks to portray a moment of temporary bliss.

“Happiness is fleeting,” Guttman explains. “Happiness is a feeling someone gets when they experience something out of the ordinary that brings them joy. With that feeling, a neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released, which gives us an elevated mood state. However, this elevated mood state is not sustainable because it’s reliant on the release of this neurotransmitter.”

Satisfaction, on the other hand, is an enduring feeling experienced for a longer period of time, as a result of the collection of life events and feelings you’ve experienced. Guttman describes satisfaction as a more balanced, sustainable state because it’s not neurotransmitter-dependent the way happiness is.

Or as Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., Nobel Prize winner and psychologistexplained in his TED Talk, we experience happiness in our lives as well as happiness with our lives. This latter principle is akin to the concept of satisfaction, which we experience more frequently and thus influences our attitudes and behaviors. Satisfaction is a better indicator of how content we feel toward our lives overall and may contribute to more mindful decisions that bring our lives meaning. 

For example, you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by a package at your front door of a new pair of shoes that you had ordered a few days prior. At the moment of opening that package, you might experience excitement and happiness. The moment then passes, and you are onto your next activity. However, each day you wear those shoes, you are reminded of your purchase and are satisfied. Therefore, feeling satisfied has a longer-lasting impact on people’s moods, whereas experiencing happiness is an instantaneous, temporary sensation.

Guttman describes satisfaction as a more long-term and tangible solution than happiness. “When people think ‘happy’ as joy or effervescence is attainable, it creates cognitive dissonance when that feeling is not sustainable,” she explains.

That said, happiness and satisfaction are intertwined, as “most people experience satisfaction on an ongoing basis, interspersed with moments of happiness,” Guttman explains. “They are both attainable, but satisfaction is more sustainable.”

Life satisfaction is often associated with positive mental and physical health and contributes to overall well-being. Other research also suggests that strong personality traits are linked to having high life satisfaction. Additionally, recognizing your feelings of satisfaction may contribute to a more mindful and positive way of living. These attributes may help shift your perspective on your own life and leave you feeling more purposeful and fulfilled.

How to get more satisfaction in your life:

1. Develop a strong sense of self.

“People become more satisfied by becoming more self-confident, self-reliant, by developing a strong sense of self, by developing a sense of their effectiveness in the world, and by believing in their inherent lovability,” Guttman says.

To strengthen your sense of self, she recommends finishing tasks (not just starting them), making decisions for yourself, facing fears, and avoiding people-pleasing behaviors. Facing your fears, for example, may not make you happy—but it sure is satisfying.

2. Write down at least one good thing that you experience each day.

As the saying goes: Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Especially in today’s current climate, you may feel that your daily routine has become redundant and complacent. However, it is all about where you channel your energy and focus. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or go for a relaxing bike ride, write it down. Those moments will turn into memories and will leave you feeling more grateful and optimistic in the long run, as you are able to go back and read them. The benefits of gratitude are all about creating a sense of lifelong satisfaction, as opposed to simply seeking moments of exuberant happiness.  

3. Put yourself out there.

Some research suggests extroversion is associated with more life satisfaction and overall well-being. Despite this pandemic, it is easier than ever to reach out to someone and make a new friend. From becoming a pen pal with a patient in a nursing home to just messaging an old friend you’ve lost touch with, you may rekindle or create new friendships that could enhance your interpersonal skills and revitalize your daily routine. 

Making happiness your destination may cause you to miss out on this exciting journey of life, a journey that has many twists and turns, with new opportunities appearing each day. Recognizing what makes you feel satisfied, on the other hand, can contribute to a more positive attitude and outlook on life while feeling more fulfilled. By living through this lens, we can experience not just moments of happiness but a lifestyle that is enduringly satisfying.

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Elizabeth Della Rocca is a mindbodygreen intern and a student at Endicott College. She is studying Marketing Communication and Advertising, with a minor in Spanish. She has previously…

Distress To De-Stress

Stress is a disease of the twenty-first century. Everyone seems to be in stress – from a child to a retiree. The only time you are free from stress is when you are inactive. So you look for long weekends and holidays to escape from stress. The moment activity begins mental agitation returns. Vedanta speaks of your birthright as a human being to combine dynamic activity with perfect serenity of mind. Then perfect action emerges. You are successful and happy. Billie Jean King, the Wimbledon champion, says dynamic activity performed in an environment of tranquillity brings excellence, effortlessness in the midst of intense exertion.

What disturbs the mind? You believe a bad boss, nagging spouse or the weather causes you grief. The truth is that nothing in the world can disturb you except yourself. Stress is defined as mental turbulence caused by unfulfilled desire. As long as a desire remains unactualised you will be in stress. Yet desire is being recklessly fuelled and people are in stress.

Unbridled desire makes you unhappy. When desire is fulfilled you want more and greed  leads to delusion. Fulfilled still further, you are envious of those who have more than you and arrogant towards those who have less. If desire is obstructed the thought flow going from you to the object of desire gets deflected towards the obstruction. This is called anger. All this creates a lot of misery and tension.

Unrestrained desire prevents enjoyment. A person obsessed with money can never enjoy his money.  He has the best that money can buy but he is so stressed that he doesn’t enjoy any of it. Desire puts you on a collision course with others which prevents you from having meaningful relationships. And desire forces you to compromise your values. When you cross the line set by your own conscience you become a slave of your own weaknesses.

Rampant desire unsettles the mind. The mind rambles to the past and future, unable to concentrate on the present. This leads to failure. The nervous nineties in cricket or unbelievable lapses in a tie breaker are striking examples. When the intellect holds the mind on the present action without allowing it to meander to past worries or future anxieties you are concentrating. The moment a desire is fulfilled your attention shifts to something else you do not have. Thus you no longer enjoy what you have. Lastly, the mind gets attached to what you have. The law is – attach you lose, detach you gain. Possess and enjoy the world but never get bound to it. Wherever there is attachment the interaction becomes painful and in the end you lose the object. Hence desire is your greatest enemy. Yet this very enemy you pamper, nourish and encourage.

Vedanta says desire obstructs your gaining object of desire. A person obsessed with marriage finds it difficult to find a partner. A man lusting after money does not gain it. When you rise above desire and work for something beyond, the object of desire comes to you. Then you can enjoy it thoroughly with a calm mind.

So what is the way out? The first step is to manage desire with intellect. If the intellect approves, go ahead and fulfil the desire without fear or guilt. But if the intellect vetoes it, keep away. This gives relief. The next step is desire reduction by upgrading desires. Pick up a higher desire. The lower one drops.. Finally when the lure of the Infinite grips you all desires vanish. You are in Bliss.

Railway Station Roundel

 Ever wondered where this station name roundel came from ?

The origins of the roundel, in earlier years known as the ‘bulls-eye’ or ‘target’, are obscure. While the first use of a roundel in a London transport context was the 19th-century symbol of the London General Omnibus Company – a wheel with a bar across the centre bearing the word GENERAL – its use on the Underground stems from the decision in 1908 to find a more obvious way of highlighting station names on platforms.

The red circle with blue name bar was quickly adopted, with the word “UNDERGROUND” across the bar, as an early corporate identity. The logo was modified by Edward Johnston in 1919.

Each station displays the Underground roundel, often containing the station’s name in the central bar, at entrances and repeatedly along the platform, so that the name can easily be seen by passengers on arriving trains.

The roundel has been used for buses and the tube for many years and, since TfL took control, it has been applied to other transport types (taxi, tram, DLR etc.) in different colour pairs.

The 100th anniversary of the roundel was celebrated by TfL commissioning 100 artists to produce works that celebrate the design.