Life satisfaction by nature is a subjective measure. It’s different from happiness, which represents a positive state of emotion at a single point in time. Instead, life satisfaction reflects a collective experience or how a person feels about their life as a whole, over the long-term, rather than right now. And while it seems like a complicated construct, it’s typically assessed through one very simple question: "How satisfied are you with your life right now?" If the answer is negative, then the question changes to: "How can I improve my life satisfaction?"
Most American men are employed and most of these men rely on their jobs as their main source of income. But careers are also important in other ways. For many of us, work occupies a large part of our day, is a main source of social standing and helps us identify with who we are as people. It should therefore come as no surprise that job satisfaction relates directly to life satisfaction. The more satisfied you are in your job, the more satisfied you’ll be in life. So if you have a job you hate, maybe it’s time to think about a change.
Best way to tackle it: Don’t just up and quit. Develop a list of goals and do your research first. If you’re considering actually changing your career entirely, try to develop your alternate skills in your free time so you’re well prepared for the transition.
Want to feel satisfied in life? Just think positive, and the results will follow! While it may seem a bit naive to think that simply thinking or feeling positive will reap positive rewards, the idea is at least supported by science. Studies generally find that in-the-moment positive emotions or positive thinking on a daily basis predicts for increased life satisfaction. In fact, it appears more important to feel positive or experience positive emotions than it does to avoid feeling down or being free of negative emotions.
Best way to tackle it: Live in the now, be appreciative of what you have and stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on what you love about yourself or what you’re good at, and build on that.
Find a hobby
Although it’s not always realistic to find a job that you’re passionate about, the same cannot be said of a hobby. After all, a hobby is what you make of it. So strap on your fly-fishing boots, save up for a wood-cutting jigsaw or start putting your thoughts on paper—whatever you can do to add some personal fulfillment outside of your career. The result will probably leave you feeling pretty satisfied.
Best way to tackle it: If you’re struggling to find a hobby, cast your net wide. In other words, dabble in as many different hobbies as you can until you find one that sticks.
Set and achieve goals
The idea of setting goals and attaining them has long been an active area of research for social scientists. Whether these be exercise goals, career goals, financial goals, or relationship goals, the idea of making a commitment to something and seeing it through can be a rewarding experience.
Best way to tackle it: Get into the habit of being goal-oriented. Make distinctions between day-to-day goals and long-term goals, and prioritize as necessary.
Surround yourself with friends
For years now, social scientists have been touting the importance of social support networks for enhancing quality of life and, specifically, life satisfaction. While the source of social support can vary—from friends to family, partners, coworkers, community groups, or health-care professionals—it’s typically the more intimate relationships, formed between partners or close friends, that have the greatest impact on improving life satisfaction.
Best way to tackle it: Build yourself a strong network of female or male friends by getting in touch with old classmates, trying new hobbies or joining community sports or activity groups.
Single men, avert your eyes: Marriage is satisfying! While the bachelor in you may not want to believe it, studies consistently find that married men and women report higher life satisfaction than their unmarried counterparts. And while marriage is influenced largely by culture, results from the 2006 World Values Survey of 26 OECD countries still finds that married folk are much more satisfied with their lives than single, divorced or widowed folk. No wonder Mom was so insistent on you popping the question.
Best way to tackle it: Unfortunately, advice on marriage can’t be summed up in a sentence.
Already married? Well, you know what comes next: children. OK, not all married couples have kids, but those who do tend to be more satisfied in life than those who do not. Some studies even find that the more children you have, the greater the satisfaction you feel. Interestingly enough, children appear to have no effect on life satisfaction for unmarried couples.
Best way to tackle it: In today’s society, raising children is no small feat. If you’re married and thinking about kids, make sure you’ve planned accordingly and are prepared for the joys of being a parent.
Get a job
Not only do most parents want their kids to get married and have kids, but most parents also want you to hold down a good job. Why? Because unemployment sucks. Not only does it affect physical well-being but also mental well-being and, thus, life satisfaction. In fact, employment status and income are the two strongest factors related to life satisfaction according to a number of World Values Surveys.
Best way to tackle it: Be resilient. Volunteer, network and put yourself out there each and every day. If you’re still having trouble, have a professional give your resume a face lift.
Get an education
You may have heard of the Greek philosopher Plato. Turns out he was a pretty smart dude. According to Plato, meaning in life was attained through learning and understanding. In some ways, this idea is reflected in current society. Those with a college education tend to report having higher life satisfaction.
Best way to tackle it: Your education doesn’t have to stop once you get a job. Enroll in some distance education courses, take a certificate course at a local college, or learn on your own by reading.
Living a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a proper diet and avoidance of harmful exposures (like smoking) does more than improve your physical well-being. Living healthy will also impact greatly on your mental well-being. The more physically able and healthy you are, the greater confidence you’ll have in yourself, which will undoubtedly spill over into other facets of your life: your job, your relationships and so on. By influencing all these domains at once, you’ll be targeting your life satisfaction from multiple angles, ensuring the greatest impact.
Best way to tackle it: Living healthy is a lifestyle and not a temporary fix. Pick up healthy habits and commit to changing how you live before you begin the transition.