The 5 Types of Happiness in Psychology

The types of happiness according to the famous psychologist Seligman are pleasurable life, compromised life, relationships, meaningful living and sense of accomplishment.

We could understand happiness as a state of fulfillment where life is valued positively.  If we are happy, we love life and achieve our goals and enjoy it by not perceiving errors as frustrations, but in a constructive and positive way.

Types of Happiness in Psychology

A person who is happy is one who smiles in its entire splendor and enjoys the life it has permanently. Depending on how life is understood, each person will find happiness in one way or another. Here are the different types of happiness according to Seligman.

Types of Happiness in Psychology


What kinds of happiness are there?

Although there is some discrepancy in the classifications of types of happiness, we have decided to use it to explain it as being clearer than the others, the one made by Seligman (2002, 2011).

He distinguishes first in three aspects or three types of happiness, to which he then adds two more that are incorporated into the concept of happiness.

  1. Level 1: Positive emotions or pleasurable life

This type of happiness would be one of the most basic and focuses solely on being happy because the person only wants to experience emotions that are not negative, but positive. That is, in pleasures of both sensory and emotional type, which may be for a short period of time or even fleeting, governed by external circumstances.

Some examples of this kind of happiness would be: to try a delicious meal, to take a hot shower, to be in the company of people that we like … As we can see, people who are governed by positive emotions can be controlled by the external circumstances and by the ephemeral and variable of the pleasures that come from the outside.

  1. Level 2: Commitment or committed life

We could say that this type of happiness incorporates the first, the “pleasant life”. In this case, the person would not only focus on enjoying the pleasures that are given him from the outside, but also his inner being would be involved with all his strength in that activity that is performing paying attention to their internal attitudes and not based solely in the external circumstances.

So, it is the result of using personal strengths to obtain numerous gratifications in the main areas of existence. People who are at this stage of happiness could find it by putting their inner life into play, and bearing in mind that what is important is not only what happens but how it is interpreted and confronted.

Some examples would be: to practice sport, to read a book, to play a musical instrument, to paint a painting, to teach something to another person…

  1. Level 3: Relationships

If we are able to enjoy outer pleasures and in addition to developing our personal strengths, we can situate ourselves on level three of this scale of happiness. There are people who just feel happy when they share their time with others, either helping them or doing any other activity.

Maintaining relationships in a positive way with the people around us is another requirement for achieving happiness. All human beings need to participate in our community life and feel loved and supported to be happy, so we have to devote our time to it.

  1. Level 4: Meaning or Meaningful Life

This type of happiness is characterized by the fact that the person uses his virtues and strengths in the service of something outside of him that gives meaning to his life. Therefore, depending on each person and their characteristics will perform some activities or others.

Some, for example, find their level of extreme happiness when they find meaning in their lives by establishing a series of goals such as: helping make this world more just, facilitating education for disadvantaged people, volunteering for an organization…

  1. Level 5: Success and sense of achievement

And finally, we reach the fifth type of happiness according to Seligman. If we have surpassed the previous ones, we can reach the fullness of happiness. As we already know, we need to feel competent and autonomous in our lives, for this, we usually set goals with which we can develop and pursue our successes.

These goals help us to continue to grow as individuals and also at a professional level. Trust will be indispensable to achieve this type of happiness because it is the one that makes us feel competent with what we do.

On the other hand, everything we do in our lives must be accompanied by motivation. This will give meaning to our life and allow us to make plans and feel fulfilled to meet in the last level of happiness.

Happiness is made up of factors?

Lyubomirsky, Sheldon and Shade (2005) have synthesized the three most important factors that determine happiness:

  • Reference value. The reference values ​​are those biological type characteristics that we have inherited genetically and that determine our temperament.

According to some investigations that have been carried out with twins both univitelinos and bivitelinos, there are 50% of factors that have to do with the genetic inheritance that cannot be modified and that therefore determine our temperament and therefore, our way of reacting before the events.

  • Circumstances. In addition to the previous cause, we also find that the circumstances that we can live in certain moments can also condition our happiness by 10%.

They are not usually as determinant as they seem although it is true that they can limit our well-being and consequently our happiness. Usually they are, for example: what we believe, our economic income, health…

  • The last of the factors that cause happiness, refers to our deliberate activity. That is to say, with a value of 40% the causes of our happiness depend on ourselves, “of what we do in our daily lives and our way of thinking” (Lyubomirsky, 2008).

Therefore, there are three factors that determine our happiness: the biological, the social circumstances and our ego “another way of referring to the reference value, the circumstances and the deliberate activity, respectively” (Lyubomirsky, 2008).

However, although 50% of us genetically predispose and limit our happiness, the other 40% is still ours. Therefore, we have to be aware of this since being more or less happy depends on ourselves at 40% over 100.


As we have seen throughout the article, for Seligman there are five types of happiness or five ways to achieve it. We cannot understand them as something separate since it is difficult to conceive of it in this way since some activities can correspond with each and every one of them depending on its level of complexity or of how we understand them.

Although it is true that they are in a staggered way, people are growing and developing so that different types of happiness can be given simultaneously appearing one more than the others.

Finding happiness is quite complicated because it depends on many factors: circumstances, reference value and our deliberate activity; but as we have been able to verify a 40% depends on ourselves and I would even dare say that the other 10% intended for the circumstances too.

Therefore, we have to be aware that our happiness depends on ourselves and that if we want to be happy a good way to do it is to begin to internalize the types of happiness that exist and to climb until reaching the fifth level.