The Satisfaction With Life Scale is a measure of life satisfaction developed by Ed Diener and colleagues in 1985. It’s stood the test of time and is still used today. Try it out on yourself.
Below are five statements that you may agree or disagree with. Using the 1-7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. Please be open and honest in your responding.
7 Strongly agree
5 Slightly agree
4 Neither agree nor disagree
3 Slightly disagree
1 Strongly disagree
____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.
____If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
31-35 Extremely satisfied
21-25 Slightly satisfied
15-19 Slightly dissatisfied
5-9 Extremely dissatisfied
People who score in the “extremely satisfied” range feel their lives are very rewarding and have gone very well, though not necessarily perfectly, Diener and his son Robert Biswas-Diener explain in their book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.
“Satisfied” scorers are generally happy and feel very good about their lives, yet see room for improvement.
“Slightly satisfied” people feel life is going well, but they are not quite where they would like to be.
The “neutral” category means the good and bad stuff in a person’s life are in a dead heat.
People in either the dissatisfied or slightly dissatisfied category need to ask themselves whether it is because of a recent bad event or because their lives are heading in the right direction but aren’t there yet. If it’s either of those causes, they probably don’t need to worry about the score, write Diener and Biswas-Diener.
If they are usually “down,” they should consider whether their expectations are simply too high or whether they need to change something significant in their lives. In any case, they may need to seek help from a person they trust, such as member of the clergy or a mental health counselor.
Finally, the “extremely dissatisfied” scorers need to make very serious efforts to turn their lives around, and that may require professional help.
Happiness is ...
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California Riverside and author of the 2007 book The How of Happiness, explains that happiness has a thinking and a feeling component. To be happy emotionally means experiencing fairly frequent positive emotions and relatively infrequent negative emotions. To be happy at the cognitive level is to feel happy with your life, the progress you are making on life goals or the direction in which your life is going.
Tina Adler is a freelance writer who covers health, science and the environment.