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The onion theory of happiness is a psychological concept by the sociologist Janusz Czapiński. Its message is very optimistic: even after the greatest crisis in life, you can shake off, and the level of our overall satisfaction with life depends mainly on a positive attitude towards the world and towards people. See what the onion happiness mechanism is all about.

The author ofthe onion theory of happiness , professor Janusz Czapiński, has been analyzing changes in the conditions and quality of life in Poland since 2000. In the early 1990s, this researcher introduced the concept of the "well-being onion" - a psychological mechanism that is to explain the relationship between the subjective feeling of happiness and external circumstances and personality traits of an individual. This concept largely helps to understand why some of us are able to recover from the most severe crises, and others, despite our overall success, are still not satisfied with ourselves and with our life achievements.

Layers of happiness

In his theory, Janusz Czapiński distinguished, like onions, 3 layers of the universal model of happiness: the will to live, subjective well-being and partial satisfaction. Each of them depends to a different extent on the objective life situation and its changes.

Will to liveis the innermost layer and the least sensitive to external changes. It determines the general (standard) level of happiness felt by a person. For some it is higher, for some it is slightly lower, but it remains more or less the same throughout life. We cannot influence it, because it is genetically programmed in everyone and exists beyond the control of our consciousness.

The main function of this layer is to maintain the will to live, which is fundamental to every human being. Therefore, after each crisis (e.g. death of a loved one, loss of job), the will to live aims to regain the level from before the traumatic events. Thanks to this, even after the most painful blow from fate, we have the strength to get up and live on.

Subjective well-beingis the second, more outer layer. It corresponds to our general sense of happiness, which we perceive consciously this time. We construct them on the basis of our individual life balance, which includes the past, present and future. Othersin other words, subjective well-being is the result of summing up - what we have managed to do in life, what we feel fulfilled in, what can still happen to us positively. It is an intermediate layer, a compromise between the deepest, stable layer of the happiness model and random events that happen to us in everyday life.

These recent developments make up the outermost layer of the onion. They are referred to aspartial satisfactionbecause they correspond to the momentary ups and downs which, to a greater or lesser extent, affect the condition of the other layers. These can be, for example, small quarrels with your loved ones, but also a satisfying job. Our level of subjective well-being depends on their intensity and our attitude towards them (some focus more on everyday failures than successes).

What is the onion happiness mechanism?

Sam Czapiński calls his concept "comforting", because it assumes the existence of a constant level of happiness, which is assigned to each person and which does not fluctuate much for most of his life. If we fail one day, it may affect our subjective well-being, but at the same time, the will to live will immediately begin to compensate for the happiness deficit and sooner or later we will regain the level of satisfaction with life that we deserve.

This mechanism may explain the surprising results of sociological research, which shows that the majority of people in the world, regardless of where they come from and where they live, declare themselves happy - at every latitude their percentage is approx. 70 %. This is because as humans we are genetically endowed with a constant level of will to live, which, despite everyday difficulties, gives us universal enthusiasm to act.

The validity of Czapiński's theory is also confirmed by the research conducted on Poles as part of Social Diagnosis. The research team led by the professor analyzed the level of will to live and subjective well-being of widows shortly after losing their husband. When the researchers asked the same people about their sense of happiness after a 7-year break, it turned out that it returned to the baseline level.

Worth knowing

Happiness homeostasis- a state of equilibrium to which we return after the hardest life experiences. The will to live plays a fundamental role in it - it guarantees a relatively constant feeling of happiness throughout our lives.

What does overall happiness depend on?

The stable nature of the will to live helps overcome the life crisis, but does not exclude fluctuations in the level of subjective well-being. This one depends on the factors already mentionedexternal (partial satisfaction), which in turn is influenced by our disposition. Optimists with a positive approach to the world are able to enjoy even the smallest successes, and attach less importance to failures. Pessimists focus more on the negative aspects of life and derive less joy from partial satisfaction, hence their subjective well-being is more fluctuating.

Neuroscientists at Kyoto University have observed that those who consider themselves happy have more gray matter (nerve cell bodies) in the preclinic (part of the brain in the frontal lobe). Other studies have shown that meditation can increase the amount of gray matter. This means that it will be possible to objectively measure the sense of happiness in every person and to develop a happiness training.

It is comforting that while we have the willpower to live, we can shape the outer layer of the happiness onion. We just need to learn to see the positive aspects of life on a daily basis and not to dwell on failures.

Does happiness make money?

The relationship between the feeling of happiness and the state of possession is also interesting. Until recently, sociologists tried to answer only one question - does money bring happiness. Professor Czapiński decided to reverse them and check whether our sense of happiness has an impact on the amount of money we earn.

The answer turned out to be ambiguous. The results of the research differed depending on whether the respondents were we althy or not at the time of asking the question. In the group of we althy and middle-class people, subjective well-being did not depend on money at all, but money on well-being did. On the other hand, among the poor, the tendency was the opposite - the more money they had, the happier they were, while the personal feeling of happiness had a very small impact on their earnings.

Conclusion? Even if he becomes a millionaire, the happiness of a person who lives on an average material level will not increase. But people who lack money to meet their basic needs can become much happier even with a small sum.

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