Featured Article – The Happiness Inventory

[Featured Article]

The Happiness Inventory

by Ginger Garner, MPT, ATC, PYT

Are you happy?   The Pursuit of Happiness in today’s hyperactive, super-stimulated, and over-medicated society seems to be subtitled with the phrase “Immediate Gratification” or “If it feels good do it.”

However, if we take a look around Wall Street or Main Street we can see where that mantra (motto) has gotten us. Under a looming dark cloud of a possible double dip recession (we’re not out of the storm, yet), Americans have been pulling back – or rather pushing back from the “must have it now mantra” – and instead living on cash rather than credit and downsizing not super-sizing.

Blogs like “Zen Habits” top Time’s Best Blogs of the year list (a great blog, by the way) – and so here we go, hopping off down the proverbial rabbit path toward minimalism and simplicity? But are we really? And where is it getting us?

Regardless of whether you like the edgy lines of modern minimalism or the classical comfort of cottage living – the bottom line is – we all actively pursue happiness in our lives.

In a study about search for happiness, 1000 people were interviewed to determine what characteristics brought them happiness. The researchers deduced that the Contentment Quotient was P + 5E + 3H. In the equation, P represented personal characteristics (outlook on life, adaptability, and resilience); E was existence (health, friendships, and financial stability); and H is higher order (self‐esteem, expectations, and ambitions).

The Oxford Happiness Inventory measures the following six factors categories as cited in three different studies:  Life Satisfaction, Joy, Self-esteem, Calm, Control, and Efficacy (Argyle and Crossland 1989, Francis et al 1998, Liaghatdar et al 2008).  In the Liaghatdar study measuring happiness in Farsi speaking students in Iran, Argyle and Crossland (1987) supposed that “happiness comprised three main components: the frequency and degree of positive affect or joy; the average level of satisfaction over a period of time; and the absence of negative feelings, such as depression and anxiety” (Liaghatdar et al 2008).

The Happiness Inventory included below is non-standardized inventory that has shown anecdotal success in my clinical practice.  Additionally, I started using it on a personal level about 10 years ago, which I feel very important as part of the “leading by example” philosophy I stand by in teaching Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Once completing it every New Year, now I revisit it all year long. It keeps priorities in check, gives clarity in decision making, and helps find (and keep) contentment. It offers a way for you to perform a casual, quick analysis of your best plan in life, allowing for a subjective, but personalized experience in determining your Contentment Quotient.  Offered below, the Happiness Inventory includes a 10 Question Inventory that can provide from insight on narrowing your focus for a more effective, contented, satisfied life.

The Happiness Inventory


The Lifelong Learner

A person can look at happiness in different ways. Some consider themselves to be  students of life. Meaning, they never stop learning or turn down an opportunity for growth. 

The Greater Good Doer

Happiness, for some, means seeking the Greater Good. If a person believes they are acting in the interest of the Greater Good and not just for pleasure, agenda or self‐centered ambition, then they are pursuing happiness in its highest form.

What Yoga Teaches About Happiness

Yoga and all spiritual paths and religions can agree on this philosophy. God can only be found when you lay down your own agenda and pursue contentment, not happiness. In other words, bliss comes from the inside, not from the outside. It comes from the smile in your soul, not what the world can give (or take away). If we let our happiness (aka contentment) be dependent on what we can get in the world – then what will happen if we lose those things? (as many people have during the Great Recession).

Instead of looking to find happiness in the world – yoga philosophy, as do many other traditions and spiritual practices, teaches us to follow the idea of “non‐attachment.” Yoga states nonattachment is the ability to remain separate from an outcome.

The mantra, “I am not attached to any outcome,” is said to free a person from their “Prison Of Want.” You can use the following Happiness Inventory or to help you determine what you truly need, and realize your Contentment Quotient. In the words of poet Jonathan Swift, only then will we be able to “live all the days of our life.”




  • Liaghtadar MJ, Jafari E, Abedi MR, and Samiee F. Reliability and Validity of the Oxford Happiness Inventory among University Students in Iran. The Spanish Journal of Psychology. 2008, Vol. 11., No. 1, 310-313.
  • Argyle, M., & Crossland, J. Dimensions of positive emotions. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 127-137. 1987.
  • Francis, L.J., Brown, L.B., Lester, D., & Philipchalk, R. Happiness as stable extraversion: a cross-cultural of the reliability and validity of the Oxford Happiness Inventory among students in the UK, USA, Australia and Canada. Personality and Individual Differences, 24, 167-171. 1998.




Ginger Garner

Ginger is an integrative physical therapist and founder of Professional Yoga Therapy, an evidence based method for using yoga as medicine.  Ginger advocates for her patients to receive holistic and integrative medical care in order to improve health care in the US today.  Ginger has been teaching, writing, and lecturing across the United States on how to put the “care” back in health care since 2000.  Her medical yoga post-graduate program, Professional Yoga Therapy, which teaches non-dogmatic, evidence-based care through fostering an east/west multi-disciplinary team approach, is a first of its kind in the United States.




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