On Wednesdays I always post something about happiness and science. Last week I described aspects which, according to science, are not related to happiness. This week let’s focus on what actually makes us happier.
According to various research findings done in positive psychology happiness IS AFFECTED by your:
- Subjective health – which means basically how healthy you feel and what you think about your health rather than what doctors tell you;
- Social class – this is due to lifestyle differences and better coping BUT remember your circumstances DON’T define you
- Optimism (naturally!) 🙂
- Social relationships – meaningful relationships are vital for your well-being. You don’t need to socialise a lot but spending some quality time with people who you trust and who support you is very important for your mental health.
- Extraversion. “Lucas and E. Diener (2001) have recently argued that extraverts may be more sensitive to rewarding social situations than introverts, and that this may manifest itself as greater feelings of happiness by extraverts.”
- Being married (but as you know from part 1 of this blog post – having children may make you less happy! Anyway that’s what scientific findings say… )
- Having engaging work
- Religion or spirituality
Apparently watching soap operas can increase your well-being too but… I feel I probably won’t be very unhappy if I don’t try it…
You can read about this more in Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The science of happiness by Ilona Boniwell, which is available here . Fantastic read I must say! 😉
What do you think about these studies’ findings?
What makes YOU happy?
Sometimes, when reading academic textbooks and articles on happiness – which is called subjective well-being SWB in research literature – I was REALLY surprised by new findings. We think, for example, that having children would make us happier and then… what do we find out? 😉
Research found that happiness IS NOT related to:
- Physical attractiveness! Striving to look as perfect as possible and spending a lot of money on clothes, make up, and cosmetic surgery does not equal happiness – this can be quite surprising for some people.
- Age! Some of us worry about getting old to the extent that we may think that older means unhappy! There are various findings, sometimes contradictory, about this aspect but most studies emphasise that your happiness level doesn’t depend on your age much or at all!
- Money! When you meet your BASIC needs there is not much difference between someone who is earning a low or average wage and a filthy rich person in terms of happiness! I know it may sound unbelievable for many people. Kasser in The high price of materialism (2002, available here) proved that actually desiring and focusing on the pursuit of wealth would make you LESS HAPPY! And quite often the more we have, the more we want!
- Gender. What’s interesting is that women have a greater tendency towards being depressed… but also towards being more joyful!
I found a picture which I think may be able to explain these findings… 😉
TYPICAL DAY IN A MAN’S LIFE:
TYPICAL DAY IN A WOMAN’S LIFE:
- Educational level
- Having children! Although some clarification is more than needed here 😉 It was found that having children who are up to 5 years old or teenagers makes us actually LESS HAPPY! However, children can make our life more meaningful and what’s interesting (in spite of all the stress and worries), parents live on average longer!
- Moving to a sunnier climate
- Crime prevention
- Objective health (what your doctor tells you about your health – how good your blood test results are, what you are diagnosed with, etc.)
- Environment & genetics! Even if in your genes there is some coded predisposition towards becoming unhappy or depressed, if you grow up and live in a positive, engaging and encouraging environment you can actually become HAPPIER than someone who has genetic predispositions to be content!