I really enjoyed this post by Joshua Becker that takes empirical research and combines it with the fluffy idea of happiness. Add to that the latest list of the happiest countries in the world, and a picture emerges that perhaps the pursuit of wealth and things isn’t what will make us happier. Yes, it is fluffy stuff and very subjective, but if you get enough fluffy stuff and it all points in the same direction, perhaps there really is something to it!
There are many people that think if they get more money, a hot partner, that flash car, they will be happier…. but the grass is always greener.
Don’t believe me? Try these 10 studies:
1. From wealth to well-being? Money matters, but less than people think – Harvard Business School, 2009.
It seems that this bastion of wealth creation has been getting soft over the past years. The HBR advocating that money may not be everything and that once we have enough to be comfortable, our money linked happiness may in fact plateau? That is crazy talk!
2. Buying Experiences, not Possessions, Leads to Greater Happiness – San Francisco State University, 2009.
Stuff is just stuff, experiences create memories and people make us feel like we are part of something bigger. I’m not entirely convinced by the “hierarchy of needs” stuff, but there is a reason why people left alone will glum together.
3. The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude – University of Pennsylvania, 2005.
This one harps back to the original Ted talk I posted. Pick three new things to be thankful for everyday and the world will seem a better place. I have been working on this and interestingly it gets harder as you use up the obvious stuff, but it does make you realize just how lucky you are.
4. Trust, Morality – and Oxytocin? – Claremont Graduate University, 2011.
This one is hugtastic! If you don’t like hugs you are destined for the scrap yard of unhappiness. Ok, perhaps not, but you’ll need to find a new source of Oxytocin.
5. For a better work day, smile like you mean it – Michigan State University, 2011.
Sounds like something out of a Peter Pan. “Think Happy Thoughts” … it won’t make you fly, but it may well make you feel better…oh and then smile and spread the love.
6. The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network – University of California, San Diego, 2008.
You know those people that just always seem to drag you down? Well, tell them to snap out of it or “weed the garden” as my wife calls it. Surround yourself with happy people and they will help to lift you up.
7. Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being – University of British Columbia, 2012.
That title is quite the mouthful, but seems that bad kids aren’t the most popular. Seems that helping others does more than just make you feel good.
8. People who exercise on work days are happier, suffer less stress and are more productive – University of Bristol, 2008.
This one is certainly true for me. If I don’t exercise I can turn into a real grouch.
9. Is Volunteering a Public Health Intervention? – University of Exeter Medical School, 2013.
Seems that giving back not only makes you feel better, avoids depression, it also improves your well-being and makes you live longer. If you volunteer enough, you can cheat death… OK, just kidding.
10. Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness | University of California Berkeley, 2008.
I’m always intrigued by the causality elements of this sort of study. Spending more of one’s income on others apparently results in greater happiness. My question is, are the people that are spending more money on others already more happy anyway? I seem to spend a lot of money on the insurance, food and health industry. Perhaps, I should think of these payments as gifts to other peoples’ salaries and the payments wouldn’t hurt quite as much….hmmm, not sure my imagination can stretch so far. I will just have to invite my friend to dinner instead.
As a former healthcare professional, I was always amazed at the people who had all manner of pain or physical limitations that were happy as Larry. Whilst, some that had minor inconveniences would cry murder. There are soooo many things that we can control just by changing our attitudes. Is it time to make that choice?