So happiness - isn't that the thing that all of us strive to find and keep? Nobody is happy all of the time, but some people are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies on what makes people happy reveal that it doesn't have much to do with material goods or high achievement; it seems to whittle down to your outlook on life, and the quality of your relationships with the people around you. To be happy you should know what to love and how much.
In the 1970s, researchers followed people who'd won the lottery and found that
a year after they'd hit the jackpot, they were no happier than the people who
didn't. They called it hedonic adaptation, which suggests that we each
have a baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the
effect on our happiness is only temporary and we tend to rebound to our
baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than
others, and that can be attributed in part to genetics, but it's also largely
influenced by how you think.
So while the remainder of this article will help boost your happiness, only
improving your attitude towards life will increase your happiness permanently.
Here are some excellent starting points for doing that:
Follow your gut.
In one study, two groups of people were asked to pick out a poster to take home.
One group was asked to analyze their decision carefully, weighing the pros and
cons, and the other group was told to listen to their gut. Two weeks later, the
group that followed their gut was happier with their posters than the group that
analyzed their decisions. Now, some
of our decisions are more crucial than picking out posters, but by the time
you're poring over your choice, the options you're weighing are probably very
similar, and the difference will only temporarily affect your happiness. So next
time you have a decision to make, and you're down to two or three options, just
pick the one that feels right, and go with it.
Make enough money to
meet your basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing. In the US, that
magic number is $40,000 a year. Any money you make beyond that will have
negligible effects on your happiness. Remember the lottery winners mentioned
earlier? Oodles of money didn't make them any happier, and it won't make you any
happier. Once you make enough money to support your basic needs, your happiness
is not significantly affected by how much money you make, but by your level of
Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort isn't what makes people happy. It makes people bored. That's why it's important to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel your growth as a person.
Stay close to friends and family. Or move to where other members are- so you can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this because we think increases in salary will make us happier, but the fact is that our relationships with our friends and family have a far greater impact on our happiness than our jobs do. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you'd need a salary increase of over $100,000 USD to compensate for the loss of happiness you'd have from moving away from your friends and family. But if your relationships with your family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and you are bent on moving, choose a location where you'll be making about the same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people feel more financially secure (and happier) when they're on similar financial footing as the people around them, regardless of what that footing is.
Find happiness in the job you have now. Many people expect the right job or the right career to dramatically change their level of happiness, but happiness research makes it clear that your level of optimism and the quality of your relationships eclipse the satisfaction you gain from your job. If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job, and if you have good relationships with people, you won't depend on your job to give your life a greater sense of meaning. You'll find it in your interactions with the people you care about. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't aspire towards a job that will make you happier; it means you should understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small in comparison to your outlook on life and your relationships with people.
Smile. Science suggests that when you smile, whether you feel happy or not, your mood will be elevated. So smile all the time!
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