Friday, April 04, 2014

11 Surprising Facts About Happiness

If you think you've figured out life, these facts about happiness will blow you blow away.

1. One year after winning the lottery and another group becoming paraplegic, both these subjects experienced similar levels of happiness. In this TED talk, Harvard's Dan Gilbert describes why external conditions have far less impact on happiness than we expect. 

2. After a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men, George Vaillant, the director of Grant Study, said in an interview in March 2008 about the subjects “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

3. “An increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 (US $100K) a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness” according to British Household Panel Survey published in Journal of Socio-Economics.

4. We tend to try to compensate the long daily commute by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work. Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute. So, move closer to work or find something closer to where you live.

5. The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C (57°F).

6. Some of us have noticed that we feel happy when we help others. According to a study, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives. More on this in Give and Take by Adam Grant, Wharton Business School.

7. When researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities, such as concerts and group dinners out, brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness. More on this in Shawn Achor’s book.

8. Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study. A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less. 

9. Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees, according to PsyBlog.

10. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation for 8 weeks. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar--even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

11. Growing old and miserable is not true. As we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas.

This picture summarizes these findings quite succinctly

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