Over the years, I’ve come across a number of different studies and research on what really makes people happy. Things like we overestimate how happy or unhappy we will be as a result of good and bad things happening in our lives. Or that having a certain amount of money to live comfortably will make your happier, but getting richer beyond that likely won’t make you any happier.
But whenever I read something that is backed by research, I have found that I am more likely to remember it or believe it’s true. So I thought this article was great, because it includes an excellent summary from many of the best studies on happiness. The single paragraph quoted below basically gives you the key to happiness based on what we currently know. It lists the factors that research indicates likely do and don’t affect your happiness. You might want to read that paragraph over and over again, and think about how you might change your life if you want to be happier.
Factors that don’t correlate much with happiness include: age, gender, parenthood, intelligence, physical attractiveness, and money (as long as you’re above the poverty line). Factors that correlate moderately with happiness include: health, social activity, and religiosity. Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: genetics, love and relationship satisfaction, and work satisfaction.
Happiness is relative in another sense, too: it is relative to your expectations. We are quite poor at predicting the strength of our emotional reactions to future events. We overestimate the misery we will experience after a romantic breakup, failure to get a promotion, or even contracting an illness. We also overestimate the pleasure we will get from buying a nice car, getting a promotion, or moving to a lovely coastal city. So: lower your expectations about the pleasure you’ll get from such expenditures.
How to Be Happy (Less Wrong)