Experiments where participants are given prize winnings to distribute show that the more people give away to other participants, the happier they are. They are happier still when given a sum and instructed to give it away to someone they care about. So, when you find a $20 in your coat pocket or receive a larger than expected tax refund, instead of spending it on yourself, consider taking a friend out to lunch or donating to your favorite charity.
Initially, it might seem that buying something that you can touch might give you more enjoyment over time than a fleeting moment of pleasure. However, it turns out that the newness and excitement of purchases wear off. The longer you have had something, the more you devalue it. Meanwhile, an experience, especially one shared with friends or loved ones, is something that you can recall fondly forever.
Experiences, and even purchases, are even more enjoyable, if you delay your gratification. Studies show that the best part of a vacation can often be looking forward to it. Furthermore, the act of spending what feels like a lot of money on a trip or other big ticket item can be distinctly uncomfortable. Brain scans even show responses to spending similar to those of actual, physical pain. Don’t leave the threat of that experience hanging over you as you enjoy your massage or anticipate the credit card bill from your last shopping spree. Instead pay up front with cash or a debit card, or even get yourself a gift card you can use to treat yourself later.
We put a lot of emphasis on winning in our culture, but sometimes it’s important to just enjoy the experience of competing with our friends or teammates and challenging ourselves to do better. An analysis of the facial expressions of Olympic athletes on the medal stand show that, on average, bronze medalists actually appear happier than silver medalists.
The bronze winners were just glad to be on the podium and to have participated in the Olympics, while the silver medalists were focused on the gold medal that had slipped through their fingers. Whatever your sport, game, or activity, don’t get stuck in the mindset of those silver medalists. Play to beat your own best performance, and for the enjoyment of the game.
There is a reason that fraternities and sororities haze prospective members. When it is difficult to achieve some title or to join a group, people value that affiliation more and get more pleasure from it. The next time you want to spend a Saturday afternoon watching trashy TV, make a game out of it. Tell yourself you get 15 minutes of couch time for every chore you finish. Want to treat yourself to that scoop of your favorite flavor of gelato? Try jogging to the ice cream shop.
If you are going to take up jogging, you will quickly realize that running can feel pretty miserable at first. So, how do people keep up a jogging habit, or complete a marathon, for that matter? Aside from the endorphins it releases, it is deeply rewarding to run further and faster than you could yesterday. Experiencing a little risk can also increase your enjoyment of an activity, which is why roller coasters and fast cars are so popular. Challenges that require you to put a little bit on the line will lead you to feel happier and more self-confident. Try activities with appropriate, but not impossible, levels of difficulty or risk. You will find that the bike ride with the uphill that leaves you winded, followed by the slightly scary downhill, ends up being a lot more fun, and will elevate your mood.
The Tyranny of Choice
Logic suggests that having options allows people to select precisely what makes them happiest. But, as studies show, abundant choice often makes for misery
Researchers from the University of Denver have been studying how having a goal of happiness affects our emotional well-being. The results of their studies showed that people who were not stressed but put more value on happiness were less happy than those who didn’t value happiness as much.
According to the research, people who valued happiness more were setting higher goals for achieving it, making it easier to feel let down. Another cause may be that focusing too much on your own happiness can cause you behave selfishly and take away opportunities to create happy moments with others.
“Savoring” appears to be in contradiction with the concept of “Keeping Your Mind Busy” (a feature described below).
They both can be a source for happiness.
I didn’t expect the following things to make people happy:
# Watching Sad movies :
Scientists conducted a study involving a few hundred participants and the 2007 film Atonement
Before starting the movie, the researchers asked the participants how happy they were with their lives in general, and after the movie was over, the researchers asked the participants to rate their emotions.
They found that the participants had become happier.
# Eating red meat :
According to a study, eating red meat is actually very important to your mental health:
Note that Australian cattle and sheep are mostly fed fresh grass.
# Keeping Your Mind Busy :
keeping physically active is good for your internal happiness meter, but several studies have shown that keeping busy mentally makes you happier than just lying around on the beach or even just on the couch, sipping your favorite drink and letting time pass slowly by with no obligations.
In one study, scientists found that participants who multitasked (combined various activities like reading, watching television, studying, etc.) experienced more emotional fulfillment than those who focused on only one activity (or nothing at all). While their cognitive function and brainpower did suffer because of their attention being divided, their overall enjoyment was substantially increased.
In another study, researchers made participants say a bunch of phrases really quickly, with both positive and negative connotations. Regardless of what they were actually saying, the participants still felt a positive emotional boost just from thinking at a quick and continuous pace.
Why is this? One of the primary ways your brain keeps itself motivated is with a chemical called dopamine. It’s the feel-good hormone that makes drugs so popular, but it’s also an important part of the self-regulating system that makes you productive — think of it as a doggy treat that your brain gives itself for doing something right. The more tasks you give your brain to accomplish, the more dopamine gets released into your system.
# Getting into Fights :
I don’t like this. I won’t test it.
Picking a fight or continuing one can’t possibly benefit either party
# Of riding the subway:
Researchers in Sweden discovered that riding the subway can actually make you happy.
Maybe that works in Sweden only. I’d like to see these researchers test their theory in other capitals.
I’m not buying it.
# Of thinking of death:
It appears that when people think about death, they generally become more pleasant and less crotchety, making better company for everyone around them.
I’m willing to test this hypothesis.
This is my favorite: Forest bathing