As I created this space, I had in my mind the wish to share with my loved ones, friends & family and my clients with curiosity to grow to share informative and interesting topics on health and well being. Here is the very first one on broad spoken topic: happiness!
What does the research say affects our happiness the most?
Why are we so bad at choosing what makes us happy?
Here are 4 powerful study shows us the barriers we deal with when it comes to happiness.
1/ The study shows that the constant chase of happiness ultimately decreases our happiness.
`` Seeking happiness tends to reduce happiness, people must try to fill the enlarging gap again and again, which may constantly require devoting their time toward activities pursued in the hope of reducing the gap between sought-for future happiness and current happiness. Because time is often a necessary cost in the undertaking of happiness-seeking activities (a dinner with friends might bring happiness, but it will also take an hour or more), and because such undertakings are made at the expense of pursuing other goals (the dinner rather than spending that time exercising), the continuous pursuit of happiness will keep people in a resource-limited state (a never-ending series of happiness-seeking demands on their time), which may well lead to a sense of not having enough of that very resource. Therefore, we suggest that seeking happiness engenders anticipation of an endless, time-demanding pursuit of happiness that compromises felt time availability.´´ For further reading on the link between happiness and time go to https://rdcu.be/b2GjQ.
2/ Social Relationships and Well-Being
It is not even a debate question anymore what makes us happy in the long run in life. The most important determinant of a person’s happiness is their close relationships. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, for eighty years, gathered data on people as they aged to better understand what makes us happy. Probably the most famous and useful insight is the quote by Robert J. Waldinger, who is the current head of the study:
"The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period." Here you can watch Waldinger's research findings on Ted.
3/ More money doesn't make you always happier.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explained this picture to us already. First, we need our basic needs are met such as food, shelter in order to survive and to feel safe with employment or with health insurance and such, so that we can pay attention to our personal growth and happiness, such as a sense of connection to others, developing self-esteem.
Money is no doubt needed when it comes to our basic needs and security but then what?
This famous study of Purdue University shows that happiness may not rise indefinitely with income. There is a saturation point in everyone's life of how much money it takes to make that individual happy, the technical term of this cutoff point is “income satiation.” and after that point... for further readings Science Daily (2018)
``The study also found once the threshold was reached, further increases in income tended to be associated with reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of well-being. This may be because money is important for meeting basic needs, purchasing conveniences, and maybe even loan repayments, but to a point. After the optimal point of needs is met, people may be driven by desires such as pursuing more material gains and engaging in social comparisons, which could, ironically, lower well-being.´´
4/ Why are we so bad at choosing what makes us happy?
There is an increase in the number of studies conducted on decision making and neuro-economics in recent years. It is curious to me what influences people's decision making and if this awareness can help us make better choices. When we make decisions, there are some psychological-cognitive biases that influence our choices from an article published by researchers at the University of Chicago
1. Impact bias: We tend to overestimate the impact a decision will have on our future. We overlook the central event, such as getting married and don’t take into account the number of other factors in our life that will affect our happiness after we are married, like supporting a family financially and tending to children’s needs.
2. Projection bias: People tend to project their current mental and emotional state onto their future selves. The classic example of this is a person who buys too much food when they go grocery shopping hungry. This person is incorrectly predicting their future hunger based on their current hunger.
3. Distinction bias: When people make decisions, they are generally weighing multiple options against one another and paying attention to minor details that make each choice different (like choosing the brightest TV). After the decision is made, the person is less likely to notice those details as there’s nothing else to compare them to. And the person may have missed other important factors that matter more, like whether the TV is easily mounted on their wall or the remote is user-friendly.
4. Memory bias: We base future predictions on our past experiences. But humans are notoriously bad at remembering things. Our memories place the most emphasis on the peak moments and the end of an experience (recency bias) while ignoring the rest of the event’s duration. For example, a person may choose to go on a second date with a person because something exciting happened at dinner or dessert was good, even if they didn’t connect well with the person throughout most of the date.
5. Belief bias: People make decisions based on theories about what will make them happiest, which may or may not be true at all. Most of us believe that having more options is always better. Gifting someone a free trip to Hawaii will likely make them happy, but if you let them choose between a free trip to Hawaii or a free trip to Paris, they’ll likely be less happy because they’ll compare the reality of the trip they chose to the fantasy of the trip they didn’t choose.
For further readings Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2006)
Kim, A., Maglio, S.J. Vanishing time in the pursuit of happiness. Psychon Bull Rev 25, 1337–1342 (2018). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-018-1436-7
Purdue University. (2018, February 13). Money only buys happiness for a certain amount: Research looks at how much money makes individuals around the world happy. ScienceDaily.
Decision and experience: Why don’t we choose what makes us happy? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 31-37.