Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


5 Reliable Findings from Happiness Research

posted by Beyond Blue

happy pills 2.jpgThe following is a guest post by John Grohol of Psychcentral.com. Click here to get to his original article.

Yes, I know. There are dozens of books written about how to increase your happiness, probably hundreds of different blogs all promising you the secrets to the keys of happiness, and thousands of articles written on this topic. Since the positive psychology movement got started a while back, it’s been going bananas. And why wouldn’t it? Who wouldn’t like to learn some “secrets” to unlocking their inner happiness?

Happier people tend to live longer, live healthier lives, make more money and do better at work. It’s a chicken and egg problem, though. Does happiness bring those kinds of things, or do those kinds of things lead us to be happier?

While we may not exactly know the answer to that question yet, we do know the answers to many other questions about happiness.


1. You control about half your happiness level.
Although the exact level will vary from individual to individual, it appears that up to about 50 percent of our happiness levels are preset by genetics or our environment (called our happiness set-point). But that’s good, because it also means that about 40 to 50 percent of our happiness is within our power to raise or lower.

2. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Once we get to a certain level of income that is enough to pay our bills and keep us in the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to, more money doesn’t result in more happiness. The only two exceptions to this rule is if you give money away, or if it significantly improves your social rank. People who give money away appear to sustain greater levels of happiness over time than those who don’t.

3. Lottery winnings create only temporary, short-term happiness. Winning the lottery makes people happy in the moment, but that happiness fades fairly quickly and then people return to their prior level of happiness. People who have won the lottery appear to be no more happy than those who haven’t in the long run. Sure, we could all use the extra money, so play the lottery or gamble only what you can afford and for the sheer enjoyment of doing so — not for the potential big windfall.

4. Relationships are a key factor in long-term happiness. While research has demonstrated that this effect is strongest for married people, other research has shown that strong social connections with others are important to our own happiness. The more of these you have, generally, the happier you will be. And while marriage is significantly correlated with increased happiness, it has to be a strong, healthy marriage in order for that to be true.

5. Focus on experiences, not stuff. People who spend their time and money on doing things together — whether it be taking a vacation to someplace other than home or going on an all-day outing to the local zoo — report higher levels of happiness than those who buy a bigger house, a more expensive car, or more stuff. That’s likely because our memories keep an emotional photograph of the experience, whereas the material things don’t make as big an emotional imprint in our brains. So ditch buying so much stuff for yourself or your kids — you’re only buying artificial, temporary happiness.

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  • http://chipur.com Bill White

    “But that’s good, because it also means that about 40 to 50 percent of our happiness is within our power to raise or lower.”
    To me, that’s the best news of the entire piece. ‘Cause no matter what we’ve been saddled with genetically, or as we were growing up, we still have a fighting chance to become whoever we’d like. That concept has always brought me great inspiration and hope.

  • Mike

    reminds me of the John Wooden quote “Things turn out best for people who make the best of how things turn out.”

  • http://singleagainonlinediary.blogspot.com Yvette Francino

    I’ve been reviewing Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project,” via a Virtual Book Club on my blog as well as looking for recent articles about happiness. There have been quite a few articles recently talking about a study that found that happiness begins at age 50 (which just happens to be exactly how old I am!)
    Obviously, there are a lot of factors that go into our emotions. Sunshine, a smile from someone, a delicious ice cream cone, a shared laugh… there are so many things that can bring us happiness (14000 listed in “14000 Things to be Happy About.”
    I think as we get older, we have been through enough of life’s ups and downs to really appreciate the ups and accept the downs that we can’t change. Perhaps it’s that acceptance and appreciation that makes us “old” people happier.
    It makes sense that people that have good health, good jobs, and make good money are happy. What would be interesting would be to study people that are happy even when they are facing difficult situations… poor health, unemployed, financially struggling… It’s easy to be positive when things are going well. It takes a special person to stay positive in the midst of problems.

  • Crystal

    This is a good article. Thanks for posting it Therese. I don’t know how many times I have heard my sister say how happy she would be if only she were rich or had more money. I think I have even said it too. But she is always buying things that she doesn’t need. Things for her and things for the kids almost everyday and then she complains about never having any money and that her house is piled up with junk. I believe it does make her temporarily happy to shop but it doesn’t last long and then she’s depressed again with less money. Maybe she should read this article. I know it is the same way with many people out there. I guess when you don’t have much money it seems like having it will make you happy. Like it will solve your problems. I know I have felt that way many times. Guess deep down I know it won’t. I like the idea of focusing on experiences and not stuff. Now if my sister and I can just put it into practice. Thanks!Crystal

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  • Mark

    It’s true that mainstream researchers state that 50 percent of our happiness is genetically or environmentally determined, but according to some other researchers in the psychiatric field, such as Stanislav Grof — who is I believe one of the most advanced minds in psychiatry today — claim that even that first 50 percent might be psychology determined and CAN be influenced on and changed by deep, transformational types of therapy work such as Primal, Holotropic Breatwork, psychedelic psychotherapy, etc. I highly recommend his book “Psychology of the Future” for more information on the dynamics of this change.

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