Scientifically Proven Ways to be Happy

I’m very excited to share this information from the course I am currently revising (MSc Behavioural Decision Science). The exam is this Thursday and then I am free! (marginally free, there is still a baby needing to be attended to and I go back to work in three weeks).

Recently my reading assignments have been about happiness. In particular, I have read one study in the American Psychologist called “If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy?” (Csikszentmihalyi, M.) and another one in the Journal of Consumer Psychology called “If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right,” (Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson).

Both studies provide reasons for why we are not happy and how we can fix this problem. It is a problem because over the years people have become less happy, mainly due to society being built on a monetary-based system.

Research has found past cultures lived a happier existence. A person would be respected and praised for being a wise person, a good craftsman, a patriot, a saint, or an upright citizen (e.g., Polanyi, 1957).

However, now an artist is only considered an artist when they have sold their painting for top dollar. And someone wise is only considered wise when they can charge five figures for a consultation. A blog isn’t considered a blog unless you are getting paid to write, right?

Interestingly in recent news I found there are actually communities in Portugal being developed based on trade and well-being. There is a way out!

However, as it’s not possible for you or I to live in a world without money (unless you just packed your bags and said fuck it let’s go), here are some tips on how to live a happier life with research to back it up:

Happiness is a mental state.

Researchers have found that if you want to be happy you have to make it happen. People are be able to control it through cognitive means. Happiness is not something that just happens. This is why there thousands and thousands of books on mindfulness and changing negative thoughts into positive thoughts, it is proven to work.

happy mental state

Be mindful.

Even small experiences such as ‘work’ or ‘commuting’ were found to make people happy when they were focused on that moment. When people are actively engaged on an experience, their minds are not wandering, which in turn, makes them happier.

happy mindful.jpg

Revisiting these experiences mentally. 

Remembering experiences makes people happy. In one study, they found that people who recall upon their experiences frequently their happiness levels increased. 83% reported ‘mentally revisiting’ their experiential purchases more frequently than their material purchases (Van Boven and Gilovich 2003).

happy remember events

Get fully involved in life.

Do a variety of things, rather than just focusing on one thing. When you develop new skills whether they are physical, mental, or emotional (work, sports, hobbies, meditation, interpersonal relationships, whatever it may be), your happiness levels increase.

happy variety of things

Spend money on others.

Sharing is caring. One study asked a group of students to spend money on either themselves or others. The students who spent money on others were found to be much more happy than the students who spent the money on themselves (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008).

happy sharing.jpg

Buy smaller things more frequently rather than big purchases every once in a while. 

It was found that people find sex more enjoyable when they only have one partner over a 12 month period compared to multiple partners over the same period. Even though the excitement of having multiple partners brings happiness, the regularity of one partner is more enjoyable (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004).

Small pleasures like going to a pub once a week with friends brings regularity, however with each occurrence there may be a slight change, such as meeting a new friend who tells a funny story. Buying a new sofa will not bring this change and thus, happiness levels do not increase.

happy pub

A regular schedule. 

People find regularity more enjoyable. When you do something new it makes it difficult to be happy because you haven’t experienced it before, bringing on emotions such as anxiety and fear. We adapt to these events which makes them more pleasurable the second or third time around.

happy regular schedule

There is more enjoyment from the anticipation of an event.

Thinking about future events provokes stronger emotions than thinking about events in the past (Van Boven & Ashworth, 2007; Caruso, Gilbert, & Wilson, 2008).

One study found that students were more happy when they were thinking about a future holiday than when they were reminiscing about the same holiday a year ago. They also found that students bought a more expensive thank-you gift for someone who was going to do them a favor than for someone who had already done them a favor (Caruso et al., 2008)

happy event

Happiness is often in the details. Think about future events in more detail.

Thinking about future events in detail make us happy. We tend to imagine a positive image of the future i.e. living at a lake house, peace and quiet, sunset views rather than a negative image i.e. mosquito bites and late night calls to the plumber.

We also tend to think about experience more abstractly when they are farther away in time (Liberman, Sagrastino, & Trope, 2002). This oversight matters because happiness is often in the details (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004; Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer, & Lazarus, 1981). Get your thinking caps on and start imagining those details!

happy details

Do not compare prices when shopping. 

When you compare prices you are less likely to go for the product that was really important to you in the first place. A study at Harvard found that students who were randomly assigned to housing for the last three years of undergraduate study predicted they would be the most happy  ‘living in houses that looked nice’ right before the lottery. However, when asked prior to the lottery (when they didn’t have other houses to compare) they predicted they would be the most happy in a house ‘with friends and a strong social community’.

Altering the psychological context when making a decision affects happiness levels, so stick to your guns!

happy shopping.jpg

And finally, MONEY DOES NOT PROVIDE HAPPINESS.

Researchers have found that children of the lowest socioeconomic strata generally report the highest happiness, and upper middle-class children generally report the least happiness.

It is in our nature to strive for the next best thing or want the new iPhone, but this does not make us happy. We become quickly habituated to the new material object that we were working for, and then start trying to get the next thing.

This kid and this dog make me happy. : )

happy last one.jpg

Mummuddlingthrough
Pink Pear Bear
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

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43 thoughts on “Scientifically Proven Ways to be Happy

  1. This is brilliant. SO interesting and I found the bit about happiness being a mental state very profound too. #stayclassy

  2. Wow this is really really interesting and I love that it emphasises happiness being a mental state. Some great info there thanks so much for sharing such a positive post xx #stayclassy

  3. Thank yo for sharing such an interesting post and so eloquently written – it’s great to read things that make you feel that little bit more informed. What an interesting course you are doing – good luck with the exam. So many points worth considering – the little things regularly as opposed to one big purchase, the regularity of life, – I particularly liked the part about get fully involved in life – so so poignant for some that perhaps get stuck in a routine – go explore something new – you never know what it may bring to your life! Love your picture at the end too #coolmumclub

  4. Oh I really needed to read this today as I am feeling very meh! I am off to find my happy and to tell my Mr C that I should be shopping more often 😉 #stayclassy

  5. Really interesting … Happiness must be a state of mind and, like most states of mind, we don’t get to experience it all the time. Good luck with your exam! Hope you pass!

  6. Can I take you to work with me? I work as a sort of lifestyle coach in the wonderful NHS. Happiness can be infectious, I admit 50% of the time I fake it! I am definitely “do as I say not what I do” person! I’m going to keep reading this post – make sure it sinks in word for word

    #StayClassy

  7. I love this, so interesting. Lots I had already heard but mostly in snippets. Particularly fascinating is the anticipation and looking forward to things bit…I have noticed myself putting more stock on future events than the even themselves and really enjoying long lead ins so this does make sense to me. I’ll try to implement a few more…happiness is pretty nice isn’t it! Can’t believe you are doing SO much, hope the revision is ok #stayclassy

  8. This is really interesting – we’re all looking for ways to be happier, aren’t we? I’m guilty of not living in the moment – when I’m doing something, my mind is constantly thinking about all the other things I should be doing. I really need to try to focus on the here and now – even if the here and now is changing a fussy baby’s nappy. 🙂 #stayclassy

  9. Great post and really interesting. I knew a few of these like practising mindfulness and money doesn’t make you happy but good to know things like thinking about future plans / holidays and the regular activity. I’m always happy when I’m meeting up with friends for a drink! #CoolMumClub x

  10. Great post, very valid point’s and a few of those things I try to incorporate in my life already. Definitely things to think about here!
    Em xXx
    #StayClassy

  11. Ohh I found this really interesting. I think I’d love the course you have been doing! I agree with all of these points, I love spending money on other people. Happiness is a funny thing I definitely think you can choose to be happy (to an extent, of course and this doesn’t apply to those suffering depression or anxiety). Good luck in the exam! #StayClassy

  12. LOVE this, and the kid and the dog are the cutest, can’t not smile looking at that.
    I’m working on getting fully involved in life but things that contribute most to my happiness are practicing gratitude and sleep lol

    Simply Shaunacey

  13. Thought provoking stuff. I attended a lecture last week on adolescent health and the benefits of mindfulness in tackling issues was a big part of the discussion. Thanks for sharing this. #coolmumclub

  14. I thought I had happy down! Turns out I didn’t know the half of it. I totally agree money doesn’t make you happy. Of course it helps but at the end of the day it doesn’t actually make me happy. There is such a lot in this post to take in, I think moving to Portugal is a good option too! Great post, hope your exam went well ?

  15. I love it – especially that last point. I think this can also be applied to other factors than money alone. I have used this analogy to feel content with family life – stop wanting the next child, and enjoy the ones I have.
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub.

  16. Wow fascinating, I love stuff like this! Very profound, and very timely for me too as I think carefully about what truly makes me happy. Thanks for the insight. #stayclassy

  17. This was a really interesting read, and very well written. I really liked all the messages coming across and will definitely be taking them with me! Thanks for sharing 🙂 #stayclassy xx

  18. Wow this was really interesting and yet I agree with above. Although money does not buy happiness, it definitely gives you the opportunity to do things that make you happy. For me that would be nice holidays, travel, eat out in beautiful restaurants, take my family to Disneyland!! All of those things cost money and would most definitely make me happy!!! #stayclassy

  19. What an interesting and well-written post! This is absolutely brilliant, and something that most people spend loads of time thinking about. It is extremely interesting when you look at happiness as a choice, and a state of mind. It truly is subjective for everyone-happiness isn’t just one thing. I think mindfulness is so incredibly important and something that I strive for daily. Thanks so much for sharing x #StayClassy

  20. This is really interesting. Although I find thinking about future events can make me anxious – regularity is definitely my thing. Good luck with the studies and work. #Stayclassy

  21. Love this. Really interesting and thought provoking! I love the one about not comparing prices, good point, i’d never really thought about that before. Good luck with your exam! #stay classy

  22. I found this post very interesting and particularly believe that getting more involved in life, being mindful and enjoying the little things really do contribute to being happier, at least for my own happiness. #StayClassy

  23. Good luck with the exam! Some of these are really interesting-I never knew comparing prices would make you less happy. Good thing I tend to buy the first thing I see! #StayClassy

  24. I know! So strange. I guess it’s because it makes you feel like the product you were originally going for is not as good or too expensive, etc

  25. Me too. It was proven in these studies but I have found in my own personal experience being mindful really does make me happier as I’m more relaxed about everything that is going on. : )

  26. This is such an interesting post. I agree so much with all your points and you have given me a lot to think about. I think that comparing prices makes me really unhappy because I spend hours fretting and then I still don’t feel I’ve got the best deal and often I’ll have spent so long comparing that I’ll have run out of time to actually place my order. Ridiculous!! Thanks for linking and good luck with your exams! #bigpinklink

  27. I found this really thought provoking and interesting. The idea that we tend to think about the future in a positive way really hit home and you’re right! It’s fun to plan in the details. I also totally agree that revisiting experiences makes us happy – I think that’s why we all enjoy blogging so much!
    Great post x
    #bigpinklink

  28. Thanks so much for sharing these! Lots to think about, but definitely the anticipation of future events is spot on! I always try to have a few things to look forward to in the diary, and I have to admit I spend quite a lot of time thinking about them to cheer me up and give me something to look forward to! #bigpinklink

  29. Good luck with your exam – certainly sounds like you’ve got it covered! A lot of this rings true with me – I am always really happy planning future events like holidays or days out for my son. I think as a society we tend to think – when I do this/when I have this – then I will be happy – it def doesn’t work like that. Happiness is fluid it’s not a final conclusion. Great post #stayclassy

  30. This is so interesting.! I knew some of these things already as I have been interested in becoming a more positive person and have been reading about mindfulness. This post is a really good reminder for me and has given me things to think about 🙂 I hope the exam went well 🙂 #KCACOLS

  31. Love Love Love! My husband and I constantly talk about society needing to go back to the barter system. Less strife for people. #KCACOLS #STAYCLASSY

  32. Amazing post – so interesting that happiness is a mental state and some really great points you make. I do find that the anticipation of a holiday/gig does make me happier than being there…is that extremely cynical?! Really enjoyed reading this #KCACOLS

  33. Fab post, really interesting! Most research does seem to show that it’s the little things that bring us most happiness doesn’t it, which is great news! x #KCACOLS

  34. Oh isn’t happiness is a state of mind, I totally agree that it helps to mentally happy! Very thought provoking, thanks for linking up! #bestandworst

  35. Wow what an interesting post! Very informative. I have to agree with lots of these points. I definitely think that happiness is a state of mind. We should try to think more positive. I agree that you feel happier when you are doing something you love. I also think that reliving the experience that made you happy in the past will bring that happiness back. Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. It is great to have you for the first time. I hope you like and It would be lovely if you can join us again on Sunday, 🙂 x

  36. Yes, remembering happy past events definitely makes me feel better! Thank you for hosting! I’m going to try and link up this weekend. : )

  37. This is so true! Studying psychology at uni, I came across a few of these references myself! But I love how you’ve made it into a very interesting blog post! I hope your exam went well? Big hugs Xxx #BigPinkLink #TribalLove

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