Happiness is other people…

by MooshiMooshi

This is something I had been thinking about for a long time, so it is nice to see my thoughts pulled together more coherently than I ever could. The gist of this article is that we have bought into the idea that happiness is an inner quest to undertaken in solitude. And yet

Study after study shows that good social relationships are the strongest, most consistent predictor there is of a happy life, even going so far as to call them a “necessary condition for happiness,” meaning that humans can’t actually be happy without them. This is a finding that cuts across race, age, gender, income and social class so overwhelmingly that it dwarfs any other factor.

And according to research, if we want to be happy, we should really be aiming to spend less time alone. Despite claiming to crave solitude when asked in the abstract, when sampled in the moment, people across the board consistently report themselves as happier when they are around other people than when they are on their own. Surprisingly this effect is not just true for people who consider themselves extroverts but equally strong for introverts as well.

The article goes on to make a point that I really agree with – our emphasis on self reliance even when it comes to happiness is causing us to ignore the very thing that will make us happy: other people. We push our children out, we push our elders away, when we become elders we proudly insist we don’t need to involve our kids. Long commutes and work hours make it hard to develop new friends when we are middle aged. Teens don’t get together any more – and I can attest to that one. While it certainly can be argued that unhappy people put less effort into social relationships and that is why they don’t have a good network of friends, I have also seen many examples of people who are depressed or anxious, but still part of a strong family or friendship network. It seems to me that people in that position have an easier time of it, because they have more support.

I’ve always found that I am happiest when I am part of a dense, full, social network of people who are physically present. I think that for the future, I am going to worry less about whether I should meditate or be mindful or surround myself with inspirational quotes, and instead focus more on keeping my relationships and building new ones.

Are you actively trying to build your social network, or do you think it really doesn’t matter?

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Can Money Buy Happiness After All?

by Honolulu Mother

The Washington Post found a recent study so interesting that they reported on it twice:

Yes, you can buy happiness – if you spend it to save time

One surprising way money can buy happiness, according to scientists

In the study, people were given $40 and told to spend it on some fun item, and then given $40 again the next week and told to spend it on something to save them time. They reported greater happiness from the purchase than the fun-item group. The study concluded that you can buy more happiness from spending on anything from take-out to a yard service or weekly cleaners than from spending the same amount on material things.

We may be in the Totebag minority in not having a cleaning service or yard service, and we also go pretty light on the dining out or takeout. My first reaction was to wonder if my household is missing a good thing here. My second reaction was to wonder if the study had really accounted for hedonic adaptation, i.e. the idea that if you normally take care of some task yourself but one time you have someone else do it for you, it feels *great*, but if you always outsource it, that just feels normal. For example, when I get back from a vacation I always have a few days of adjustment to the idea that no, really, we do have to provision and prepare all the meals and yes, we really do have to go back to work. Then I settle back in and the routine feels normal again.

So what does the Totebag think? Is outsourcing pesky tasks really a surer route to happiness than saving for a family vacation or other goals? Or is this study missing a distinction between outsourcing something as an occasional treat versus routinely?

A Quick Fix for the Blues

by Honolulu Mother

This article in The Week offers a few quick ways to boost your happiness.  At the end of the article (which gives more detail on why and how this works), it sums them up thus:

Sum up

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

1. Ask “what am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.

2. Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.

3. Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”

4. Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

Are there mood-boosters we could add to this list? For me, I would add (1) Go for a walk and (2) Put on cheerful music. What suggestions do others have?

Happiness, marriage, divorce

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling romantic on this Valentine’s Day?  Here’s a theory that would support trying to stay in a marriage that is not horrible.

We have a script in our heads about what divorce does, much of it lifted from the divorce revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Two people meet … they fall in love … they develop irreconcilable differences, or they grow apart, and must split so that at least one of the parties can develop into their truest, highest self.

But more recent research suggests a very different truth about happiness. As Daniel Gilbert argues in the brilliant book “Stumbling on Happiness,” unless our circumstances are truly unbearable, our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness, like floodwater evening out across a plain. Whatever we are stuck with … whatever we commit to … we will find ways to make it work — and we will be just as happy with it as we would have been with any other outcome.

Under this theory, all other forces being equal, those who avoid divorce end up with the same long-term level of happiness that they would have had post-divorce … and they skip the short-term financial and emotional pains of separation.

What do you think?

And have you seen evidence of this trend?

Study: More Older Adults Prefer ‘Living Apart Together’

Among the comments, this one made me laugh:

My friends and I all want to be married on the national guard plan. 1 weekend a month. Two weeks in the summer.

Happiness

by Honolulu Mother

This long Oatmeal cartoon muses on what happiness means, and suggests that our definition of happiness is too limiting. The author won’t call himself happy. Instead, he says, “I do things that are meaningful to me, even if they don’t make me ‘happy.'”

(The cartoon is way too long to display in the post; you’ll have to follow the link)

If asked, would you describe yourself as happy? Or content? Unhappy? Or do you agree with The Oatmeal that those terms are too limiting to really capture the experience of living?

And if you’d like to be happier, the internet has no shortage of suggestions. E.g.

25 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier

A link between neurotic unhappiness and creativity

by WCE

Creative and neurotic: Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

This article positing a link between neuroticism and creativity discusses a correlation with no known mechanism, so we can speculate unencumbered by data. Mr WCE and I both have trouble turning off, and for him especially, that leads to sleep difficulties. I can’t tell how neurotic I am, but I know I spend a lot of time living inside my own head. When I spent a month in the hospital before my twins were born, it was hard to read books and so I mostly did Sudoku puzzles and thought, with some listening to music. Apparently not everyone is like that.