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“ Hey dad, want to hear something funny?
There was a man who was drowning and a boat came, and the man on the boat said “Do you need help?” and the man said “God will save me”. Then another boat came and he tried to help him, but he said “God will save me”, then he drowned and went to heaven.
Then the man told God, “God, why didn’t you save me?” and God said “ I sent you two boat, you dummy!” - Pursuit of Happiness (Mr Gardner and Chris)
The idea of happiness has morphed into a lucrative commercial sector these days. With the proliferation of “Happiness Gurus” coupled with numerous publications that claim to increase the well-being of its readers, people are now resorting to outside help to teach themselves on how to be happy.
So why be happy? Simple, being happy increases your social outcomes of meeting more people, increasing chance of marriage. In fact, research even show that being happy can increase productivity and bolster individuals’ immune system.
So the million dollar question: how can you be happy? Although there is no strict ABC formula, social psychology has gathered a couple of important factors that can increase happiness:
It’s all about the money? - In a research that comprised of 650 000 Americans, people reported that having an increase of money is correlated with happiness. However, this is only true up till the $75 000 mark, after that any additional income doesn’t not substantially increase the happiness level of people.
It’s not what you have but what your neighbours have - social comparison is a major factor that influences your happiness level.
Here is an example of social comparison: who do you think is happier - the one that wins the silver medal or the bronze? Research shows that the bronze medalist is often happier than the silver medalist, and the reason is simply comparison. While the silver medalist is comparing his/herself to the gold medalist, the bronze winner is thinking about the rest of the population that did not win the competition.
Having said that, comparing yourself to a higher standard can be an useful tool in both increasing your motivation to achieve something. The key is to adjust your comparison to achieve your desired state of happiness.
Friends, Friends, and Friends - people who have at least five people who they can confide in report being happier that people who do not have a close group of friends. In fact, people feel happier doing work if people are around them. The next time, you feel lonely or stressed don’t be tempted to hide in the comfort of your room instead schedule a dinner or lunch session with a close friend.
Thanksgiving is over! - gratitude is another important factor that determines happiness. In fact, gratitude is such a powerful tool that forcing people to be grateful can yield a tremendous positive effect. In a closed experiment, a group of people were asked to list five things they are grateful for every Sunday, for 10 weeks. Results prove that people are not only happier but also less likely to get sick. A good friend of mine suggested that every night before you go to bed, list three things that you’re grateful for.
Ka-Ching - The way your spend your money also affects how well you feel about yourself. Spending on others is more likely to make you feel happier than spending it on yourself. The group of students who were given the option of spending $20 on charity or giving it away to strangers were reported to be happier than the one that spent it on themselves.
Experience vs material - People who invest in experiences are more happy than those who buy an item. The idea behind this is you get used to this item and the happiness abates gradually. On the other hand, it is hard to forget or even compare a unique travel experience relative to other events. Forget about getting that television, travel somewhere!