Despite what England fans might feel right now football competitions can make you happy as I said in an earlier post – but only in the short-term – and only if you are the host country.
But even that doesn’t make you as happy as a good marriage. Married people are happier than single people (it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in happiness due to being married makes up for all the negative affects of unemployment.
Just don’t get divorced (the two worst life events are losing a spouse and unemployment).
How do you know if people are really happy? Women look less happy but angrier than they are, whereas men look less angry and happier than they are. Probably because we expect women to be happier than men and men angrier than women and we notice when people display behaviour that doesn’t fit our expectations.
Optimism is associated with happiness, good physical and mental health and longevity whereas stress lowers our immune system so we are more likely to become ill. So middle-aged people who are happy have fewer physical symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Older people also focus more on the positive aspects of goods and services because they focus more on emotional goals than young adults.(See “What makes you Happy“).
We are attracted to happy people because we think theye will give good genes to our children. Extraverts are happier than Introverts because they spend more time doing enjoyable things. But introverts who are asked to behave as extroverts can be even happier than real extroverts.
Happiness IS NOT associated with: wealth (once basic needs are met), education, high IQ, youth (20-24 year olds are more depressed than 65-74 year olds) or watching TV more than 3 hours a day – especially watching soaps.
But it IS associated with: religion (although it may be the community rather than the belief), having lots of friends, and drinking in moderation (compared to teetotallers).
We are not evolved to be happy all the time otherwise we would have nothing to strive for. However 50% of happiness may be due to our genes compared to les than 10% due to our circumstances. We may have a “set point” or range of happiness to which we return after experiencing ups and downs. So like the football example, winning the lottery may not make us happy forever.
According to ideas from positive psychology we can raise our happiness levels by enjoying life more eg by savouring sensual experiences, by becoming more involved in things, and by finding ways of making our lives more meaningful.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness: a practical guide to getting the life you want“, suggests the following to raise your levels of happiness:
- Count your blessings – keep a gratitude journal each week of 3-5 things
- Practise being kind – both randomly and systematically
- Savour life’s joys
- Thank a mentor
- Learn to forgive
- Invest time and energy in friends and family – these are more important than work to your happiness.
- Take care of your body and health
- Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship – having a strong belief system helps.