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Want to Lead a Happy Life? Science Says to Focus on These 10 Things.

Hedonic adaptation

It explains our tendency as human beings to chase happiness, only to return back to our original emotional baseline after getting what we want. 

We run on a hedonic treadmill, and get nowhere, despite exerting massive effort along the way.

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Want to Lead a Happy Life? Science Says to Focus on These 10 Things.

Want to Lead a Happy Life? Science Says to Focus on These 10 Things.

https://www.becomingminimalist.com/science-happiness/

becomingminimalist.com

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Key Ideas

Hedonic adaptation

It explains our tendency as human beings to chase happiness, only to return back to our original emotional baseline after getting what we want. 

We run on a hedonic treadmill, and get nowhere, despite exerting massive effort along the way.

Tal Ben-Shahar

Tal Ben-Shahar

"Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak."

Cultivate More Happiness

  • Find your right fit or match, both personally and professionally.
  • Appreciating life’s small moments.
  • Smile more, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Perform random acts of kindness.
  • Spend money on experiences versus things.
  • Avoid comparisons.
  • Build and maintain close relationships.
  • Make little changes in your daily routine: getting more sleep, exercising, getting out into nature, and meditating.

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The arrival fallacy

It's our false belief that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.

It’s the strong belief that when you accomplish something...

Pursuing goals isn’t a problem

It becomes dangerous when you focus on attaining them for your happiness in life. 

Goal attainment is, at most, equally, if not less important than the progress towards the goal. 

Achievement doesn’t equal happiness

Achieving a goal usually reveals another, even more, challenging goal. This may bring in much more work because the pursuit of goals never ends.

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Adaptation and happiness

Adaptation is the enemy of happiness.

We buy things to make us happy. And they do, but only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

Experiences vs. Objects

Objects fade and become part of the new normal. So you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling. 

Experiences really are part of ourselves. We are the sum total of our experiences.

Shared experiences

They connect us more than shared consumption.

Even if someone wasn’t with you when you had a particular experience, you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.

Learn something new

... even if it's stressful. Mastering a new skill means more stress now but more happiness later.

The key is to choose the right new skill to master, a challenge to undertake, or ...

Friends near you

Geographically close friends (and neighbors) have the greatest effect on happiness.

Individual happiness cascades through groups of people, like contagion. So make friends with people who live near you.

Embrace opposing feelings

Happiness can come from noticing and embracing a wide spectrum of emotions--both good and bad. 

So don't ignore negative feelings. Embrace them--and then actively work toward overcoming whatever issues you face.

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Hedonic adaptation

Hedonic adaptation refers to people’s common tendency to return to a determined level of happiness regardless of life’s ups and downs.

Hedonic adaptation is often referred to as “the hedonic ...

Examples of Hedonic Adaptation
  • People who win the lottery are likely to revert to their original levels of happiness after the novelty of the win has worn off.
  • It is also true for those who are in major accidents. People generally tend to return to their pre-accident levels of happiness after a period.
  • Research has found that the first bite of something delicious is experienced as more pleasurable than the subsequent bites.
How Much Control We Have

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has examined this set-point:

A full 50 percent of our happiness set-point is due to genetics. 10 percent is affected primarily by circumstances like where we were born and to whom. 40 percent is subject to our influence.

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Happiness and success

Happiness is a key driver and a precursor of success.

Positive feelings make the brain work better. They trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, which significantly enhance moto...

Pursue meaningful engagement

Meaningful engagement as a key factor of happiness.

When we identify our greatest strengths and recraft our life to use them in our social and family interactions we gain more meaning. 

“One of the best ways of discovering this value is by nourishing our unique strengths in contributing to the happiness of our fellow humans.”

“One of the best ways of discovering this value is by nourishing our unique strengths in contributing to the happiness of our fellow humans.”

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Human nature is more than biology
Human nature is more than biology

The level of happiness is part of our genetic makeup - we have a set level and cannot rise above or fall below it.

Some scientists envision the day that we can manipulate our happiness ge...

Quantifying happiness

Happiness has always been difficult to quantify because it is subjective, depending on if you have a short- or a long-term outlook on life. Recently, researchers have started to distinguish between two types of happiness: 

  • Hedonic happiness that provides a mental high;
  • Eudaimonic happiness, a sense of well-being which involves a life well-lived.
The staples of happiness

People will always be happy when they see their children prosper when they feel loved, secure, and well-fed.

But, this formula for happiness is so obvious that most people dismiss it. They would rather look for a secret ingredient. The answer is that there is no secret.

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Increasing your well-being

A growing body of research shows we can reliably raise our well-being.

Reframing the way we think about money and making financial decisions can lead to long-term gains in life satisfaction.&...

Two categories of happiness
  • The level of positive emotions. This includes pride, joy, contentment, and curiosity we experience on a day-to-day basis. How happy you are on an immediate basis fluctuates by the day or even the hour.
  • The overarching sense of contentment. How happy you are overall, generally remains the same. When you rate your happiness on a 10-point scale, if you are a seven kind of person, you will often stay around seven.
Buy time

Buying time by outsourcing unpleasant or disliked tasks can benefit our well-being. 

Unfortunately, we're not great at valuing time over money. To change our spending habits, it helps to value time more than money. It could mean that we seek a job for its flexibility rather than the salary and prestige.

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Extreme events and happiness
Extreme positive and extreme negative events don't actually influence our long-term levels of happiness nearly as much as we think they would. But we have a strong tendency to ove...
The Impact Bias

It's present when we tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The Impact Bias is one example of affective forecasting, which is a social psychology phenomenon that refers to our generally terrible ability as humans to predict our future emotional states.

Benjamin Franklin

“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fo..."

Benjamin Franklin
The happiest countries
Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden are ranked among the top happiest places in the world. 

Their population enjoys a healthy work-life balance, high standards of living with less pressure, less stress, and more time for everything they enjoy and love doing.

"Lagom"

It's part of the Swedish culture. It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.

The concept encourages an overarching balance across our lives: everything in moderation.

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Studying happiness
Studying happiness

Religion, philosophy, and the arts have long considered happiness a subject important to study. 

The sciences, however, have only recently caught up:...

Subjective well-being = Genes + Circumstances + Habits
  • Subjective well-being is preferred by social scientists instead of happiness because it's not so vague and subjective. 
  • Research shows there is a big genetic component in determining the baseline you always seem to return to after events sway your mood.
  • Circumstances could make up between 10- and 40 percent of your subjective well-being. But their effects never last very long.
  • The one variable that affects long-term well-being and is under our control: habits.
Habits = Faith + Family + Friends + Work
Constant happiness comes from human relationships, meaningful work, and the transcendental elements of life:
  • Faith doesn’t mean any faith in particular. Just find a structure through which you can contemplate life’s deeper questions.
  • When it comes to your family and friendships and how they should be, just cultivate and maintain loving, faithful relationships. There is no magic formula.
  • What makes work meaningful is not the kind of work it is, but the sense it gives you that you are earning your success and serving others.

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