26 Interesting Articles and Resources on Happiness

In recent decades there has been a significant increase in the research on positive psychology or happiness which has resulted in interesting findings that can help individuals make decisions to increase their happiness. Here are some of the interesting articles and resources I have come across and my top takeaways.

Happiness may bring you more money, study says LA Times
-Happier teens were more likely to go to college and get promoted.
-Very happy teens earned 10% higher than average.

The Myths of Happiness Barry Schwartz, Salon
-Happier people live longer and do better work.
-Experiences do a lot more for our happiness than possessions.
-People focus too much on the goal and not on the journey.

Is happiness the secret of success? by Shawn Achor CNN
-Happiness raises sales 37% and productivity by 31%.
-Write 3 new things you are grateful for each day.

5 Reliable Findings from Happiness Research Psych Central
-People who give money away appear to be happier.
-You control about half of your happiness (the other half is genetic).

Why Are Some Cities Happier Than Others? The Atlantic
-There are 3 major decisions in life that affect happiness: where to live, what to do, and with whom to do it.

Ten simple steps to boost your happiness Scouting
-Breaking a sweat can be as effective as antidepressants at fighting depression.
-Happy people live longer and earn more money.

Five habits for creating long-term happiness Fast Company
-Meditate regularly.
-Set aside time each day for a laugh.

Scientific Proof That Happiness Is a Choice Next Avenue
-Happiness from exercise comes from the repeated patterns of believing your behavior matters.
-People who start exercising start eating healthier.

But Will It Make You Happy? New York Times
-Spending money on experiences produces longer lasting satisfaction.
-Money up to a certain point makes people happier because it helps them meet certain needs.
-Hedonic adaptation describes how we quickly adapt to changes.

Don’t Indulge. Be Happy. New York Times
-Survey data shows higher income resulted in better moods, but the impact tapered off after $75,000.
-How we spend our money is more important that how much we make.

Being Filthy Rich Doesn’t Buy Happiness, But Raises Do Wired
-A steadily growing income can increase happiness.
-The ability to purchase things we desire makes a difference.

The New Science of Happiness Time
-Once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to improve your life satisfaction.

Pursuing Happiness: What Works and Why (video)
-Circumstances don’t predict happiness very strongly.
-You need to change what you do not what you have.

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy The Atlantic
-Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful (or are nuetral).

Is Money the Secret to Happiness? Psychology Today
-Much of the pleasure of acquiring things is in getting them.
-We tend to overestimate the impact of higher income.
-One of the most common regrets is not spending more time with children when they were young.

The Pursuit of Happiness Psychology Today
-Some people are born with a more positive outlook.
-Things are never as bad or good as we expect them to be.

With Age Comes Happiness Time
-Both happiness and depression can increase with age.
-A tough economic time period can affect the well being of an entire generation.

Too much happiness can make you unhappy, studies show Washington Post
-Ed Diener found those who reported the highest life satisfaction later reported lower income and dropped out of school earlier.
-Studies show that sad people are attentive to detail and externally orientated.

Does Having Children Make You Happier (audio) NPR
-Things that people think make them happy often don’t.
-Parents are slightly happier than non-parents.
-Parenting appears to increase happiness more with men than women.

What You Need To Be Happy by Professor Ed Diener (video) Baylor University
-Having work that you love is important for long-term happiness.
-Active leisure is a key to happiness like going hiking.
-People who live in a concrete jungle are not as happy.
-Air pollution lowers life satisfaction.

Can Money Buy Happiness (video) AsapScience
-People who win the lottery often report becoming very unhappy, partly due to ruined social relationships.
-People who spend money on others feel happier.
-Giving gifts to others is positively correlated with happiness.

Happiness Inc. New York Times
-Unhappy people compare a lot and care about the results.

Using Money to Buy Happiness Scientific American
-Simply having more money doesn’t guarantee happiness.
-The greatest increase in happiness is often in the weeks leading up to a vacation, which shows the power of anticipation.

Commuting The Frontal Cortex
-People consistently underestimate the pain of a long commute
-Frey and Stutzer estimate that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

Does Smiling Make You Happy? How Stuff Works
-Studies consistently show that smiling causes happy feelings but there isn’t a definitive explanation.

Shawn Achor: “Before Happiness” (video) Talks at Google
-Positivity or negativity are contagious.

Creative Commons photo by Mark Sebastian

The Beginner’s Guide to Happiness

happinessIn the book Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh, a self-proclaimed happiness enthusiast, asks us to do a thought experiment. First ask yourself: “what is my goal in life?” Whatever the answer, ask yourself “why?” If your goal is to make a million dollars, again, ask yourself “why?” The answer to that question may be so that you can retire and live on the beach in Mexico or so that you can pursue your dream job. Hsieh, says that ultimately, if you keep asking why, you will end up with the same answer: because you think it will make you happier.

Despite the rapid growth in US Gross Domestic Product in the past few decades and great improvements in technology that is supposed to make our lives easier, people are less happy than they were in previous decades. Why?

While there are several possible explanations, one reason may be that people are chasing goals that don’t really make them happy. Fortunately, there has been a boom in the field of happiness research, also known as positive psychology, and there is a lot of data and research findings that suggest how we can improve our happiness.

Why You Should Care About Happiness
Why is happiness an important concept to understand and pursue? Many people believe that it is more important to achieve success even if it makes you unhappy. They reason that once they reach their goal they will be happy. These people are often very disappointed when they finally reach their goal after many years of sacrifice and find themselves thinking “is this all there is?” Not understanding what factors lead to lasting happiness can result in poor life decisions that can result in losing years of your life pursuing things that make you unhappy and unfulfilled.

Increased happiness can have a positive impact on your health. Studies have demonstrated that happiness is correlated with better health and longer life.

Increased happiness can make you more successful. A study of salespeople found that those who were more optimistic significantly outsold those who were more pessimistic. Additionally happy people tend to be well liked and are more likely to be promoted.

The Adaptation Principle
In the movie Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling’s character explains that he has bought many items from the home shopping network, but he is still “wildly unhappy.” You can have all the material items that money can buy and still be miserable. This contradicts the world view that many are taught growing up and classical economics. According to basic economic theory, when you attain more valuable goods your utility should increase. So the more valuable goods that you have should make you better off right? The problem is that our positive feelings that result from acquiring a shiny new gadget is very temporary. Humans have developed a tendency to adapt to their environment, which some think evolved as a survival mechanism. No matter how good, or bad our situation gets, we tend to revert back to a baseline level of life satisfaction. This “adaptation principle” was demonstrated in a study of lottery winners and paralyzed accident victims. Although the two groups of individuals experienced completely different and opposite outcomes, their level of happiness over a year, returned back to their original baseline.

The Income Plateau
According to surveys of the research on happiness, increasing income does have a strong correlation with increased happiness to a certain point. For individuals living in poverty, additional income can significantly boost the level of happiness experienced. This extra money can provide life necessities like a working car that can get you to work and can save you from getting evicted from your apartment which results in a much higher life satisfaction. However, once your basic needs are met and your income reaches the middle class range, increasing your income further will has a very low correlation with increased happiness. And according to Happiness Hypothesis part of that correlation is a result of reverse correlation, since happier people are more likely to get promoted. While we may quickly adapt to a higher standard of living and more luxury goods, but we may not adapt to increased pressure or stress of a higher position of responsibility that often comes with higher pay.

The Progress Principle
We receive positive feelings when we make progress towards our goal, and often overestimate how happy achieving a goal will make us. Tony Hseih, the CEO of Zappos, tells the story of when he learned that the deal closed to sell his company for $265 million. “The excitement of LinkExchange had disappeared long ago. Now we just had the drudgery of sticking around uninspired and unmotivated for another twelve months. ‘I guess we should probably walk back to the office then’ I said. ‘Okay’ and so we did in silence.” It is often the journey where much of the satisfaction of a pursuit is derived rather than from the destination. Choosing a goal, only because you think the destination will make you happy, is often a mistake.

Buying Experiences Versus Things
The saying money can’t buy happiness is partly true. Spending money on the right things can improve your happiness. According to research, people who purchased experiences like a vacation trip or a dinner with friends experienced greater and more prolonged satisfaction than people who purchased objects. One explanation is that experiences can bring you closer to other people, while material items like a luxury car often drive you away from other people.

The Trouble With Commuting
Research suggests that the least happiest part of our day is our commute and people with a longer commutes report lower subjective well being. Yet, in the past few decades many people have chosen to move to the suburbs to a bigger house in exchange for more time waiting in the car to get to work. This is often a bad trade in terms of happiness. We often adapt quickly to having an extra bedroom or two, but a commute is something that people adapt poorly to due to the highly unpredictable nature of traffic.

The Importance of Relationships
Happiness research has shown that the quality and quantity of relationships is one of the most influential factors in increasing happiness. The impact of relationships helps explain why church-goers are happier on average than non-church goers since they are often involved in the church community. Married people also tend to be happier than single people. Even people who are introverted, often get a boost in happiness when they are forced to be more socially active.

Poor Predictors of Happiness
One of the main ideas of Stumbling on Happiness is that people tend to be very poor predictors of what will make them happy. People often overestimate how much getting a promotion will improve their happiness or how a break up will decrease their happiness. Feelings of happiness or sadness often fade as we adapt to our new environment. We often make big life decisions, like which college major to study, based on our predictions of future happiness, which can be a big mistake.

Doing Work That You Love
In the book 48 Days to the Work You Love, Dan Miller writes “Ultimately, money is never enough compensation for investing our time and energy. We need a sense of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment”. In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said “You’ve got to find what you love…Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.” Many people spend a majority of their waking hours working. If you dislike what you do and are spending most of your time on unrewarding work, your overall happiness level will suffer greatly.

The field of positive psychology continues to grow and there are tons of articles and books that you can and should read if you want to improve your happiness. Keep in mind that researchers can come to conclusions that are wrong and your individual happiness factors may be very different from the crowds’.

Happiness Talks (videos)
Why Are We Happy Dan Gilbert
The Happy Secret to Better Work Shawn Achor
Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness Tal Ben-Shahar
How To Buy Happiness Michael Norton
Pursuing Happiness: What Works and Why Ken Sheldon
Flourishing – A New Understanding of Well-Being Martin Seligman
Flow, the secret to happiness Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Happiness Books
Here are some great books that I recommend to learn about happiness and doing work that you love:
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller
No More Mondays by Dan Miller
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

Photo credit: jaja_1985

15 Resources for Learning About Happiness at Work

7 Ways to Be Happier at Work – Today Pick the Brain
-Get outside during your lunch break.
-Make your workspace more attractive.

Sixteen Tips for Feeling Happier at Work The Happiness Project
-Never say “Yes” on the phone. Say “I’ll get back to you” instead.
-Meet up with someone outside the office for lunch at least once a week.

Top Ten Ways to Be Happy at Work About.com
-Do something you love every single day.
-Assertively ask for a weekly meeting with your boss to ask questions.
-Request feedback from your boss frequently.

Happiness at Work – 12 Simple Ways to Make it Happen! LifeHack
-Remember that you are more than your work.

Most Choose Cash Over Happiness, Study Shows Live Science
-Study participants preferred a higher paying job with long hours, less sleep, and less happiness.

Find Happiness at Work Forbes
-Women are generally happier at work than men.
-Working hard on improving a skill increases happiness in the long term.

Do Happier People Work Harder? NYTimes
-Workers are more likely to have new ideas on days they feel happier.

Can happiness be a good business strategy? The Guardian
-People who are happier at work are more productive.

5 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Happier at Work AOL
-People who regularly worked overtime had greater anxiety and depression.
-Stop thinking about work when you are at home.

10 Steps to Happiness Forbes
-Having a positive frame of mind is a key to happiness at work no matter what the outcome.

Can Working Virtually Increase Happiness? CBS
-Studies show that time saved commuting is usually spent working.

Happy People Really do Work Harder The Guardian
-In a study, workers who watched a 10 minute comedy video had significantly higher productivity (happier employees were 12% more productive).

The Happiness Dividend Harvard Business Review
-Write down three things you are grateful for each day.
-Exercise for 10 minutes per day.

Advice for New Marketing Agencies: Interview with Anika Lehde from Projectline Cool Marketing Stuff
-Focusing first on employee happiness can result in strong company growth.

An excellent talk by Chade-Meng Tan about increasing happiness at work through meditation.

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Mo Riza

5 Reasons Why You Should Find Work That You Love

“You’ve got to find what you love…Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”
-Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

AustriaOne of the most important decisions we make in our careers is whether we should choose to pursue work that we love or work that we don’t love. There are many reasons why people choose the latter, but ultimately the former is often the better choice for maximizing both happiness and success. Here are just a few reasons why you should strive to find work that you love and consider quitting your job if you don’t love it.

You will be more successful
Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, talks about the common myth that people who choose work that they love will be poor and be forced to survive on beans and rice. Often the opposite is true because you are more likely to excel at work that you are passionate and enthusiastic about.

You will be happier
Ideally your work should be something that increases your happiness rather than subtracting from it. Since work often takes up a majority of our waking hours, doing work you enjoy will lead to a greater sense of well-being throughout the day. On the other hand, having frequent negative feelings during the day from your work is detrimental to your sense of well-being.

According to Dan Gilbert in Stumbling On Happiness, we tend to greatly overestimate how happy we will be if we achieve a goal like getting promoted or earning tenure. It is during the journey as we are making progress towards a worthwhile goal when we experience the most happiness (our brains provide a boost in dopamine immediately after we make progress towards a goal).

Your work days will seem to go faster
If you have ever been so engaged in a task that you lose track of time and suddenly notice that hours have flown by, you have experienced what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls the state of “flow”. Engaging in work that you love will result in frequent periods of flow and your work days will seem to fly by, which can be a very good thing (much better than work days that seem like they last forever).

You will have more energy after work
One sign that you are doing really engaging work that you love is that at the end of the day you feel more energized than when you started. If you feel completely drained and exhausted then it might not be a great fit for you. Having energy to do things after work is important so that you can pursue life goals, exercise, and enjoy your free time.

You will inspire others
A lot of people are stuck at jobs that they hate because they think that finding work that you love is not possible. By doing work that you love you can show others that it can be done and provide inspiration for those who feel trapped in a job that they hate.

A great book to read about finding work that you love is 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. Dan Miller also produces an outstanding weekly podcast called the 48 Days Podcast.

Photo credit: jiuguangw

Fascinating Happiness Presentations

I am currently reading Delivering Happiness which discusses how Tony Hsieh applied principles of happiness to build a billion dollar company, so I wanted to revisit some of the recent happiness research that is really fascinating.  Here are my favorite presentations on happiness research.

Watch it on Academic Earth

Lecture on Happiness by Dacher Keltner from Psychology 156 Fall 2008 at UC Berkeley: (Click on link for Lecture 29 and Lecture 30)


Why Cash Incentives Makes You Less Creative

Dan Pink makes a great case that monetary rewards do not always lead to top performance. In fact studies have shown that for cognitively difficult tasks, higher monetary incentives lead to poorer performance. I agree that intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic motivation. I wrote a research paper when I took Consumer Behavior about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and major selection. Our team concluded that students that were more motivated by extrinsic motivation would pick more practical majors that didn’t align with their favorite courses. Dan Miller says that “money is ultimately never enough compensation for your time and energy”. I think that we should encourage others to follow their passion because they will be more happy as well as more productive.