The Psychology of Happiness

I recently came across an amazing article on happiness. It is well researched, written and presented. Interestingly, maybe even ironically, it is written by analysts at an investment bank!

They find that most people have a mean level of happiness that is largely genetic and hard to deviate from as people quickly assimilate any changes in their life circumstances – a process called “hedonic adaptation.”

However, they do find 9 ways to systematically improve happiness (in no particular order):

1. Don’t equate happiness with money.
2. Exercise regularly.
3. Have sex.
4. Devote time and effort to close relationships.
5. Pause for reflection, meditate on the good things in life.
6. Seek work that engages your skills, look to enjoy your job.
7. Give your body the sleep it needs.
8. Don’t pursue happiness for its own sake, enjoy the moment.
9. Take control of your life, set yourself achievable goals.

  • I’d like to add another tip, based on my experiences:

    10. Reduce or eliminate the amount of time that you spend with people who have negative attitudes toward life or toward you.

  • this coming from? easy to say don’t worry, be happy when you don’t have to worry about providing for your family or have to work a job because it pays the family’s bills.

    you should title this…”how to be happy for yuppies”

  • Here’s my favourite tip: watch less television. Not only will it free time for more satisfying activities but it also stops the endless parade of comparison, competition and consumerism. Anyhow, must stop writing – I’ve got to watch Eastenders.

  • Mamamia,

    Apart from perhaps #6 most people should be able to follow the above advice. A big factor in improving your level of happiness is to see the postive side of whatever situation you are in, and to do something about it if you don’t like it.

  • 1. get born as an billionare, don’t work a day in your life, have as many prostitutes as you can, be a selfish, rich, annoying bastard, reflect on your life when you destroy another 12 milion square miles of amazonian rainforest, have a diet coke.

  • These rules are thumb are directionally correct, but in the end know thyself! People are going to assign different weights on different factors. In my case sex is a key component of happiness – while it did not do much for the previous poster. I enjoy extreme sports and being on the edge – some people find that stressful and much prefer to be at home with a book. Have enough introspection to know what makes you happy and pursue those activities!

  • Mamamia-

    It’s not just for yuppies. I’ve scrambled from paycheck to paycheck most of my upper-lower class life. I’m now on disability, unable to work, & in financial crisis.

    I say the list is right on – for everyone. You don’t have to be a yuppy to be reflective & optimistic. I’m broke, crippled, sick, & sad. That doesn’t mean I can’t try too, & it sure as hell doesn’t mean I’ll end up jaded.

    Life is precious, regardless of what it dealt you. It’s still life.

  • Spending time with others is really important. Despite the focus on work and productivity, socialization is still an important aspect of life. No doubt about it.

  • […] A few months ago I blogged about the Psychology of Happiness ( which showed that empirical evidence suggested that most people have a mean level of happiness they rarely deviate from and that beyond a minimal level changes in financial circumstances had very little impact on happiness due to “hedonic adaptation.” The article went on to suggest several ways of systematically improving happiness. […]