Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Search for Happiness

As it turns out, the search for happiness may not only be an exercise in futility, but destructive (Association for Psychological Science via BarkingUpTheWrongTree):

...people who strive for happiness may end up worse off than when they started... "when you’re doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness,” Gruber says. [...]

Too much happiness can also be a problem. One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers. Researchers have found that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks. [...]

Indeed, psychological scientists have discovered what appears to really increase happiness. "The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame," Gruber says. "It’s having meaningful social relationships." That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people. "If there’s one thing you’re going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will."
While I do think finding strong friends and partners in life are important, there's one variable, I think at least for me, that transcends the others insofar as life satisfaction goes: Purpose.

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