Why Social Media Hijacks Happiness — Especially For Materialists (M)

Social media emerges as a catalyst in the progression towards unhappiness for those with a certain mindset.

Social media emerges as a catalyst in the progression towards unhappiness for those with a certain mindset.


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The Surprising Effect Of Weight Loss On Happiness (M)

Some clinical trials have shown that weight loss is associated with improved mood, but that is not the whole picture.

Some clinical trials have shown that weight loss is associated with improved mood, but that is not the whole picture.


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A Simple Strategy To Squeeze More Happiness Out Of Life

Even something as simple as a meaningful conversation can be savoured and enjoyed again many years later.

Even something as simple as a meaningful conversation can be savoured and enjoyed again many years later.

Learning to savour the good moments in life is one of the keys to being happier, research finds.

Even something as simple as a meaningful conversation can be savoured and enjoyed again many years later.

The key to savouring is being open and present.

Once you notice you are enjoying something pleasant:

  1. Start to think about why it is good,
  2. connect it to other pleasant experiences,
  3. and think about how it could be better.

With practice, anyone can learn to squeeze more happiness out of the same experiences.

Dr Maggie Pitts, the study’s author, said:

“Savoring is prolonging, extending and lingering in a positive or pleasant feeling.

First, you feel something pleasant, then you feel pleasant about feeling pleasant, and that is where savoring comes in.

It’s not just feeling good; it’s feeling good about feeling good, and then trying to trap that feeling.”

Savouring simple conversations

For the study, Dr Pitts asked people about conversations they had savoured.

She found that we savour all types of conversations: everything from inspiring speeches and intimate disclosures to simple physical contact or hand gestures.

Generally, people enjoyed the communication in the moment, but that is not the only way to get pleasure from it.

Dr Pitts said:

“You can time travel through savoring.

I can sit here now and think of something that happened earlier today or yesterday or 25 years ago, and when I recall that savoring moment I physiologically experience savoring, and that makes me feel relaxed and puts me in a good mood and can really boost my moment.

There’s also this idea of anticipatory savoring.

People do this when they plan for a vacation or a honeymoon or the weekend.

We anticipate and we have that good feeling that helps us in the moment.”

→ Read on: 4 life-savouring strategies.

The study was published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology (Pitts et al., 2018).

The Personality Trait That Makes People Happier

They approach potentially rewarding situations and achieve their ambitions.

They approach potentially rewarding situations and achieve their ambitions.

People with higher self-control are happier because they pursue more rewarding goals, research finds.

Having high self-control is linked to being more positive in life, approaching potentially rewarding situations and achieving ambitions.

People high on self-control are also less likely to focus on the negative, which leads to avoidance.

The result is that people with high self-control are happier:

“…individuals with higher [self-control] are not only happier in that they experience greater life satisfaction, they also do not need to self-regulate as often as one may think.”

In other words, people with high self-control battle with their inner demons less because it is easier for them to make the more virtuous choice.

And, in the long run, more virtuous choices, repeated over many years, make a person happier.

Greater happiness is not the only benefit of self-control, as the study’s authors write:

“…research has also consistently shown higher [self-control] to be associated with more positive outcomes in life such as higher academic achievement, better health, more interpersonal success, and less maladaptive adjustments.

As such, self-control has been heralded as an evolutionary trait to ensure adaptation and survival.”

The results come from a survey of 545 people who were asked about their self-control, levels of happiness and how they made decisions.

The study’s authors explain:

“…individuals with high [self-control] are less likely to encounter motivational conflicts, they are therefore also less obligated to exert avoidance-oriented strategies associated with a prevention focus to resist or counter temptations or vices.

Instead, they are more liberated to pursue their goals, aspirations and ideals by carrying out approach-oriented strategies to actualize their personal ambitions as encouraged by a promotion focus.”

The rash should beware!

Some might say the results are the opposite of what they expect.

After all, if you are always denying yourself by exerting your self-control, when do you have any fun?

As the authors write:

“One could imagine that constantly self-regulating according to morals, standards, and social expectations would result in living a dull, mundane, and joyless life.”

In fact, the study finds that people high in self-control spend less time regulating themselves and making difficult decisions.

People with high self-control are happier in the long-run and in the short-term.

The rash should beware!

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Cheung et al., 2014).

4 Ways To Boost Your Well-Being And Happiness

These are the four psychological pillars of well-being.

These are the four psychological pillars of well-being.

Awareness, connection, insight and purpose are the four pillars of psychological well-being, a study concludes.

In the face of rising mental health problems, these pillars can help everyone improve their emotional well-being.

The researchers focus on areas that can be improved with training or other effortful practice:

  • Awareness: being attentive to ones’ environment and one’s own body.
  • Connections: experiencing kindness and compassion.
  • Insight: increasing curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Purpose: understanding one’s motivations and values.

Dr Cortland Dahl, the study’s first author, said:

“There are qualities of a healthy mind that many people don’t know are even trainable.

We don’t think of them as skills.

Many of us have thought we are hardwired to be like this or that, but the reality is these qualities are much more trainable and malleable than we think.

It’s a very empowering view of the human mind — we can learn to be in the driver’s seat of our own mind.”

Increasing awareness, for example, helps increase positive emotions and reduce stress.

Awareness also helps to reduce mentally damaging habits like distraction.

A common way to improve awareness is through meditation.

Meditation, though, describes a huge range of different practices, Dr Dahl said:

“Different types of meditation do different things for your brain, just as different sports trigger different changes in your body.

You can train your mind in different pillars that go beyond mindfulness or even gratitude practices.”

Cultivating insight, meanwhile, explained Professor Richard Davidson, study co-author, is…

“…about getting curious about your own preconceived thoughts and opinions.

Your brain is not set.

You can question your own assumptions and biases, and this has tremendous potential to heal the division and ‘othering’ that we see in today’s society.”

Even if our circumstances are difficult to change, our minds can be trained, said Dr Dahl:

“This work is parallel with what we’re learning about human biology.

We’re just at the beginning of understanding that our biology is also malleable.

We are not born a certain fixed way.

Our brains and nervous systems and biology can be shaped.

That’s such a hopeful view to have — there are many ways we can influence our minds, brains and bodies for the better.”

A few resources to get you started

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Dahl et al., 2020).

The Hidden Path To ‘Buying Happiness’ With Money Revealed

Most people think that spending money on themselves will make them happier than spending it on other people.

Most people think that spending money on themselves will make them happier than spending it on other people.

This is not a radical idea which will blow your mind with its incredible newness.

Far from it.

But, because it’s advice that sometimes goes against our natural instinct, it’s worth repeating.

Research suggests that many people think that spending money on themselves will make them happier than spending it on other people (Dunn et al., 2008).

But there is evidence from various different studies that, on average, this isn’t true:

  • Participants who were given $5 or $20 to spend on another person were happier than those who spent it on themselves (Dunn et al., 2008).
  • People who spend greater proportions of their income on giving to others or to charity are happier than those who spend it on themselves (Dunn et al., 2008).
  • Canadian and Ugandan students who thought back to times they’d been generous to others were happier than those thinking back to money they’d spent on themselves (Aknin et al., 2010).

And we haven’t even taken into account how happy it makes the recipient.

Prosocial spending

But why? Why is it that spending our money on others—prosocial spending—makes us happier?

It’s partly because giving to others makes us feel good about ourselves.

It helps promote a view of ourselves as responsible and giving people, which in turn makes us feel happy.

It’s also partly because spending money on others helps cement our social relationships.

And people with stronger social ties are generally happier.

So if prosocial spending makes us feel good, how come we tend to think personal spending will make us happier?

It’s because of the insidious effect money has on the mind.

Studies have shown that the simplest reminder of money has all kinds of negative effects (from Vohs et al., 2006).

It makes us:

  • less likely to help others,
  • less likely to donate to charity,
  • less likely to spend time with others,
  • three times more likely to want to work alone, despite knowing we’re taking on more work.

These are all precisely the behaviours that are likely to make us happy, yet just being reminded of money makes us less likely to engage in them.

It’s not that money is always evil; under the right circumstances it can motivate us and modern societies would be difficult without it.

But money clearly has some negative psychological effects.

So fight money’s evil side. Fool it. Betray it. Give it away!

Generosity is the good type of selfishness.

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How To Be Happy — Even If Your Life Feels Out of Control

How to feel mastery and satisfaction with life — even when it’s out of your control.

How to feel mastery and satisfaction with life — even when it’s out of your control.

We all want to exert control over our lives, and that control feels good.

But life can spin out of control.

No matter how hard we try, some things are hard to change.

Research finds that accepting and adapting to circumstances that can’t be changed is linked to fewer negative emotions.

Dr Erik G. Helzer, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Think of the old Frank Sinatra song, ‘My Way.’

A man is looking back on his life, and he generally feels satisfaction with how things turned out, but it wasn’t all happiness.

That’s a richer notion of what it means to live a good, full life.

It’s an attitude that doesn’t downplay the negative experiences of life, and yet it allows for a different kind of engagement with life so that reappraisal and learning can occur and lead to greater satisfaction.”

Primary vs. secondary control

The study tested the effects of two different types of control on felt emotions.

Primary control is all about controlling and creating your destiny, while secondary control refers more to accepting things that can’t be changed.

Dr Helzer said:

“… secondary control is about being able to fit one’s experiences into a broader narrative of life.

Gaining mastery of your life and feeling satisfaction shouldn’t be the domain exclusively of primary control.

The idea of gaining mastery over your circumstances without having to conquer them is an important one.

That’s one thing we wanted to get across in this paper, that secondary control shouldn’t be viewed as a passive, second-best, last-resort strategy, as it is in the previous literature.”

In the survey of over 500 people, the researchers found that both primary and secondary control were linked to positive emotions.

Only primary control, though, was linked to negative emotions.

This is presumably because trying to fight things that can’t be changed is often worse than accepting them.

Dr Helzer said:

“You don’t have control over a lot of situations, at work or elsewhere in your life.

But you do have control over your response to it, over the meaning you assign to the event.

Sometimes you have to give up on the idea that ‘I just want to show that I’m right.’

It’s important to note that secondary control can be just as active and beneficial a method as primary control.”

The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Helzer & Jayawickreme, 2015).