How To Feel Happier Right Now

The type of music that brings back the most vivid positive memories.

The type of music that brings back the most vivid positive memories.

One of the simplest ways to feel happier right now is to recall a happy memory.

Re-experiencing a happy moment from the past can give you just the required boost.

And music can help you do that — so long as you choose the right type.

Research suggests both happy and peaceful music helps you recall positive memories.

But, if you listen to music that is sad or emotionally scary, it will help bring back the wrong sort of memories.

It seems that upbeat, happy music, in particular, gives the quickest access to happy memories.

The study’s authors write:

“…positive and highly arousing musical cues resulted in the quickest access to memories, and we observed a link between the emotional valence, but not the arousal, levels of the cue and the accessed memories.”

It might not be a surprise that happy music helps bring back good memories.

But there was one surprise: the type of happy music was important.

Peaceful music brought back the most vivid, positive memories.

Peaceful music is typically positive but not too exciting.

As Dr Signy Sheldon, the study’s first author, explained:

“High cue arousal led to lower memory vividness and uniqueness ratings, but both high arousal and positive cues were associated with memories rated as more social and energetic.”

Randomly played music — both positive and negative — was also successful in bringing back vivid memories.

Dr Julia Donahue, who co-authored, the study, said:

“It is possible that when cues were presented in a random fashion, the emotional content of the cue directed retrieval to a similar memory via shared emotional information.”

The study was published in the journal Memory & Cognition (Sheldon & Donohue, 2017).

The Personality Trait Linked To Happiness

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

Realists are significantly happier than both pessimists and optimists in the long-run, research reveals.

Pessimism and optimism are personality traits that lie at opposite ends of a spectrum.

Realists, meanwhile, sit halfway in between, occupying the middle ground.

Optimists may suffer in the long-term because they are often disappointed.

The regular disappointment can end up being a stronger emotion than the pleasure gained from anticipating positive outcomes.

The most optimistic people are 13.5 percent less happy than realists, the study found.

Around 80 percent of people are thought to be optimists.

The problem for pessimists is perhaps more obvious: they are constantly dreading the worst.

This dread can overtake any benefits gained from things turning out better than expected.

The most pessimistic people are 21.8 percent less happy than realists, the study also found.

Both optimists and pessimists make decisions based on biased false beliefs.

Dr Chris Dawson, study co-author, said:

“Plans based on inaccurate beliefs make for poor decisions and are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would rational, realistic beliefs, leading to lower well-being for both optimists and pessimists.

Particularly prone to this are decisions on employment, savings and any choice involving risk and uncertainty.

I think for many people, research that shows you don’t have to spend your days striving to think positively might come as a relief.

We see that being realistic about your future and making sound decisions based on evidence can bring a sense of well-being, without having to immerse yourself in relentless positivity.”

The study included 1,601 people who were tracked for over 18 years.

They reported their life satisfaction and any psychological distress each year.

People were also asked about their finances and their tendency to over- or under-estimate them.

The results showed that realists were most satisfied with their lives (life satisfaction is a measure of overall happiness, in contrast to momentary pleasure).

In the age of COVID-19, realism can be an advantage, said Professor David de Meza, the study’s first author:

“Optimists will see themselves as less susceptible to the risk of Covid-19 than others and are therefore less likely to take appropriate precautionary measures.

Pessimists, on the other hand, may be tempted to never leave their houses or send their children to school again.

Neither strategy seems like a suitable recipe for well-being.

Realists take measured risks based on our scientific understanding of the disease.”

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (de Meza & Dawson, 2020).

Acts Of Kindness Really Do Boost Happiness

Acts of kindness can nudge your happiness in the right direction.

Acts of kindness can nudge your happiness in the right direction.

Little acts of kindness really do provide a small, but significant boost to happiness.

Things like running an errand for a neighbour, helping someone in the street or giving someone a present unexpectedly all boost the giver’s happiness.

That’s to say nothing of the happiness of the person who received the help.

Psychologist have even found that helping others boost happiness more than helping yourself.

This could be because helping others helps to nurture social relationships.

Researchers pooled the results of 21 different studies to reach their conclusions.

The happiness gains from an act of kindness are equivalent to one point on a 1-10 scale, the study’s authors concluded.

The study’s authors conclude:

“These effects are comparable to other positive psychology interventions.

This suggests that performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help to nudge it in the right direction.”

Acts of kindness have even been suggested as a way to help people experiencing excessive amount of anxiety.

Dr Oliver Scott Curry, the study’s lead author, said:

‘Humans are social animals. We are happy to help family, friends, colleagues, community members and even strangers under some conditions.

This research suggests that people do indeed derive satisfaction from helping others.

This is probably because we genuinely care about others’ welfare, and because random acts of kindness are a good way of making new friends, and kick-starting supportive social relationships.’

Dr Curry continued:

‘Many groups in the last decade have been keen to establish a link between kindness and happiness, including the UK government.

Offering kindness to others has been explored as a possible panacea for many of our social ills, ranging from social isolation to more serious mental and physical health conditions.

Our review suggests that performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help nudge it in the right direction.

We recommend further research is done to compare the effects of being kind to family and friends as opposed to strangers.

This is an area about which we know surprisingly little at the moment.’

The study was published in the journal Open Science Framework (Curry et al., 2016).

The Emotional Trick To Get Depressing Chores Done (M)

Getting motivated to do the chores is all about how you manage your happiness day-to-day, research finds.

Getting motivated to do the chores is all about how you manage your happiness day-to-day, research finds.


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The Age At Which People Are Least Happy With Their Lives

Survey of 160 countries finds the age at which people are the least satisfied with life.

Survey of 160 countries finds the age at which people are the least satisfied with life.

Life satisfaction dips in middle age, after which it starts going up again beyond the age of 54, a study of worldwide well-being finds.

The dip in life satisfaction occurs around the age of 45 until 54, and is seen across many wealthy English-speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia.

There were similar findings in these countries for the emotional aspects of happiness.

This was likely because people experienced higher levels of stress, worry and anger in middle age than they do in old age.

Professor Angus Deaton, one of the study’s co-authors, said:

“This finding is almost expected.

This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present well-being, so as to have increased wealth and well-being later in life.”

Not a universal pattern

Economics is only one of many possible factors.

Western, wealthy countries have better healthcare systems, which are better able to ameliorate some of the problems of ageing.

The U-shaped pattern for life satisfaction was not universal, though, as many poorer countries show a simple decline in life satisfaction with age.

In the former Soviet Union, for example, life satisfaction declines with age, as it does in Latin American countries.

The only exception was African countries where average life satisfaction remained low throughout the lifespan.

Here are the graphs for how average life satisfaction changes with age for four different areas of the world:

Professor Deaton said:

“Economic theory can predict a dip in well-being among the middle age in high-income, English-speaking countries.

What is interesting is that this pattern is not universal.

Other regions, like the former Soviet Union, have been affected by the collapse of communism and other systems.

Such events have affected the elderly who have lost a system that, however imperfect, gave meaning to their lives, and, in some cases, their pensions and health care.”

Sense of purpose

The data the findings are based on comes from 160 countries which represents over 98 percent of the world’s population (Steptoe et al., 2014).

When the researchers looked at happiness and mortality, the key to a long life appeared to be a sense of purpose.

When older people feel their life has purpose, their chance of dying was dramatically reduced.

The study’s authors conclude:

“Even though the results do not unequivocally show that eudemonic well-being is causally linked with mortality, the findings do raise intriguing possibilities about positive well-being being implicated in reduced risk to health.”

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3 Happiness Techniques That Also Make You Healthier

People felt significantly happier afterwards and were less likely to take days off work sick.

People felt significantly happier afterwards and were less likely to take days off work sick.

Becoming happier makes people healthier, research finds.

People who used standard psychological techniques to feel happier over 12 weeks subsequently felt healthier and were less likely to be off work sick.

Participants worked at improving their core self, experiential self and social self over 12 weeks.

The approaches taught to people during the study included increasing feelings of gratitude, focusing on personal strengths and learning to be more mindful.

Dr Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s first author, said:

“Though prior studies have shown that happier people tend to have better cardiovascular health and immune-system responses than their less happy counterparts, our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health.”

The study included 155 people aged 25-75, half of whom worked at boosting their happiness over 12 weeks.

They were taught three different psychological techniques for boosting their happiness.

The first, which they focused on for 3 weeks, was ‘core self’.

This involves identifying personal strengths, goals and values.

People who identify and practice their personal strengths — in other words, do what they are good at — tend to feel happier.

For the next 5 weeks, people focused on their experiential self.

This involved practising mindfulness and emotional regulation.

For the final 4 weeks, people cultivated their social selves, looking at ways to improve their feelings of gratitude and to increase positive social interactions.

Dr Kushlev said:

“All of the activities were evidence-based tools to increase subjective well-being.”

The results showed that people in the intervention group felt significantly happier afterwards and were less likely to take days off work sick.

People who were taught the happiness techniques online improved just as much as those taught face-to-face.

Dr Kushlev said:

“These results speak to the potential of such interventions to be scaled in ways that reach more people in environments such as college campuses to help increase happiness and promote better mental health among students.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Kushlev et al., 2020).

The Reason Trying To Be Happy Does Not Work

People who push themselves to feel happy can end up feeling worse.

People who push themselves to feel happy can end up feeling worse.

Putting too much value on being happy, paradoxically makes that happiness more difficult to achieve, research finds.

In fact, a greater need to enjoy experiences is linked to more depressive symptoms.

In other words, people who push themselves to feel happy can end up feeling worse.

One reason is down to disappointment.

Imagine listening to some music and trying to force oneself to enjoy it more.

The disappointment felt if it does not work could make one feel worse than if they had not bothered trying to feel happier.

None of this means that pursuing happiness is a waste of time — it just has to be done in the right way.

A happiness culture

There is also a cultural factor to consider.

Culture plays an important part in how we think about happiness, the new study reveals.

Researchers carried out happiness surveys on groups of people in the UK and EU and compared them to previous results from people in the US.

The results showed that people in the US and the UK who valued happiness more also found it harder to focus on and savour positive experiences.

Dr Julia Vogt, study co-author, explained:

“We observed that the inability of participants to focus attention while feeling a range of emotions was a major factor in this idea of not being able to savor a positive experience.”

However, the link was not as strong in the EU, suggesting that culture is a factor.

Dr Vogt continued:

“The relationship between valuing happiness and depressive symptoms was seen far more significantly in UK [and US] participants than those from other nationalities or dual citizens.

We don’t go so far as to test what those differences are, but there seems to be a significant divide between English-speaking western cultures and other cultures when it comes to how our internal value of experiencing happiness shapes our experiences and mood.”

→ Read on about sustainable happiness.

The study was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (Kahriz et al., 2019).

Financial Pressure Makes People Spend For Happiness – Unfortunately It Backfires (M)

When people feel financial pressure, they are more likely to try and spend their way to happiness.

When people feel financial pressure, they are more likely to try and spend their way to happiness.


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