One Question That Predicts Your Happiness 10 Years From Now

The question is a test of how connected you feel to your future self and it can reveal your future happiness.

The question is a test of how connected you feel to your future self and it can reveal your future happiness.

Take a moment to imagine your personality 10 years from now.

Do you think you will be more or less wise, energetic, willing to learn, caring and knowledgeable?

Or, perhaps you feel you will be much the same?

The question is a test of how connected you feel to your future self and it can reveal your future happiness.

According to a recent study, people who feel they will remain the same in the future are happier.

In contrast, people who feel they will decline and also, surprisingly, improve, were both less satisfied with life ten years later.

The reason is that feeling connected to one’s future self is linked to taking care of one’s health, financial situation and delaying gratification.

On the other hand, those who predict they will change fail to take the same care of themselves.

It may also be that predicting no change in oneself is a sign of contentment with one’s identity.

Mr Joseph Reiff , the study’s first author, said:

“The more people initially predicted that they would remain the same — whether predicting less decline or less improvement across a number of core traits — the more satisfied they typically were with their lives ten years later.”

The study included 4,963 people who were asked to estimate aspects of their future selves.

They answered questions like:

  • “How calm and even-tempered do you think you will be 10
    years from now?”

The survey included other questions asking about wisdom, energy, willingness to learn and being caring and knowledgeable.

The results revealed that people who expected themselves to improve or get worse over the 10 years both had lower levels of life satisfaction.

Those who thought they would remain much the same, though, were happiest.

Dr Hal Hershfield, study co-author, said:

“We are now interested in understanding why some people think they will remain the same and why others think they will change.

What life events, for example, cause people to shift the way they think about their future selves?”

The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Reiff et al., 2019)

One Personality Trait Is Linked To Happiness Right Across The Lifespan

The best personality traits for happiness differ for work and play.

The best personality traits for happiness differ for work and play.

The personality trait most strongly linked to happiness right across the lifespan is emotional stability, research finds.

People who are high in emotional stability, which is the opposite of being neurotic, tend to be positive, have high self-control along with the ability to manage psychological stress effectively.

Looking specifically at work and social satisfaction, though, other personality traits were also important along with emotional stability.

For work satisfaction, the best personality trait was conscientiousness, a trait linked to being self-disciplined and aiming for achievement.

For social satisfaction, though, extraversion and agreeableness were most strongly linked to happiness.

Happiness across the lifespan

The conclusions come from a study exploring how the link between personality and happiness might change with age.

Dr Gabriel Olaru, the study’s first author, said:

“Many studies have shown that people with certain personality profiles are more satisfied with their life than others.

Yet, it had not been extensively studied whether this holds true across the lifespan.

For example, extraverted—that is sociable, talkative—people might be particularly happy in young adulthood, when they typically are forming new social relationships.

We thus wanted to examine if some personality traits are more or less relevant to life, social and work satisfaction in specific life phases.”

The study included over 9,000 Dutch adults of all ages who were tracked over more than a decade.

The results showed that the connections between life satisfaction and personality remained much the same over the lifespan.

Dr Manon van Scheppingen, study co-author, said:

“Our findings show that—despite differences in life challenges and social roles—personality traits are relevant for our satisfaction with life, work and social contacts across young, middle and older adulthood.

The personality traits remained equally relevant across the adult lifespan, or became even more interconnected in some cases for work satisfaction.”

Personality and environment interact

People’s personality also interacts with the environment, explained Dr van Scheppingen:

“A good example of how personality interacts with the environment can be found in the work context.

One of our findings was that the link between emotional stability and work satisfaction increases across age.

This might be explained by the fact that emotionally stable people are less scared to quit unsatisfactory jobs and more likely to apply for jobs that are more challenging and perhaps more fulfilling and enjoyable in the long run.”

Despite what many believe, personality is capable of change, said Dr van Scheppingen:

“While we did not examine what caused these changes, [the research] shows that our personalities and our happiness are not set in stone.

Perhaps we may even be able to influence how we change: If we try to become more organized, outgoing, friendly, this might increase life, social or work satisfaction as well.”

→ Related: How To Change Your Personality

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Olaru et al., 2023).

A Smile: The Facial Expression That Unexpectedly Makes You Look ‘Cool’

Even James Dean looked cooler when he smiled.

Even James Dean looked cooler when he smiled.

People are rated as looking ‘cooler’ when they smile and show their emotions, research finds.

It rubbishes the popular idea that keeping an inexpressive poker face makes you look ‘cool’.

In fact, an inexpressive face makes people look colder, rather than cool.

Dr Caleb Warren, the study’s first author, said:

“We found over and over again that people are perceived to be cooler when they smile compared to when they are inexpressive in print advertisements.

Being inexpressive makes people seem unfriendly or cold rather than cool.”

For the study people were shown a series of adverts in which celebrities were either smiling or not smiling.

It included well-know people, such as James Dean, Emily Didonato and Michael Jordan, alongside less well-known models.

People rated how cool the model seemed when they were smiling versus not smiling.

James Dean, for example, was rated ‘cooler’ in photographs where he was smiling, which surprised the researchers.

James Dean is an icon of cool and often pictured with a sultry, half-frown.

There was only one exception to the general rule that smiling was cool.

That was when mixed martial arts fighters were facing off at a press conference.

Then, it wasn’t cool to smile — better to look tough and serious.

A serious face is more dominant, and looks cooler when the situation demands dominance.

Dr Warren said:

“This inaccurate belief about how to become cool can influence the way we communicate with others, and being inexpressive can hurt relationships.

It also makes it more difficult to understand one another.

For these reasons, being inexpressive isn’t necessarily cool.”

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (Warren et al., 2018).

Why Money Makes Some Happy And Others Miserable (M)

For about 20 percent of people, a higher income is linked to lower levels of happiness.

For about 20 percent of people, a higher income is linked to lower levels of happiness.

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AI ‘Therapist’ Improves Adolescent Well-Being Over 6 Weeks (M)

Young people who ‘spoke’ to an AI ‘therapist’ experienced improved well-being over six weeks.

Young people who 'spoke' to an AI 'therapist' experienced improved well-being over six weeks.

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The Five Principles Of A Happy Marriage

40,000 combined years of marriage experience boiled down to these five points.

40,000 combined years of marriage experience boiled down to these five points.

The largest ever survey of long-term marriages has revealed the five keys to a happy marriage.

Over 700 people who have been married for a combined total of 40,000 years (!) took part.

They were asked how to find a suitable partner, how to get through difficult times and any other advice on love and marriage they had.

Professor Karl Pillemer explained his aims:

“Rather than focus on a small number of stories, my goal was to take advantage of the ‘wisdom of crowds,’ collecting the love and relationship advice of a large and varied cross-section of long-married elders in a scientifically reliable and valid way.”

The top five lessons for a happy marriage were:

1. Learn to communicate

Professor Pillemer explained:

“For a good marriage, the elders overwhelmingly tell us to ‘talk, talk, talk.’

They believe most marital problems can be solved through open communication, and conversely many whose marriages dissolved blamed lack of communication.”

2. Get to know your partner before marrying

Professor Pillemer said:

“Many of the elders I surveyed married very young; despite that fact, they recommend the opposite.

They strongly advise younger people to wait to marry until they have gotten to know their partner well and have a number of shared experiences.

An important part of this advice is a lesson that was endorsed in very strong terms: Never get married expecting to be able to change your partner.”

3. Treat marriage as unbreakable and lifelong

Professor Pillemer said:

“Rather than seeing marriage as a voluntary partnership that lasts only as long as the passion does, the elders propose a mindset in which it is a profound commitment to be respected, even if things go sour over the short term.

Many struggled through dry and unhappy periods and found ways to resolve them — giving them the reward of a fulfilling, intact marriage in later life.”

4. Learn to work as a team

Professor Pillemer said:

“The elders urge us to apply what we have learned from our lifelong experiences in teams — in sports, in work, in the military — to marriage.

Concretely, this viewpoint involves seeing problems as collective to the couple, rather than the domain of one partner.

Any difficulty, illness, or setback experienced by one member of the couple is the other partner’s responsibility.”

5. Choose someone similar to you

Professor Pillemer said:

“Marriage is difficult at times for everyone, the elders assert, but it’s much easier with someone who shares your interests, background and orientation.

The most critical need for similarity is in core values regarding potentially contentious issues like child-rearing, how money should be spent and religion.”

The research is published in Professor Pillemer’s book.

How Adolescents Can Feel More Purpose In Life — And More Positive Emotions (M)

Feeling purposeful is critical because it stokes optimism and hope and has all sorts of other benefits for mental and physical health.

Feeling purposeful is critical because it stokes optimism and hope and has all sorts of other benefits for mental and physical health.

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Why Some In Miserable Relationships Don’t Complain (M)

In an unhappy marriage often one partner fails to speak up about problems affecting them both, but why?

In an unhappy marriage often one partner fails to speak up about problems affecting them both, but why?

People with low self-esteem are more likely to stay in an unhappy marriage, a study finds.

They are also likely to keep quiet about any problems in the relationship.

This is probably due to concerns about being rejected.

Dr Megan McCarthy, the study’s author, said:

“There is a perception that people with low self-esteem tend to be more negative and complain a lot more.

While that may be the case in some social situations, our study suggests that in romantic relationships, the partner with low self-esteem resists addressing problems.”

Unhappy marriage

The study tested the effects of low self-esteem on relationships.

The researchers found that not speaking up about problems led to more overall dissatisfaction with the relationship.

Dr McCarthy said:

“We’ve found that people with a more negative self-concept often have doubts and anxieties about the extent to which other people care about them.

This can drive low self-esteem people toward defensive, self-protective behaviour, such as avoiding confrontation.”

Dr McCarthy said:

“If your significant other is not engaging in open and honest conversation about the relationship it may not be that they don’t care, but rather that they feel insecure and are afraid of being hurt.”

Dealing with serious issues

The study also found that people with high self-esteem who are agreeable tend to disclose their emotions more readily.

The reason is that they are more trusting of their partner’s caring nature.

In contrast, those with with low self-esteem found it harder to admit difficult emotions like sadness or to share risky thoughts with their partner.

Dr McCarthy said:

“We may think that staying quiet, in a ‘forgive and forget’ kind of way, is constructive, and certainly it can be when we feel minor annoyances.

But when we have a serious issue in a relationship, failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive.”

Dr McCarthy concluded:

“We all know that close relationships can sometimes be difficult.

The key issue, then, is how we choose to deal with it when we feel dissatisfied with a partner.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (McCarthy et al., 2017).

16 Interesting & Scientific Facts About Happiness

Scientific and interesting facts about happiness reveal the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

Scientific and interesting facts about happiness reveal the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

People taught the basics of happiness science consistently report better mental health, research finds.

University students who did an online ‘Science of Happiness’ course fared better mentally than their peers who did not take the course, the study found (Hobbs et al., 2022).

Facts about happiness

There is a longer description of the study at the bottom of this article, but here are the facts about happiness taught on the course, (relevant studies are linked):

It is based on the latest research into the thoughts and behaviours that are proven to make people happier.

  1. Talking to strangers makes us happier, despite a majority of us shying away from such encounters (see: why you should talk to strangers).
  2. Social media is not bad for everyone, but it can be bad for those who focus on their reputation (12).
  3. Loneliness is linked to a weakened immune system.
  4. People who are optimistic tend to live longer.
  5. Giving gifts to others activates our own reward centres in the brain—often providing more of a happiness boost than spending money on yourself (why spending money on others promotes your happiness).
  6. Sleep deprivation impacts how well we are liked by others (people feel socially unattractive when they don’t get enough sleep).
  7. Walking in the countryside deactivates part of the brain related to negative ruminations, which are associated with depression (As little as 10 minutes spent in nature is enough to make people feel happier).
  8. Kindness and happiness are correlated (acts of kindness really do boost happiness).

More facts about happiness

Here are some more interesting facts about happiness, as revealed by psychological research.

9. Most people are happy most of the time

Maybe you don’t need to do anything at all to feel happy…

People are, on average, in a mildly good mood most of the time all around the world, a study finds.

Researchers have reviewed evidence drawn from many different nations — rich and poor, stable and unstable.

As long as people have not just experienced a strong emotional event, even those in poor circumstances are likely to be in a mild positive mood.

10. The mid-life dip is normal

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.

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.”

11. Take a tip from seniors

With increasing age, people get more pleasure out of everyday experiences; while younger people define themselves more by extraordinary experiences, a study finds.

The study asked over 200 people between the ages of 19 and 79 about happy experiences they’d had that were both ordinary and extraordinary.

It was older people who managed to extract more pleasure from relatively ordinary experiences.

They got more pleasure out of spending time with their family, from the look on someone’s face or a walk in the park.

12. Prioritise positivity for happiness

An approach to life called ‘prioritising positivity’ has been linked to increased well-being.

Prioritising positivity is all about organising your everyday life around activities which bring pleasure.

The authors explain:

“Perhaps people high on prioritizing positivity reserve Saturday afternoons for watching college football or taking their family to a local park.

Maybe others start their weekdays running or drinking tea while reading the New York Times.

Some people may consistently seek out activities that elicit calm and contentment whereas others may seek out excitement and vigor.

The exact behaviors or choices may differ drastically from one person to the next…”

13. Fact about happiness: walk happy, feel happy

It’s well-known that when we’re in a good mood, our style of walking tends to reflect how we feel: we bounce along, shoulders back, swinging our arms in style.

Sometimes, just from our gait, it’s more obvious to other people how we feel than to ourselves.

Well, a study finds that it also works the other way around: people who imitate a happy style of walking, even without realising it, find themselves feeling happier.

14. Act like an extrovert (even if you’re not)

Acting like an extrovert — even if you are an introvert — makes people all around the world feel happier, research suggests.

The findings come from surveys of hundreds of people in the US, Venezuela, the Philippines, China and Japan

Across the board, people reported that they felt more positive emotions in daily situations where they either acted or felt more extroverted.

The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, also found that people tended to behave in a more upbeat way when they felt most free.

15. Mindful dishwashing and happiness

Mindful dishwashing can decrease stress and calm the mind, a study finds.

People in the study focused on the smell of the soap, the feel and shape of the dishes to help them enter a mindful state.

Doing the dishes in a mindful way also increased the pleasurable feeling of time slowing down, the researchers found.

16. Seek out the feeling of awe

That jaw-dropping moment when coming across something surprising, powerful, beautiful or even sublime can have a transformative effect.

Awe makes people more patient, less materialistic and more open to helping out others.

This may happen because awe slows down our subjective experience of time.

Awe, the authors write, has two components (in case you want to seek it out scientifically!):

“First, awe involves perceptual vastness, which is the sense that one has encountered something immense in size, number, scope, complexity, ability, or social bearing (e.g., fame, authority).

Second, awe stimulates a need for accommodation; that is, it alters one’s understanding of the world.”

Scientific facts about happiness study details

The study, which was carried out during the start of the pandemic, included 166 students who took the course over one semester — they were compared to a control group.

The results showed that while well-being and anxiety declined in the control group as the pandemic continued, those who had taken the course maintained their good humour.

Professor Bruce Hood, study co-author, said:

“The results were a welcome sign that the course is achieving its aims.

It was also pleasing to see it working with all content and interactions conducted online.”

One of the students, Izzy Bond, who took the course and went on to become a student mentor, said:

“One of the things that really stood out from the course is when we did a quiz which ranked what we felt were our strengths and weaknesses.

Studies have shown that those who do jobs that match their strengths have higher life satisfaction—all of my strengths suggested I would enjoy being an academic, which really confirmed my decision to pursue becoming a lecturer.”

.

Happiness By Age: What Age Are People Happiest?

Surveys carried out over 30+ years reveal the age at which people are happiest.

Surveys carried out over 30+ years reveal the age at which people are happiest.

People get happier as they get older, research finds.

Surveys of Americans carried out between 1972 and 2004 show that older people are the nation’s happiest.

Across the different generations, around 50 percent of people over the age of 80 said they were ‘very happy’.

It may be because older, more mature people are likely to be more at ease with themselves and to have higher self-esteem.

Dr Yang Yang, the study’s author, said:

“Understanding happiness is important to understanding quality of life.

The happiness measure is a guide to how well society is meeting people’s needs.”

Happiness by age research

For the series of surveys a representative cross-section of Americans was asked the following question:

“Taken all together, how would you say things are these days–would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?”

The responses also teased out some interesting wrinkles.

The so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, were less happy than other equivalent generations.

Dr Yang said:

“This is probably due to the fact that the generation as a group was so large, and their expectations were so great, that not everyone in the group could get what he or she wanted as they aged due to competition for opportunities.

This could lead to disappointment that could undermine happiness.”

What age are people happiest?

The study also found that African Americans are, on average, less happy than whites.

Among 18-year-olds, just 15 percent of black men said they were very happy in comparison to 33 percent of white women.

In fact, women were more happy than men overall, across racial and class divides.

Over the years, needless to say, having a significant other and having your health make you much more happy.

One surprise, to some perhaps, is that having no children increases the chances of being happy over the lifetime.

The study was published in the journal American Sociological Review (Yang, 2008).

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