What makes you happy?
It’s true that different people find happiness in different kinds of material things and activities, but are there some general rules for happiness? Science says there is. An infographic put together by the website Happify and sourced by a number of different organizations, including the U.N. World Happiness Report, reveals that there are several trends as to what makes people happy, as well as what explicitly does not contribute to happiness. Here’s what they had to say:
- Buying stuff makes us happy, but not for long. Purchasing material possessions might make us happy for a while, but the happiness we feel when we make a material purchase decreases over time. On the other hand, we are more satisfied when we spend money on experiences, and our happiness about that money spent is far less likely to deteriorate over time.
- Making more money makes us happier. Sort of. That caps off once we’re bringing home $75k annually. After that, higher salaries don’t actually impact our day-to-day happiness. Why? Several reasons, really, but mostly because the more we have, the more we end up wanting. We might be doing well, but we lose satisfaction with “well” and we want “exceptional” or “out of this world.” The thing is, having an out-of-this-world income isn’t parallel with being out-of-this-world happy. In fact, the more money we make, the more we compare ourselves to other people who have more.
- Being generous is a total happiness booster. It might seem surprising, but giving away what we have to others directly impacts how happy we feel. It’s also a revolving door: happier people are more eager to give, and giving makes people happier.
- Avoid layaway, loans and credit cards. Paying for our “treats” in advance allows us to enjoy ourselves much more than if we charge them to a card that we know we’re going to have to pay off later.
- Give it up to get the most out of it. Studies show that giving something up that you enjoy, like chocolate or your favorite chip, for a short time, makes it more satisfying and rewarding when you decide to indulge. It’s a tough concept in our instant-gratification society, but there’s no study that shows that getting what you want all the time makes you happier—or more fun to be around. The only reason we think it does is because society has made it seem normal to get everything we want right away.
- We’re happier when we don’t feel rushed. The more money we make, the more rushed we feel. Surprisingly, this isn’t really related to how many hours we spend working. In fact, people who spend time helping others end up feeling less rushed, which makes them feel happier.
“…Objectively they [people who give of their time] have less time. But they feel more effective, and that enhances their productivity…Giving even a small amount of time to someone else should make you feel you can do more in the time you have.” Cassie Mogilner, Harvard Business Review
- The American Dream stereotypes don’t make us happier. Research shows that instead of being happier than renters, homeowners are often more burdened with their homes and experience less happiness than renters do when it comes to their living situation. Fancy cars don’t make us happy either. University of Michigan research shows there is no relationship between the cash value of your car and the happiness you feel from driving it.
So what does this mean for you? That you shouldn’t buy a car or ever think about charging a purchase to a credit card? Not necessarily. But it’s good to step back and reflect upon what we do with our time, talents and money, and determine if we’re making the most of them—for us and for the people whose lives we touch everyday.