Hope you’re all doing well!
I truly believe that deep down each and every one of us wants to be happy and I believe that ultimately we make many of the decisions in our lives with the hope that someday it will bring us some form of happiness.
Most of us have certain beliefs about what will make us happy. Some of the things that we believe will make us happy may indeed increase our happiness however, other things may not.
If you are in the search for happiness here are some of the things that research has shown that will not help you reach long term happiness.
I know that this sounds cliche but money really cannot buy happiness. One research study showed that high income earners are not significantly happier than middle class income earners.
Obviously, we all need money to pay for shelter and our basic needs and then having some extra money can help us live a comfortable life. However, I think that one of the problems with money is that most people who start making lots of money never reach a point when they are satisfied with the amount of money they have. This is potentially dangerous because for some people the pursuit of money and riches becomes the purpose of their life.
I think most of us know that money by itself will not make us happy. But we feel that having lots of money helps us buy or gain the things that we want and this will make us happy. The reality is that material possessions only bring short term happiness. When we first buy something we may be excited and happy but after a while we get used to the item or something even better comes out and we often take the version of the item that we have previously bought for granted.
Material possessions may not bring lasting happiness but there is one way in which money can buy happiness. A research study has shown that after people have their basic needs met if they have extra money to spend on time saving services such as a housekeeper they will be happier. The reason is that they will have more freedom to spend their time as they wish.
Too Many Choices
This may be slightly shocking to some people but research has shown that when most people are given too many options or choices to choose from they often become exhausted and unhappy. Social Psychologists often refer to this phenomenon as tyranny of freedom or choice overload.
I know personally when I am shopping online I feel overwhelmed by all the choices that I see that I have to choose from. Even when I want to sit back, relax and watch a TV show I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of shows that are available. I don’t even have traditional cable so my TV viewing options are fairly limited but still there is just too much choice on Netflix!
On a more serious note though, we humans have a cognitive reserve that is limited and we can only make so many decisions until we run out of energy and we ideally stop for the day or we continue and risk making impaired decisions. The problem with choice overload is that we can easily deplete our cognitive reserve by making trivial decisions before we make the tougher decisions.
I think that this quote from former president Obama helps to explain this idea:“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Personally, what I like to do is every night before bed I choose my outfit for the next day and I basically get everything ready so that in the morning I don’t have to make any trivial decisions. Getting everything ready the night before really helps ease my morning routine and occasionally if I do wake up a little later I am less stressed than I would otherwise be.
Having More Friends or Followers on Social Media
I know this one is probably a pretty obvious one but having more friends or followers on social media will most likely not lead to you becoming any happier.
One particular study divided frequent Facebook users into two groups. One group continued to use Facebook as frequently as they usually did and another group was asked to take a one week break from a Facebook. The results showed that the group that took a one week break were happier and less stressed.
I think that the problem with social media is that we the social media users often tend to compare our lives with the lives of others and we often come to the conclusion that our lives are not as great as the lives of these other people. We become unappreciative of all that we do have. We often forget that most people only post the highlights or the best moments of their lives on social media.
I am a social media user myself and I would not go so far as to say that we should completely stop using social media. I believe that social media has many benefits as well. I have family that live all across the world and social media has helped us connect in a way that may not have been possible without it.
Also, social media has played a role in many positive movements across the world as well and I often see images and videos of people that are going through such difficult times and while these images are extremely hard to see I become aware of their struggles and I become immensely grateful for everything that I do have.
My humble piece of advice would be to first of all try to establish or strengthen relationships that you have in real life outside of social media because these are the people that are more likely going to come to your aid during difficult times.
Also, go through your social media accounts and simply unfollow accounts or people that make you feel bad about yourself or they just don’t add value to your life.
Always remember that social media is just a means of connecting and interacting with others but ideally it should not be the only way that we interact with each other.
A Final Note on Happiness
Life definitely consists of many ups and downs and it’s impossible to always feel content or happy. It turns out that accepting the fact that we are not always going to be happy is actually good for our overall well-being.
Research has shown that the pursuit of happiness does not lead to more joy. An Australian research study asked participants to what extent is being happy important to them. Then they were asked to keep a journal of all the stressful events that occur in their lives and and write how it made them feel.
The results showed that those who highly valued happiness felt more lonely during these stressful times.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to feel happy and joyous however, if the desire for these positive feelings and emotions becomes obsessive then it will lead to more emotional pain rather than joy and happiness.