Research suggests that the power to find joy and contentment lies within all of us.Happiness. We’re all chasing it to some extent.
But the elusiveness of that warm glow, to capture or to quantify, hasn’t discouraged researchers and book authors from trying to better identify not only the personality traits, but also the day-to-day influences that shape our emotional well-being. In short, can Eeyore learn to put a little more bounce into his step?
A flurry of recent studies indicates that yes, happiness may be more malleable than once thought. If some of the latest research findings are on track, though, some of us might be risking derailment, given today’s workaholic, multitasking, technology-dependent tendencies.
Several themes emerge — one of the most obvious being the weight of money matters and its influence on the state of happiness. Chasing money, of course, won’t help much, especially if you simply use the cash to acquire more stuff. Once you earn enough to cover your routine needs, you’re more likely to find contentment if you “start reallocating your resources — that is, your time, your interests, and your focus — on the things that more dependably bring you happiness,” says Dan Buettner, author of Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, one of innumerable happiness-infused books published in recent years.
Take a friend out to dinner instead of embarking on a shopping spree. Donate your time or your money to a cause that’s personally meaningful. In fact, many of the individual research findings, including in areas that might seem unrelated to happiness, build the case that emotional well-being rests upon richer personal connections, both at home and work and in terms of the broader social fabric.
“The most powerful determinant of happiness is the quality of your relationships with other people,” says Christopher Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a renowned researcher in positive psychology. “My bumper sticker is that other people matter — that’s the formula for being happy.”