“People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, all life for happiness.”
In An Introduction to Positive Psychology, Dr. William Compton describes positive psychology as seeking “to make normal life more fulfilling.” It utilizes the scientific method (hypothesis, prediction, study, research, analysis) to understand the positive and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. It is the study of what actions, pursuits, and motivations best contribute to the good life.
I enjoy reading positive psychology. The more I discover, the more I am reminded that happiness is rarely found in material possessions or worldly pursuits. Our most fulfilled lives are discovered living for greater causes.
These pursuits are available to us regardless of our heritage, background, or socioeconomic standing. They are freely available to anyone who chooses to dedicate their lives to them.
10 Positive Psychology Studies to Change Your View of Happiness
1. From Wealth to Well-being? | Harvard Business School, 2009. While there does appear to be some correlation between happiness and income when basic needs are not yet met, people tend to overestimate the influence of wealth on happiness by 100%. Money does not lead to nearly as much happiness as people think it will.
2. Buying Experiences, not Possessions, Leads to Greater Happiness | San Francisco State University, 2009. The study demonstrates that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased greater well-being than material possessions. These experiences tend to satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality—a feeling of being alive.
3. The Science of Gratitude | University of Pennsylvania, 2005. One of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude we show. And a noticeable difference can be experienced with as little as three expressions each day (“Thank you for…”).
4. Trust, Morality, and Oxytocin. Claremont Graduate University, 2011. Based on research findings, psychologists believe humanity’s trust, empathy, and morality increase as their levels of oxytocin increase. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak explains the simple act of eight hugs a day can increase internal oxytocin levels and result in a happier you and a better world.
5. For a Better Day, Smile. | Michigan State University, 2011. People who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts can significantly and immediately improve their mood. Simply put, one easy way to improve your mood right now is to recall pleasant memories—and smile because of it.
6. The Dynamic Spread of Happiness | University of California, San Diego, 2008. In this significant study, people who were surrounded by happy people were more likely to become happy in the future. So if you want to discover more happiness in your life, make a point to surround yourself with joyful people.
7. Kindness Counts | University of British Columbia, 2012. In this study conducted at an elementary school, students who performed kind acts experienced significantly higher increases in peer acceptance. In other words, people who are kind to others are more well-liked. This contributes to their own personal popularity as they help other people.
8. People who Exercise on Work Days are Happier | University of Bristol, 2008. People’s moods significantly improve after exercising. They are also more productive and equipped to manage stress in their workday.
9. Is Volunteering a Public Health Intervention? | University of Exeter Medical School, 2013. Evidence suggests volunteering benefits mental health and even, survival. Donating time to causes you believe in not only improves well-being and overall life satisfaction, it is also linked to decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early.
10. Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness | University of California Berkeley, 2008. This study suggests that how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn. Specifically, spending more of one’s income on others results in greater happiness. So go ahead, be generous. You’ll be glad you did.