The happiness formula (part 2)

I titled this March blog post “The Happiness Formula.” This post extends that one.

Positive psychology is a rapidly advancing field. This nice article provides useful advice based on recent research insights:

  • Buy and own less stuff because less can indeed be more
  • Spend less and eliminate debt
  • Spend to help others, not yourself
  • Spend to create unique experiences and build memories, not to buy stuff
  • Delay purchases and plan vacations far in advance because anticipating exciting purchases and experiences greatly increases our overall satisfaction
  • A house is far less important than the experiences and social connections it enables, so place great value on nearby walking/bicycle trails, friendly churches/mosques/synagogues (if that’s what you’re looking for), quality schools, family-friendly neighborhoods, community theaters, YMCAs, playgrounds, etc., and deemphasize acreage, countertops and chrome fixtures, and top-of-the-line appliances.
  • Take more frequent, shorter vacations
  • “Buy many small pleasures instead of one big one”
  • Work less, and spend more time relaxing and socializing

Perhaps the most important fact positive psychologists have uncovered is the crucial importance of social connections: “Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.”

For the last four years, Roko Belic, a Los Angeles filmmaker, has been traveling the world making a documentary called “Happy.” Since beginning work on the film, he has moved to a beach in Malibu from his house in the San Francisco suburbs.

San Francisco was nice, but he couldn’t surf there.

“I moved to a trailer park,” says Mr. Belic, “which is the first real community that I’ve lived in in my life.” Now he surfs three or four times a week. “It definitely has made me happier,” he says. “The things we are trained to think make us happy, like having a new car every couple of years and buying the latest fashions, don’t make us happy.”

Mr. Belic says his documentary shows that “the one single trait that’s common among every single person who is happy is strong relationships.”

Posted by James on Monday, August 09, 2010