Our myths about things that make us happy… and things that actually don’t
Myth: Money will make you happy.
Fact: It’s stressful when you’re worried about money. In order to be happy, you do need enough of it to cover your basic needs: things like food, shelter, safety, healthcare, and clothing. But research studies in the areas of Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology indicate that once you have enough money to be comfortable, getting more money isn’t going to make much of a difference in how happy you are. For example, studies of lottery winners show that after a relatively short period of time, they are no happier than they were before their win.
Myth: You need a relationship in order to be happy.
Fact: Being in a healthy, supportive love relationship does contribute to happiness, but it’s not true that you can’t be happy and fulfilled if you’re single. Indeed, the research is solid that singles who have meaningful friendships and pursuits are happier than people in mismatched or chaotic romantic relationships. It’s also important to note that even a good marriage or romantic partnership doesn’t lead to a permanent, intense happiness boost. Expecting your partner to deliver your happily-ever-after may actually harm the relationship in the longterm. You, not your partner or your family members, are responsible for your own happiness.
Myth: Happiness declines with age.
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, people tend to get happier with age. Study after study confirms that seniors experience more positive emotions and fewer (and less intense) negative emotions than young people and middle-aged adults. Generally, older adults are also more satisfied with their lives, less sensitive to stress, and more emotionally stable. Even with the losses that come with age, it is the happiest time of life for many people.
Myth: You need to have kids to be happy.
Numerous studies indicate that marital and personal satisfaction actually drops after having children. However, once children leave the home launched as young adults, overall satisfaction and relationship satisfaction for parents actually rises.
Myth: Some people are just happier than others and there is almost nothing you can do to change that.
Fact: Genetics do play a role in happiness. Current research suggests that people are born with a certain happiness “set point.” But that only accounts for about half of our happiness level. Another 10% is due to life circumstances. That leaves 40% that is determined by your actions and choices. That contains a lot of possibilities.
See also On Friendship and Mental Health.