Tag Archives: happiness

What Actually Makes Us Happy

Psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos teaches about happiness at Yale. Her research lab has summarized the voluminous data on what actually makes us happy.

The main themes:

    • developing a sense of meaning or purpose
    • connection with other people
    • meditation and reflection
    • taking time off/resting if you are overwhelmed (avoiding burnout)
    • sense of belonging
    • overcoming impulses in the moment: instead of Netflix or scrolling, try exercising, journaling, or reading
    • having a sense of gratitude increases emotional self-regulation, even during times of stress
    • money generally does not make us happy. If you live below the poverty line, more money increases happiness. If you make $100,000 and you increase it to $600,000, your happiness goes up from 64 points to 65 points. Pretty much the same as getting a good night of sleep. Past a certain point, more money does not lead to increased happiness or life satisfaction
    • avoiding down comparisons: the feeling that happiness is just around the corner and other people are happier than you are
    • how to increase happiness: Reflect on the acronym www.:
        • WHAT is your reason to do something
        • WHY did you want to do it? Was it avoidance, a passion for something, the desire to learn…?
        • WHEN did you do it? Timing and dosage.

See also: Stones Across the River.

Happiness Myths

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.

How to be happier

In my work, I help people make transitions, cope with stress, and experience small moments of joy each day. I encourage people to volunteer, self-care, learn how to be solitary, learn how to be attached, and how to be bold. From the research and my clinical experiences, these are a few things that I have summarized. 

– Those who appreciate life don’t work jobs they hate.
To hate your job is to hate the time you spend doing that job. Or, in other words, to hate spending your precious time. Yes, we all have to do things that we don’t especially want to do, from time to time. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should agree to spend 40 or more hours a week doing something we have to convince ourselves to get out of bed doing every morning that we wake up.

– They don’t befriend people that aren’t good for them.
They do their best not to date or hang with awful people, and then do their best to move on as quickly as possible when they find out they are. Only give time and energy to those worthy of it.

– They have their priorities straight.
They understand what’s important in life. For this, there is no singular universal answer. Freud said “love, work, and play like a child.”  How you add these up is a personal equation. While binge watching a show might be a pleasure, taking a course online might be more beneficial. They balance pleasure and priority.

– Those who appreciate life, appreciate life.
To appreciate life isn’t to only appreciate your life. It’s to appreciate all life.
This includes the lives of other people, the lives of other creatures, plants, animals, and the cosmos. To appreciate life is to appreciate life itself.

– They never waste a single day.
Time is the most precious commodity. Mindfulness includes what you watch, what you eat, whom you associate with, and every moment matters. The past shouldn’t be forgotten, but at the same time we shouldn’t be spending too much of the time that we have left looking back with disdain or sadness. What was, was and no longer is. I believe in gestalt. Everything we have gone through brings us to this place and time, and you can’t just pull out pieces of it because they were painful or shameful. You-ness is a totality.

– They are spiritual.
Whether it’s an organized faith, personal rituals, or a quiet inner spirituality, people who have life satisfaction have an inner life that is connected to a spiritual practice, from meditation to church.

– They are curious.
They are always trying to understand life more fully and answer life’s existential questions. They like to learn. A curious soul is someone who understands the importance of knowledge as a toolbox for life, that keeps growing.

– They are compassionate.
They do not like to cause suffering to others, and they defend the vulnerable. From community service and volunteering, to activism, these activities have been shown to be strongly associated with life satisfaction. Giving to others makes us feel good and makes the world a better place.

– They live both fast and slow.
Living fast and dying young sounds like fun. Until that last part. Living slow and meditating all day austerely sounds peaceful. And boring. If you want to experience all that life has to offer then you have to live in both extremes, creating your personal balance.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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