Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been sharing some of what the research teaches us about ways to be happier. We’ve explored the importance of play, community, and having new experiences. Let’s look at two more ways to lead a happier life.
Participating in Meaningful Experiences
Happy people spend their time in activities that are intrinsically rather than extrinsically rewarding. Activities with intrinsic rewards include those that produce personal growth, increase social bonding, or help the world be a better place. Activities with extrinsic rewards are those that increase money, image, or status. They are not affiliated with increased happiness. For example, we know that happiness has remained stagnant even though income levels have risen. That is because the research shows that after basic needs are met, income does not affect happiness. ( Go back and reread that last sentence!) This notion involves what is called the Hedonic Treadmill–the more money we have, the more stuff we want. So, for instance, in Japan where researchers say people are the least happy of all industrialized nations, they have emphasized business, economic wealth, and increased work hours for decades and have record low level of happiness. They are literally working themselves to death. There is even a word for it-karoshi. The research shows that cooperation with other human beings increases dopamine which leads to increased happiness. Creating acts of kindness and seeking things bigger than oneself are the meaningful activities happy people search out.
It’s very simple. Being grateful for what we have increases our happiness.
So here’s a challenge for you. For the next 30 days, keep a gratitude journal. Find a nice notebook that you like or use your phone or laptop, it doesn’t matter. Just write down every day, for the next 30 days, every thing you are grateful for. It can be something big, like your family, or something small like the perfect cup of morning coffee. I think you’ll be amazed at the shift it creates in you. Let me know how it goes!
Thank you for defining intrinstic vs. extrinstic. I love keeping a gratitude journal! Sometimes I write the smallest silliest things, but even all the little things add up, because life is good!
Emily, I agree about the little things. I think keeping track of those things really does create a shift in our thinking about our lives.