Tuesday 5 October 2010

Recipe for contentment

The SMH reported briefly on a study on happiness published by Professor Headey in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. After tracking the happiness of 60,000 Germans for 25 years he found that over the long-term, happiness was variable, and depended on the life goals and choices of the individual, rather than being largely decided by personality traits moulded early in life and genetic factors.

In summary, the keys to happiness are:

1. Have a happy partner

2. Don't be overworked or under worked

3. Prioritise family and community, and have a partner who does so as well

4. Don't be materialistic

5. Don't be obese

I think that #1 is a bit rough on unhappy people - if we all tried to find a "happy" partner, the unhappy would end up even sadder and more lonely. #2 makes sense, although I suspect that being "under worked" would only be a problem due to lack of income, unless you had no interests or hobbies outside of work! I think the importance of #3 will depend a lot on whether or not you are an extrovert or introvert, and how social and emotional you are. And the benefits of community service to ones happiness will depend on how much satisfaction you get from helping others - if it gives you a sense of worth and "goodness", then doing volunteer work will add to your happiness and can be increased as much as you want for little financial cost.

#4 will help most people increase their happiness simply because most people will find it hard to earn enough to satisfy a seriously materialistic lifestyle without affecting items 1-3 above.

#5 is easier said than done (from personal experience), but I've no doubt that maintaining a healthy weight improves your happiness (if for no other reason than the deleterious health effects that being obese will eventually produce).

What other items do you think should be in a "top 10" list of the keys to happiness?

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