The term "quality of life" is commonly used to refer to one's personal experience of happiness, freedom from pain, stress, worry, etc.

In this sense, quality of life is a subjective feeling not absolutely tied to material possessions or objective experiences. One person might be very happy living in a small apartment and not owning a car while another, who owns several luxurious homes and a yacht, might be desperately unhappy.

Surviving is a base premise for any quality of life. Surviving requires a job/livelihood. Prospering goes a step further than this.

Happiness research[edit | edit source]

What really works[edit | edit source]

Martin Seligman and his students examined a number of techniques for being happier. There were three techniques that seemed to work. They refer to them as the "three blessings."

  • Write down three things that went well today and why.
  • Write a gratitude testimonial and delivering it personally; known as the "gratitude visit." 
  • Use your "signature strength" in a new way. Take the signature strength test[1] and use your highest strength in a new way.[2]

Daniel KahnemanW has found the following regarding happiness:[verification needed]

  • People's happiness tends to revert to a mean (i.e., that they become accustomed to new circumstances;good or bad). (This varies between people and is sometimes called the setpoint). However, this is only a tendency - it's possible to be happier than our natural setpoint, and our choices and actions influence this.[3]
  • A small number of things do make a difference in happiness for more than just the short term, such as:
    • Quality of sleep and, to a lesser extent, amount of sleep
    • Meditation (Kahneman used the example of Tibetan monks),[verification needed] though it is unclear to this author if Kahneman's reference was specifically to one particular monk or if it is relevant to the average person who meditates
    • Sex

Other researchers have found that happiness is affected by:

  • Life experiences: You are better off spending your money on a holiday than on a new car or extension to your house[verification needed]
  • Where you live: People who move from the city out to the suburbs, often to own their own homes, on average, become less happy because they are more socially isolated and spend less time with friends[verification needed]

Making better choices[edit | edit source]

Most people think a new car or house will make us happy, but will it? It turns out that humans are bad at predicting happiness and bad at making decisions about what will make them happy. Being aware of this may help us avoid bad decisions, most importantly those which involve us using more resources while making us less happy than other possible choices.

If Daniel Gilbert is right, then you are wrong. That is to say, if Daniel Gilbert is right, then you are wrong to believe that a new car will make you as happy as you imagine and you are wrong to believe that a new kitchen will do the same. You are wrong to think that you will be less happy with a single big setback (a broken wrist, a broken heart) than with a smaller chronic one (a trick knee, a tense marriage). You are wrong to assume that job failure will be crushing. You are wrong to expect that a death in the family will leave you bereft year upon year. You are even wrong to reckon that a cheeseburger you order in a restaurant―this week, next week, a year from now, it doesn't really matter when―will definitely hit the spot. That's because when it comes to predicting exactly how you will feel in the future, you are most likely wrong.

Gilbert states, "What our research shows―not just ours, but Loewenstein's and Kahneman's―is that the real problem is figuring out which of those futures is going to have the high payoff and is really going to make you happy."

Gilbert adds, "You know, the Stones said, 'You can't always get what you want.' I don't think that's the problem. The problem is you can't always know what you want [emphasis the author's]."[4]

Questions/more study needed[edit | edit source]

Relative social status is believed to strongly affect Health,[verification needed] perhaps by affecting a sense of competitiveness and stress levels, factors closely related to happiness (unless people of lower perceived social status just have poorer health care; looking at studies from societies with good public health care may shed light on this possibility.)[expansion needed]

Happiness economics[edit | edit source]

"The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory.... People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities."[5]

The research suggests that higher-income countries do tend to be happier than lower-income ones, but once you have a home, food and clothes, then extra money does not seem to make people much happier.

It seems that the level at which happiness levels off is about £10,000 (or approximately $15,000) a year.[6]

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at Cornell, suggests that happiness "maxes out" at a certain income level because of the widespread tendency to spend additional wealth on conspicuous consumption such as larger houses and more expensive cars that contribute little to quality of life. Frank suggests increases in income could be better spent on "inconspicuous goods" such as shorter commutes, more vacation, and/or exercise.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

By this logic, repeating or reminding yourself of a truth or concept that you believe would be more likely to affect your feelings, thinking, and motivation in the way you want.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire - register (free) to do the test.
  2. Authentic Happiness - Using the new Positive Psychology - from the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, directed by Martin Seligman.
  3. How to Become Happier
  4. The Futile Pursuit of Happiness, Jon Gertner, September 7, 2003
  5. Link between income and happiness is mainly an illusion, News at Princeton, June 29, 2006
  6. The science of happiness, BBC News, 30 April 2006.

See also[edit | edit source]

Interwiki links[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Introductory information[edit | edit source]

Practical resources on being happy[edit | edit source]

Current research[edit | edit source]

  • NEP-HAP a weekly report on new working papers in the area of Economics of Happiness. Archive and subscription link.
  • The science of happiness, BBC News, 30 April 2006. Interesting summary of research, & interesting links. Part 1 of a 6-part series.
  • Participate in research on positive psychology (via the "Happiness Hypothesis" site).
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