Happiness research: beauty, great love and money like hay - do we really need that? How we sabotage our own happiness

Something is always.

Happiness research: beauty, great love and money like hay - do we really need that? How we sabotage our own happiness

Something is always. Unless the milk is sour, the car battery is dead or a tooth root is reporting. Blessed are those who don't let all these small and large adversities of everyday life spoil their mood. Who can laugh about a scraped knee and doesn't just go out the door with knee pads from now on. And who is satisfied, even happy, even though the account is empty and the marriage is broken. Most of us can't do that. If only we had more money, finally a partner for life, or at least a smaller belly – it would be so easy to be (happier), wouldn't it?! Exactly not. Studies show that we often seek happiness in the wrong place and thus sabotage the possibility of a happy life ourselves.

It starts with the question of what exactly happiness actually is? There are many definitions. This includes the hedonistic well-being approach, which revolves around the idea of ​​experiencing as many positive emotions as possible and as few negative emotions as possible. The focus is on the here and now: am I having a good time? do i feel good In contrast, acute fun played no role in Aristotle's concept of happiness. His idea of ​​happiness is not a sprint, but a marathon. Eudaimonic well-being, as he calls it, comes from feeling that you are living a meaningful and fundamentally good life.

The problems often arise from the fact that one only pursues hedonistic happiness, but not everyday, more sustainable happiness, says Robert Waldinger. He directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a happiness study that has been running for 84 years, longer than any other study on the subject. Waldinger advocates a mix of the two concepts.

The happiness researcher knows that everlasting happiness is unrealistic. But he also says in an interview with "The Guardian", "if you're not happy, you're not doing life right". And how do you do it right? Humans are amazingly stupid when it comes to deciding what they need to be happy. At least that's what a number of studies suggest.

Then there's the money thing. The Zaster has the dubious reputation of making people happy. Because the more money, the fewer worries - that's the idea. There is also no denying that economic security is relaxing. It is good for your own well-being not to have to hide from every utility bill. It is therefore not surprising that studies show that as income increases, the positive evaluation of one's own life increases and emotional well-being also increases. But it does not increase indefinitely and that is the crux of the matter.

It was Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton who discovered that the "sweet spot" was $75,000 in annual income. Once we've achieved that, we're maxing out the maximum happiness that financial prosperity can bring us. Anything above this threshold does not increase emotional well-being any further. The study was conducted in the USA and cannot be transferred one-to-one to other countries with different socio-economic structures and values. However, the basic idea was confirmed in further studies - once you have reached a certain level of wealth, money no longer makes you happier.

That's the theory. In reality, however, we think we need more and more. We just can't get enough. Because we get used to both positive and negative feelings faster than we realize. The high wears off and we fall back to some kind of baseline of happiness. The phenomenon is called the hedonistic treadmill or hedonistic adaptation. And simply means that the Lamborghini in the garage, once bought to fulfill a dream, will soon be just nice. Having a Ferrari as a second car would be even better. And if there's a Maserati next to it, then, yes, then at the latest, we think our luck would be perfect. puff cake! Perhaps worst of all, we seem to keep forgetting that this hedonistic treadmill exists.

Not only when it comes to material things does the habituation effect of being happy stand in our way. We tend to overestimate the impact of certain events on our lives. With both positive and negative experiences, we assume that the effects on our lives will be much more lasting than they are in reality. This also applies to love. According to science, the feeling of happiness that couples have after the wedding wears off faster than we would like. After just one to two years, the "honeymoon effect" wears off and great love becomes "only" love. We fall back to our standard level of happiness. According to studies, however, this is higher than for singles.

Happiness researcher Waldinger is also convinced that relationships have an enormous influence on our well-being. But it doesn't have to be the romantic relationship. He comes to the conclusion that social contacts per se, the more qualitative the better, not only increase well-being but also prolong life. "We found that people who maintain a network of good relationships are more likely to weather storms and are more likely to be happy," Waldinger said. Singles with a stable social network can therefore be just as content and happy as people in romantic relationships.

And then there's the matter of the neighbor's garden. We compare ourselves with others, for this we use so-called reference points. These differ from person to person and depend on the individual career. The bottom line is that nobody wants to be worse off and have less than someone else - how thick their own wallets are plays a subordinate role if someone else has a bigger one. Your own relationship is questioned when another couple seems much more intimate. And looking in the mirror can become a farce after hours of scrolling through a model's Instagram profile. How much happier would we be if our faces were less wrinkled and our bodies slimmer?

You guessed it. Not as much happier as you might think. Several studies that looked at people who were dissatisfied with their appearance and who promised themselves that changes would make them happier came to a sobering conclusion. Both obese people who had lost weight and those who had cosmetic surgery were not only not happier afterwards, their well-being had actually worsened. Beauty alone is also not something that inevitably makes you happy.

Happiness is not something you can work towards and once you have it, it stays forever. That would be too easy. "The myth that you can always be happy if you only do the right things is not true. Happiness increases and decreases," says the scientist Waldinger. Provided our basic needs are met, it can be assumed that happiness simply "happens" to us. But you could give him a little help. Health, nutrition, sleep, exercise and social contacts are important factors for a happy life.

Source: Study 1: Income, Study 2: Immune Neglect, Study 3: Beauty, Study 4: Hedonistic Adaptation, Study 5: Adult Development, The Guardian