So it's the time of year again when we reflect on the things we are thankful for, wake up the next morning to fight people for material posessions, spend a month worrying about money, family and social situations, enjoy time off, set new goals and immediately become disappointed in ourselves for not keeping our resolutions. For those who don't remember my views on Christmas, you can find them here. I can probably add shopping on Black Friday to my things I hate list. So today while shopping I spent a good portion of the day wondering why there are so many miserable individuals on Earth and remembered a fantastic research report on Happiness printed a few years ago. Now when I think of Happiness the last thing I think of is investment bankers, but James Montier, formerly of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, wrote this brilliant article on the psychology of Happiness. I highly recommend everyone read this. For a summary, here are the 10 ways you can improve your happiness, in no particular order:
  1. Don’t equate happiness with money. People adapt to income shifts relatively quickly, the long lasting benefits are essentially zero.
  2. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is an effective cure for mild depression and anxiety. It also stimulates more energy, and is good for the mind and body.
  3. Have sex (preferably with someone you love). Need I say more?
  4. Devote time and effort to close relationships. Confiding and discussing problems and issues is good for happiness, so work on these relationships.
  5. Pause for reflection, meditate on the good things in life. Focusing on the good aspects of life helps to prevent hedonic adaptation.
  6. Seek work that engages your skills, look to enjoy your job. Doing well at work creates happiness, and the easiest way of doing well at work, is doing a job you enjoy.
  7. Give your body the sleep it needs. Too many people have a sleep deficit, resulting in fatigue, gloomy moods and lack of concentration.
  8. Don’t pursue happiness for its own sake, enjoy the moment. Because people don’t understand what makes them happy, pursuing happiness can be self-defeating. Additionally, if people start to aim for happiness they are doing activities for happiness’s sake rather than actually enjoying the activity itself.
  9. Take control of your life, set yourself achievable goals. People are happiest when they achieve their aims, so set yourself goals which stretch you, but are achievable.
  10. Remember to follow rules 1-9. Following these guidelines sounds easy, but actually requires willpower and effort.

I try to do each of these things at least once a month, some I try to do a lot more than that but I'm not always successful. If you want more information on the first step, I recomend you read Mr. Montier's follow-up piece which was titled "It doesn't pay: Materialism and the pursuit of happiness"; I couldn't find a link but will happily send the report to anyone who wants it. A suggest the men also read the footnotes in the report as it quotes other studies that confirm what we all know, such as: "In Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz and Stone (2003) Measuring the quality of life, the authors found that among a sample of 1000 employed women that sex was rated retrospectively as the activity that produces the largest amount of happiness. Commuting turns out to be the least pleasurable activity. Also Blanchflower and Oswald (2004) Money, Sex and Happiness, find that sexual activity enters strongly into happiness equations."

Hopefully everyone finds this helpful and enjoys the holidays.


Brooke said...

I prefer sex with total strangers. Don't tell my husband.

Erin said...

Given all the crude things you've written before, this is a huge surprise. I do agree that following those 'rules' will greatly improve your happiness and attitude. Thanks, Mark. (Wow, never thought I'd be saying that on your blog!)

Kara said...

Mark will you have sex with me for Christmas? That is the only thing I have on my list. I can't wait to taste those big lips! Just Kidding this is Aaron. See ya.