The pursuit of happiness has become a major preoccupation of modern life and now scientists have come up with a nine-point plan to find inner peace.
The Journal of Happiness Studies, a quarterly academic publication dedicated to finding out what makes the good life and empirically to investigate well-being, came up with the plan based on the latest findings.
The first was to stop comparing your looks with others, as you can cash in on beauty’s emotional high even if you are no oil painting. The secret is to believe you look great.
The next step is to curb those aspirational desires. Alex Michalos, a political scientist at the University of Northern British Columbia, in Prince George, found the people whose aspirations soared furthest beyond what they already had tended to be less happy than those who perceived a smaller gap.
Scientists have also found that money can buy happiness, but it doesn’t buy you very much. Once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra pound makes less and less difference, said Professor Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The survey also said not to worry if you are not a genius. Prof Frank said, though few surveys have examined whether smart people are happier, they have usually found that intelligence has no effect.
Happiness is also genetic. Personality, which has a strong genetic component, and happiness seem to be linked.
Married people are also consistently happier than singles.
In a 15-year study of more than 30,000 Germans, Prof Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, found that happy people are more likely to get married and stay married.
Harold Koenig, at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina, said believing in God or an afterlife can give people meaning and purpose, and reduce the feeling of being alone in the world. He said: “You see the effect in times of stress. Belief can be a powerful way of coping with adversity.”
Several studies have found a link between happiness and altruistic behaviour. In a study of 3,617 people, Peggy Thoits and Lyndi Hewitt, of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, found that happy people were more likely to sign up for volunteer work.
The last point is to grow old gracefully. In one study by Stanford University, in California, old people reported positive emotions as often as young people but negative emotions much less frequently.