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Psychological Foundations of Happiness - Part II

Friendship and social relations

According to Argyle (2004), social relations have a very great effect on happiness and other aspects of health, and it might be the greatest single cause. In other studies, some evidences have been represented based on this fact that marriage and family life has the strongest effect on satisfaction and happiness. Being with friends is one of the major sources of pleasure. Helping others when distressed causes a friendship experience, which is a positive source of excitement (Batson, 1987). It was found that adults have more attention to others' needs than their own needs in close relations (Clark & Reis, 1988). Many studies have shown that in o.3 to 0.4 levels, satisfaction of being with friends have a correlation with satisfaction of life and happiness. Close friends are a particular source of happiness. Weiss (1973) found that people do need a friendly relation and a network of relations to avoid loneliness. Close friends are probable similar in attitudes, beliefs and interests. These similarities and sharing in one another's viewpoints causes their self-esteem to be improved. Social support from friends affects people physically and psychologically. Ross and Mirowsky showed that social support leads to a decrease in depression. Those who have relations with people are less affected by stress and they try more actively to cope or adjust with their problems (Crandall, 1984). Social relations have a strong effect on health and mortality (death rate); these relations increase or improve health and decrease mortality (death rate).

In a recent survey, more than 60 percent of British adults claimed that their friendships were more important than career, money or even family. People with strong social support and intimate friendships visit the doctor less often (Hoggard, 2005, P. 50). Friendship is extremely valuable, and it is also one of the least expensive ways to be happy. People of all ages report the most positive moods over all when they are with friends. Research has shown that personal relationships contribute more to our mental and physical health than money, fame, conventional success or material possessions. On average, lonely people have shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives. On the other hand. happy people make the best friends. In addition, people with close, fulfilling friendships arc happier. In a 2005 study by the University of Adelaide in Australia it is found that keeping up with friends rather than family is the key to a longer life. A strong network of friends and confidents significantly improved longevity. Experts believe that this finding, could herald a new approach to later life, where friends band together in networks based on similar age and interests. Another study of 2800 men and women over the age of 65 showed that those with more friends had a lower risk of health problems. and they recovered faster if they did fall ill. Meanwhile, a Yale University study of 10,000 senior citizens over a live-year period showed that loners were twice as likely to die from all causes. A 2002 study conducted at the university of Illinois by Psychologist ED Diener and Martin Seligman found that the most salient characteristics shared by the 10 percent of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family, and commitment to spending time with them (Hoggard, 2005, PP. 51 & 54).

Some of our most intense and meaningful experiences are the result of family relationships. While individuality is very important to the developing adult, there are great opportunities for joy and growth that can be experienced within family life. In the overall aim of increasing happiness, the family is exceptionally important (Hoggard, 2005. P. 113).

Joining groups, participating, volunteering ... all these community activities score high on the pleasure scale, and through them comes trust in others. Andrew Mawson says that as people become involved with others and do things together, they come to care about them. So they do same good for other and improve their own world at the same time (Hoggard, 2005, P. 172). The American psychologist ED Diener and Martin Seligman investigated individuals who ranked in the top percent of consistently very happy people. Their most striking finding was that very happy people were highly connected. Compared to averagely happy or unhappy people. they had stronger and richer personal relationships. They were also more sociable, more extroverted, and more agreeable. Good relationships may not be sufficient by themselves to make a happy person. because other things matter as well, but they are usually necessary (Martin. 2006. P. 74).

Personal relationships, especially the close ones, are enormously important for happiness; they contribute more than money, fame, conventional success, material possession. intelligence or even health. Psychological research has found that individuals who are generally inclined to assume the best of other people, and therefore to trust in them, tend to be happier than those whose inclination is to be suspicious and distrustful (Martin. 2006, PP. 80- 81). By and large, happy people do not spend their time thinking about themselves and dwelling on their own feeling. Rather, their attention tends to he focused outwards on the world around them. The findings from the research generally confirm that outward focus is associated with happiness and mental health, including lower rates of depression. Among other things, individuals who arc concerned about other people and not just themselves, are less affected by people, and not just themselves, are less affected by' stress. Studies have found that elderly people, whose personal goals and aspirations revolve around an interest in the well-being of others, are usually happier than those who arc concerned mostly with looking after themselves (Martin, 2006, PP. 60-61).

Close relationships, more than personal satisfaction or one's view of the world as a whole, are the most meaningful factors in happiness. If you feel close to other people. you are four times as likely to feel good about yourself than if you do not feel close to anyone. (Magen, Birenbaum, and Pery 1996: cited in Niven, 2000)

If you want to know if people are happy, do not ask them how much money they have in the bank. Do not ask how large their take-home salary is. Ask them about their friends. (Niven, 2000)

Relationships are built on mutual appreciation, and there is no better way to show that appreciation than to tell someone how much you care.

Researchers at the University of Houston have studied the question of why we do not tell people how important they are to us. One area they studied was reaction to sad events like funerals.

One subject, Bill, lost a close family member recently. Some of Bill's friends sent sympathy cards, some sent flowers, some sent notes, some told him they were there for him, and some did nothing.

Why did some of his friends not say anything?

Perhaps they thought that telling others 'we care' means being vulnerable. For these people, relationships may be more of a competition than a celebration, and competitions arc premised on strength, power, and position.

- Researchers have cautioned that we do not win at relationships; we win by having relationships (Niven, 2000).

A research on unemployed adults has found that the length of unemployment was less important to a person's self-esteem than the amount of social support received from parents, family members, and friends. (Lackovic-Grgin and Dekovic 1996; cited in Niven, 2000)

Even if you are right, there is nothing to be gained from letting yourself become adversarial with your loved ones. Remember how much more important these people are to you than is the issue you are talking about. (Niven, 2000)

As family members scatter across the country, it becomes easy to forget to include them in your thoughts and in your time. Keep up the contact; share with your family the news of your life. They want to know, and you will feel better if your bond is maintained. (Niven,2000)

Studies that examine the importance of family to senior citizens as compared to adults not yet entering middle age show family relationships to be an equally crucial component of life satisfaction for both age groups.- (O'Connor 1995; cited in Niven, 2000)

We no longer live in a time when people know all their neighbors and consider them to be friends. A shocking number of people have never had a conversation with their neighbors, and some could not pick them out of a lineup. Introduce yourself, or invite your neighbor over for coffee. Neighbors arc not a great potential source of friendship; they make us feel more comfortable in our homes, where most of us spend much of our time. (Niven, 2000)

Greater community interaction can increase happiness by almost 30 present, (Sugarman 1997; cited in Niven, 2000).

Goodness

Doing good also makes us feel good. We establish deep interpersonal relationships and empathy for others, and also have the perfect opportunity to practice flow activities. Those things we enjoy and that really take us out of our selves. Scientists agree that being kind to others triggers a cascade of positive effects. It makes us feel generous and capable, and gives us a greater sense of connection with others. In addition, when we do good deeds, we are helping more than just the recipient; we arc helping everybody. Of course, it feels good to be on the giving end. but psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests that people witnessing others performing good deeds also benefit: they experience an emotion called 'elevation'. He explains that we get this feeling when we see people behave honorably or act heroically, or when we witness someone show gratitude or help someone else. And when we feel elevated. it makes us more open and considerate, and more loving towards humanity (Hoggard, 2005, P. 173),

People who compromise what they believe in to satisfy their goals wind up dissatisfied with their accomplishments. If you do not believe yourself to be moral, satisfaction is unattainable. (Niven, 2000)

Being happy and being moral buttress each other. People, who feel they lack morals, report they are half as likely to feel happy compared to those who feel they are moral. (Garrett 1996 (Panos 1997; cited in Niven, 2000)

Giving help is a win-win situation. So pay attention to your surrounding and offer the help that you can. It could be as simple as making a habit of holding the door open for the person coming in behind you. It is a gesture of friendliness that makes another person feel better and makes you feel good about yourself. (Niven, 2000)

Life satisfaction was found to improve 24 percent with the level of altruistic activity. (Williams, Haber, Weaver, and Freeman 1998; cited in Niven, 2000)

Money and income

Argyle (2004) says that some researches have reported a very little relationship between income and happiness. In developed countries, there is a week correlation between wealth and happiness. This correlation is more in poorer countries. Considering this fact that we spend money for those things, which we are interested in, and since we think that it is money that causes pleasure for us, it is wrongly, supposed that happiness roots in money. However, other causes of happiness (such as love, more recreation positive attitudes, choosing goals) are less expensive or are free. In addition, some of them cause good income and earnings as well. Making people and countries wealthy has a very little effect on their happiness, although very poor persons and those who live in very little (poor) countries are less happy than those who have a better financial situation.

Money is riot even one of the six key factors now scientifically established to affect happiness most: mental health, satisfying and secure work, a secure and loving private life, a safe community. freedom and moral values. Over the past two decades, an increasing body of social-science and psychological research has shown that there is no significant relationships between how much money a person earns and whether he or she feels good about life. A time magazine poll reinforced this view by finding that money ranked 14th as a major source of happiness for its readers. Wealth is like health: its absence breeds misery, but having it does not guarantee happiness. Being in chase of money rather than meaning in life is a formula of discontent. Money generally makes us unhappy and dissatisfied, especially when we compare our own income with that of others. Yes, richer people, in such a case, may be happier -not because of the absolute size of their wealth. but because they have more than other does people do. And the wealth gap harms the rest of us. Income rivalry makes those left behind more miserable than it makes the winners extra happy. However, it should also he noted that the winners compare themselves with those ones who are wealthier than they are. People judge wealth relatively rather than absolutely. Competition for money and status is thus a zero-sun game: and the more opportunities there are for comparison-rankings, league tables, and advertising, the greater the dissatisfaction will be. Rich people with a history of mental illness are up to three times more likely to kill themselves than those with less money. According to Seligman, an American positive psychologist, "people who value money more than the other goals are less satisfied with their income and with their lives as a whole" (Hoggard, 2005, PP.64-71)

Happiness is much more a product of psychological wealth than material wealth. Money and fame are clearly no guarantees of happiness. Money does, of course, have some bearing on happiness. Whilst it may not add much to the happiness of people who are already well off, it does make a difference to people who have very little. A basic minimum amount of wealth provides a crucial bulwark against many sources of stress and unhappiness. Possessing sufficient money means not having to worry about food or shelter.

Material wealth is not a basic human psychological need whereas, for example, being connected with other people is. A more searching explanation as to why money buys relatively little happiness in wealthy nations rests on three psychological processes, each of which dilutes the psychological benefits of rising wealth. These processes are habituation ('the shine wears off). rising aspirations ('the more you have, the more you want"), and social comparison ('keeping up with the Donets'). The pursuit of fame, like the pursuit of wealth, is more often a recipe for unhappiness. Researchers have found that children and adults whose main aspirations in life centre around money, fame, or their Own physical appearance tend to have poorer mental health than those who arc more concerned with intrinsic goals like developing close relationships or helping others (Martin. 2006, PP. 144-156).

has surprisingly little lasting impact on happiness. Acquiring more money or possessions can make us feel better for a while, but the rise in mood tends to be modest and short-lived. We soon get used to what we have and our expectations rise, leading us to want ever more. More importantly, the process of trying to acquire wealth can actually make us less happy if it gets in the way of things that really do matter, such as personal relationships or a sense of put-pose and meaning. There is good evidence that highly materialistic people are less happy on average than those who have other priorities in life (Martin, 2006, PP.68).

We spend so much time chasing dollars, worrying about dollars, and counting dollars. It may surprise you to learn that satisfaction with life is no more likely among the rich. (Niven, 2000)

A study of life satisfaction looked at twenty different factors that might contribute to happiness. Nineteen factors did matter, and one did not. The one factor that did not matter was financial status. (Hong and Giannakopoulos 1995; cited in Niven, 2000)

Work

According to Argyle (2004), those who lost their jobs, became less happy. Unemployed persons feel boredom, have a little self-esteem, sometimes become angry, and sometimes emotional indifference appears in them. Unemployed persons were fewer members of recreational groups, less exercised, less associated with others, thus enjoyed less social support, and had more passive recreations for 5 hours in a day (Gershuni, 1994).

Work has a huge bearing on our happiness. Work offers far more than money. A satisfying job can bring structure and meaning to life, along with mental and emotional stimulation. This is true for those engaged in unpaid work, such as caring for their children or elderly relatives, as it is for the highest-earning investment banker. After basic needs are met, pay has surprisingly little influence on job satisfaction. A 2004 report published by the learning skills council clearly showed that happiness is more important to workers than money. It also revealed that 93 percent of teenagers agreed that doing something they enjoy is more important than making money (Hoggard, 2005, PP.72 & 76).

We are generally happier when actively engaged in some reasonably challenging task, rather than passively witnessing other people's experiences on a TV screen. Happy people spend at least some of their time engaged in meaningful and satisfying activities (Martin, 2006, pp.53).

Find something to do, because the feeling that we have too much to do is much more pleasing than the feeling that we have nothing to do. (Niven,2000)

In studies of college students, those with more demanding schedules were 15 percent more satisfied with life. Despite the more demanding schedules, the individuals studied did not experience any more stress than those with less to do. (Bailey and Miller 1998; cited in Niven,2000)

At its best, work gives us a sense of purpose and enhances our appreciation of our life outside of the workplace. Appreciate all that your job gives you, and help you appreciate what really matters. (Niven, 2000)

A research on over 1,500 mothers found that working outside the home increased life satisfaction 5 percent and contributed to a feeling of equality in the family. (Rogers 1996; cited in Niven, 2000)

Exercise

Hills and Argyle (1998) found that the individuals, who were members of athletic clubs, got more and better scores in the Oxford happiness inventory as compared with those who were not members of these clubs (Argyle, 2004).

Doctors increasingly prescribe exercise as part of wider treatment for mental illnesses, such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Physical activity plays a role in establishing and maintaining a positive mood and self-esteem. It also improves social integration and decreases anger. It is less passive than popping a pill, and makes us feel that we are regaining control of our life. Researches among young of fenders, people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, and those diagnosed with schizophrenia suggest that they benefit too. Exercise can relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and promote restful sleep. Scientist has found that cognitive functioning (mental ability) in the elderly improves with exercise (Hoggard, 2005. PP.156-157).

Physical activity is an important contributor to health and happiness. People who regularly take physical exercise are usually happier as well as physically healthier than those who spend their days sitting at a desk (Martin, 2006, P. 109).

People, who exercise, whether that involves an intense workout or just a regular long walk, feel healthier, feel better about themselves, and enjoy life more. (Niven, 2000)

A research on physical activity finds that exercise increases self-confidence, which in turn strengthens self-evaluations. Regular exercise, including brisk walks, directly increases happiness 12 percent, and can indirectly make a dramatic contribution to improving self-image. (Fontane 1996; cited in Niven, 2000).

Sleep

Sleep is not just a biological necessity; it is a neglected source of pleasure. It offers us refuge from pleasant and unpleasant life events. Humans are not built to work at night and sleep by day, but many do. Tired people are less emotionally resilient and often feel 'out of touch' with what is going on in their lives. In extreme cases, sleep deprivation can lead to feelings of persecution and paranoia, depression, weight gain, impaired performance and damaged social relationships. We can survive for longer without food than sleep (Hoggard, 2005, P. 149). If one wants to be happy and healthy then she or he must have a sufficient quantity and quality of sleep and at the right times (Martin, 2006, P. 108).

Do not skimp on sleep. A full night's rest is fuel for the following day. Rested people feel they work better and are more comfortable when the day is over. wen, 2000)

Quality and quantity of sleep contribute to health, wellbeing, and a positive outlook. For those who sleep less than eight hours, every hour of sleep sacrificed results in an 8 percent less positive feeling about the day (Pilcher & Ott, 1998; Panos, 1997; cited in Niven, 2000).

Adapted from the book: "Foundations of Happiness"

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