Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Posts Tagged ‘happiness

Trying to be happier: counter-productive?

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Interesting post:

Are you happy? Well don’t try to be happier; you might become less happy. That is the gist of a multi-cultural study published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study by University of Virginia psychology professor Shigehiro Oishi and colleagues at three other institutions found that, on average, European-Americans claim to be happy in general – more happy than Asian-Americans or Koreans or Japanese – but are more easily made less happy by negative events, and recover at a slower rate from negative events, than their counterparts in Asia or with an Asian ancestry. On the other hand, Koreans, Japanese, and to a lesser extent, Asian-Americans, are less happy in general, but recover their emotional equilibrium more readily after a setback than European-Americans.

“We found that the more positive events a person has, the more they feel the effects of a negative event,” Oishi said. “People seem to dwell on the negative thing when they have a large number of good events in their life.

“It is like the person who is used to flying first class and becomes very annoyed if there is a half-hour delay. But the person who flies economy class accepts the delay in stride.”

… The researchers found that the European-Americans needed nearly two positive events (such as getting complimented or getting an A) to return to their normal level of happiness after each negative event, such as getting a parking ticket or a lower grade than expected. The Koreans, Japanese and Asian-Americans generally needed only one positive event to make up for each negative event.

Oishi said that people who become accustomed to numerous positive or happy events in their life are more likely to take a harder fall than people who have learned to accept the bad with the good. And because negative events have such a strong effect when occurring in the midst of numerous positive events, people find it difficult to be extremely happy. They reach a point of diminishing returns.

This is why the extreme happiness people may feel after buying a new car or a house, or getting married, can be rapidly diminished when the payments come due or the daily spats begin. It becomes a problem of ratio, or perspective.

“In general, it’s good to have a positive perspective,” Oishi said, “But unless you can switch your mindset to accept the negative facts of everyday life — that these things happen and must be accepted — it becomes very hard to maintain a comfortable level of satisfaction.”

His advice: “Don’t try to be happier.”

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Mental Health, Science

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Good news for your future

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This has certainly been true for me:

The correlation is pretty clear: the older we get, the happier we become.

Only in the last decade have researchers begun to measure happiness across the life span and, in doing so, try to understand why older people tend to be so content.The explanation doesn’t appear to be biological — some chemical in the brain that mellows us just when all those plump neurons needed for thinking and memory are shriveling up. Rather, most scientists now think that experience and the mere passage of time gradually motivate people to approach life differently. The blazing-to-freezing range of emotions experienced by the young blends into something more lukewarm by later life, numerous studies show. Older people are less likely to be caught up in their emotions and more likely to focus on the positive, ignoring the negative.

I also wonder if the increased happiness of older people might also be the result of not having kids around anymore. As Daniel Gilbert notes, “The only known symptom of the empty-nest syndrome is increased smiling. Careful studies of how women feel as they go about their daily activities show that they are less happy when taking care of their children than when eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television.” According to the self-reports of parents, looking after the kids is only marginally better than mopping the floor.

Final thought: are older people less vulnerable to status anxiety?

Written by Leisureguy

18 October 2007 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Sensible life-choices

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The Simple Dollar gives one example of a sensible life choice. Remember: you get the one life, so far as we know, so you should take some care to make sure you’re enjoying it.

Sometime in the last month, one of my friends quit his job as an actuary for a large insurance company. He’s single, has a Ph. D. in mathematics, and no debt at all. He quit for one reason and one reason alone. I’ll let him tell it to you:

I got tired of going home every night mentally exhausted and sitting in front of the TV playing Xbox. It’s what I did almost every night, without a weekend. I made a lot of money but I had no life to do anything at all. My job ate all of my energy.

What’s he doing now? He took a night shift at a local factory where he’s driving a forklift. Half of his time, he just sits on the forklift waiting for a new load to pick, and so he’s started reading a lot of the classics. He makes $11 an hour, far, far less than he was making as an actuary, but good enough for him to live on especially considering he banked almost all of his income from his actuarial work.

You know what? I applaud him. I think it was a brilliant move for his life and an excellent response to what I call professional exhaustion.

Here’s why I think it was a good move.

First, before he quit, he became debt free. He paid off his car, all of his student loans, and his townhouse. He funneled almost 60% of his income over his handful of years as an actuary into becoming debt free, so now he owns his residence, his automobile, and his education.

Second, he made an effort to always live far below his income level. The only item I saw him splurge on in the last few years was an XBox 360, which he buys a new game for roughly once a month. With his job switch, he claims he probably won’t buy a new game for a very long while, as now he has the energy and freedom to pursue other things … which leads to the third reason.

Third, his job was killing him. He was constantly stressed out and burnt out on everything. He had some severe stomach issues, looked like death warmed over most of the time, and also looked completely exhausted, too. His job was literally eating him alive – and no matter how much you’re getting paid, no job is worth that.

Finally, he has a lot of energy, intelligence, and value that can be used more productively elsewhere. He has a seemingly unstoppable amount of energy now, and he’s directing it into starting a business that he’s passionate about during the day, using some of his saved money to seed the work. Plus, he’s also looking at running for a few local political offices.

Yes, he may have watched his salary get reduced by (at least) 70% and he may have also lost some benefits, but his life is much happier now and that, my friends, is the key to life.

So what can you do if you find yourself professionally exhausted?

First, start living seriously frugal. Driving a Lexus to the steak house and drowning your sorrows in a fistful of $20 drinks isn’t going to cut it if you want to be free. Start making your own food and stop spending money frivolously. Minimize every bill you have.

Next, pay off all of your debts. Once you get in the routine of living frugally, it will be much easier to pay off your debts as you’ll have a surfeit of money. Channel all of it into debt elimination.

Then, build up an emergency fund. After all your debts are gone, save up a few months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account so that when you quit, it’s not disastrous.

While you’re saving, figure out what you actually want to be doing. What drives your passion? I have a friend who works as an auto mechanic, for example. He also happens to be one of the most intelligent and driven people I’ve ever met, and he’s on the verge of opening up his own shop. He spends almost all of his time at the shop, but he’s crackling with energy and happiness each time I see him. Why? He’s found what he loves. Spend some time finding what you love, then go for it. Even if it means starting off as an auto mechanic at a local car repair shop.

Remember, your life is not your job. Your job is just a way to pay for your life.

Over the past week or so, The Simple Dollar’s been running a series of posts on the book Your Money or Your Life, which provides a step-by-step method of getting back on financial and life-choice track.

Written by Leisureguy

14 October 2007 at 9:49 am

How to connect with nature

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Pick the Brain today has a list of ways to enjoy life (see below). The only problem is that it’s not explained how to do some of the things. For example, “connect with nature” is good advice, but exactly how to do you do that? How do you break through the wall between you and nature that makes you an unattached observer, just looking at it with no feeling of connection?

Joanna Field, in her marvelous book A Life of One’s Own, describes a variety tactics for breaking down the barrier. I highly recommend the book to those who would enjoy being happy.

In The Magic of Starting Small, I made the point that it is your days that define your life. In this article, I want to challenge the common perception that it is only possible to enjoy your leisure time. In particular, this article is targeted at the professional stuck in the 9 to 5 grind who longs for the weekend and, in the process, has given up on trying to find pleasure in the ordinary experiences we have every day.

Appreciate Beauty
Each day we come across beauty in a number of shapes and forms. It’s a shame, then, that many people have become so accustomed to this beauty that it largely goes unappreciated. I suggest looking again at the people, plants, gadgets, and buildings (to name but a few examples) around you and taking a moment to appreciate what makes them so special.

Connect With Nature
Nature is an amazing healer for the stresses and strains of modern life. Eating lunch in the park, attending to a vegetable garden in your backyard, or watching the sunset are just a few simple ideas for how you can enjoy the outdoors on a daily basis.

e. e. cummings once said “the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” How very true. Never be too busy to laugh, or too serious to smile. Instead, surround yourself with fun people and don’t get caught up in your own sense of importance.

Have Simple Pleasures
A good cup of coffee when I first wake. Time spent playing with my 8 month old son. Cooking a nice meal in the evening. These may not seem terribly exciting, but they are some of the simple pleasures I enjoy in life. If you slow down for just a moment and take the time to appreciate these ordinary events, life becomes instantly more enjoyable.

Connect With People
In so many ways, it is our relationships with people that give us the most happiness in life. Perhaps, then, the best way to enjoy your work more is not to get a raise or a promotion, but rather to build rewarding relationships with your co-workers.

There is a strong link between learning and happiness. Given this, there is no excuse not to be stimulating your brain and learning something new each day. My favorite way to find time for learning is to make the most of the commute to and from work. Audiobooks and podcasts are great for this purpose.

Rethink Your Mornings and Evenings
Are the mornings a mad rush for you to get out the door? Do you switch off the TV at night and go straight to bed? I have personally experienced the profound benefits of establishing a routine in the morning and evening. For example, in the morning you may choose to wake an hour earlier and spend the time working on yourself, whether it be reading, writing or exercising. In the evening, consider spending some time just before bed reviewing your day or in meditation.

Celebrate Your Successes
During a normal day we are sure to have some minor successes. Perhaps you have successfully dealt with a difficult customer, made a sale, or received a nice compliment for your work. These aren’t events worth throwing a party for, but why not take a moment to celebrate your success? Share the experience with someone else, reward yourself with a nice lunch, or just give yourself a mental pat on the back.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2007 at 11:19 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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From David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:34 am

Be happier, with what you have

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Good post from today:

“There are two ways to increase your wealth. Increase your means or decrease your wants. The best is to do both at the same time.”Benjamin Franklin

Misery shouldn’t be the price for ambition. Somewhere I believe many people got the idea that to want more, you have to be dissatisfied with what you have now. Believing this, your choice is either to dampen your passions or become miserable with what you have.

I think this is a false dichotomy. You can be satisfied and ambitious. And while many self-help books have covered the topic of ambition, fewer cover the idea of becoming immensely satisfied with what you’ve already got.

Beyond affirmations and beliefs, I think there are some practical tips to do this. Engineering your daily life can be a great way to maximize your current fulfillment. Best of all, it isn’t incredibly difficult to do. Here are some tips I’ve found useful in becoming happier with where I am:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life

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