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It seems that every day there’s a new study linking happiness to something, such as modern technology, forms of exercise, or quality of sleep. And yet still most of us feel we could be happier and wonder what we can do to achieve contentment. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans suffer from a diagnosed mental health disorder and one in 10 Americans are on antidepressants—even while studies raise concerns about the safety of antidepressants.
Sometimes it helps simply to keep things in perspective. Here are some common myths about happiness, along with findings from scientific research that should help you take a reality check.
Myth: Debauchery and pleasure will bring you happiness.
Fact: Sure, you feel happy while indulging in fun activities, but the blissful feelings tend to last only as long as the experience. The key to prolonging those feelings doesn’t lie in more pleasure seeking, but rather in the common phrase “random acts of kindness.” Acts of compassion, such as volunteering, can help people realize their true potential and self-worth, which often leads to a happier self. Biologically, our moods are elevated when our bodies release serotonin endorphins, which can prompt even more generous behavior. Some studies even suggest that the mere thought of helping others could create feelings of joy by stimulating the mesolimbic pathway of the brain, the area of the brain responsible for reward recognition. Of course, actually engaging in charitable acts is likely to have an even greater impact on one’s happiness.
Myth: Money can’t buy you happiness.
Fact: This is partially a myth; obviously not all who are wealthy are happy. Yet while money can’t directly buy happiness, it can buy things that contribute to happiness.
Undoubtedly, financial struggles can bring unhappiness and stress. So can health concerns and job insecurities, both of which can be eased with a monetary safety net. One study found that happiness rises as income reaches $75,000 a year, but doesn’t increase measurably above that level and decreases the more it falls below that level. If finances have you feeling down, look for small changes that will have a positive effect on your financial concerns. Dwelling on your income level or amount of debt won’t help it disappear, so it’s better to focus on small positive steps towards change.
Myth: I’ll be happy as soon as…..
Fact: We all have something to finish that sentence; “I’ll be happy as soon as I find a partner,” “lose 20 pounds,” “get the promotion,” “move to a new city…” the list is endless. This is referred to as the arrival fallacy, or belief that there is a destination for which happiness will suddenly arrive. True lasting happiness is dependent on your behavior and attitudes, and while attaining short term and long term goals can make you feel joyful, it’s similar to the feeling you have with “debauchery” happiness. That feeling passes and yet another arbitrary target of happiness will likely emerge.