Monday, September 21, 2009

If it Makes You Happy...

Missed at the time: an experiment to see what makes us happy, by psychologist Richard Wisemen. 26000 people took part, and tried 4 different exercises, plus a control group who were just asked to think about the previous day.

People who were asked to relive a happy memory scored 15 per cent better than the control group on the mood questionnaire at the end of the test. Those who thought about an aspect of their lives for which they were grateful scored 8 per cent above the control group. Those who forced their face into a smile did 6 per cent better. The surprise was found in the group asked to perform small acts of kindness, such as giving a small gift or complimenting a friend. While their mood also improved, their scores went up by 9 per cent less than the control group

tie-in website here, which explains a bit more. Not sure whether that's good news or not: does it give the lie to claims that altruistic acts are simply self-gratifying (because they make us feel good, and that's why we do them), or is it bad news that self-centred routes to happiness are more effective than those centred on others?

The overall finding though, must be that reflecting on what's going on is good for you - whether you're thinking about the previous day, acting in the opposite spirit to your mood, consciously thinking of others, or identifying things to be thankful for. The unreflected life is not only not worth living, it's also more miserable.

via Christian Research's monthly research bulletin, available from

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