14 Myths About Happiness Debunked

Does money really buy happiness? Do happy people live longer? We set the record straight on the most common myths about what makes you happy.

Let’s be real, we’re all on the eternal quest to supposed ‘happiness’. The terms ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ are bandied about with little thought these days. But, we’re not talking about a happy hour or a crappy day – we’re talking about in general. Are you generally a happy person? It might be time to check your happiness pulse.

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The funny thing about happiness is that real and true happiness isn’t what you think. There are lots of preconceived notions and ideals about what it means or how it feels. However, the truth is, it’s actually simpler than modern life has led us to believe.

Below we debunk 14 common myths about happiness…you may even find you’ve been looking for happiness in the wrong place all along.

Money buys happiness – False

It’s true that finances are one of life’s biggest stresses. For this reason, people think money would solve all their problems. I mean, who hasn’t caught themselves day dreaming about winning lotto and their upgraded life overflowing with happiness?! In order to be happy you do need enough money to cover your basic needs: food, shelter and clothing. However, beyond that, getting more money isn’t going to make much of fa difference. Sure going on a holiday or a new car will make you feel happy but it’s temporary – it’s just short-lived joy. Studies of lottery winners show that after a relatively short period of time, they were no happier than before their win.

Happiness declines with age – False

Actually, you get happier as you get older, particularly past middle age. Research has discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods and avoid those that don’t. For instance, distancing themselves from friends who might bring them down or gaining the confidence to say “no” to things that don’t spark joy. With age, we also learn to look at the bigger picture and not get so caught up on the finer details.

Happiness Increases With Age

Getting older is something to look forward to – research says we get happier with age / Freepik

Happy people live longer – True

If you’re happy and you know it…you might outlive those who aren’t. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who had higher levels of optimism had a longer life span. They also had a greater chance of living past age 85. Happiness is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and decline in lung function.

Happiness is contagious – True

“Smile and the world smiles back at you” or so the saying goes – and it’s true! A study published in the British Medical Journal asserts that happiness is contagious. People who spend time around other happy people find that they themselves experience more positive emotions. So surround yourself with happy people or better yet be the happy person delivering positive energy to someone else!

Happiness is better for your health – True

This is 100% true. There is a ton of scientific evidence that suggests happiness has major health benefits. For starters, being happy promotes a healthy lifestyle. A study of more than 7,000 adults found that those with a positive well-being were 47 percent more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables than their less positive counterparts. Think about it – when you’re feeling down in the dumps you reach for foods that will comfort you not nourish you, like chocolate and ice cream.

Other studies have also found being happy may also help combat stress, boost your immune system, protect your heart and reduce pain.

Laughter is the best medicine – True

Happiness really is a built-in painkiller. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology observed a number of female patients suffering from chronic pain and arthritis. Amazingly, the study concluded that when those patients experienced happiness, excitement and laughter, their pain decreased significantly.

Happy people are successful – True

One trait that most successful people share is intrinsic happiness. They’re confident, optimistic, energetic and sociable. Contrary to popular belief, success doesn’t make you happy, it’s actually the other way around: happiness creates success. Happy people are also more likely to find success in their relationships, work and health.

Being in a relationship makes you happier – True

Of course this is only true of healthy relationships. Satisfying relationships make us happier and influence our long-term health. If you have a supportive partnership you’re more likely to make better decisions like exercising with your partner or eating healthy. Relationships also provide a consistent pillar of support for times of stress, which can make it easier to cope with and overcome adversity.

Social media creates a sense of community making you happier – False

We live in a completely different world now where we’re constantly connected digitally to our network of friends. In many ways it’s great but research concludes that mostly it’s not good news for your wellbeing. Social networking sites provide abundant social comparison opportunities like never before, which can make us feel unfulfilled and inadequate. People who spend the most time on these platforms describe themselves as having less self-esteem, fewer positive emotions and fewer true friendships than those who limit their time on social media.

Happy people have lots of sex – Mostly false

According to an article published in Time magazine, researchers have found that “sex once per week is the optimum amount for maximising happiness.” So yes there is benefits to getting it on aside from the obvious – but, before you go racing to the bedroom, beyond once a week it doesn’t make much difference.

Happiness isn’t a choice – False

Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” As it turns out, he was spot on. Researchers have found that our general happiness levels are about 50 percent genetic, 40 percent choice and only 10 percent circumstantial. By no means does it mean happiness is an easy choice though – sometimes you have to try really hard.

Happiness is a habit – True

Further to the above, happiness is a choice but it’s a choice you have to consistently make. Think it of it as a lifestyle. In the book Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar he says happiness is a ritual that must be created, identified, and maintained. If you stick with it, by day 30 you can say hello to your new healthy habit.

Smiling makes you happy – True

The act of a simple smile tricks your brain into feeling happy, spurring a powerful chemical reaction that can make you feel better – even faking it works. Facial muscles send messages that modify emotional areas of the brain, so stay away from botoxing your smile lines. Fun fact: smiling stimulates the feel-good areas of the brain more than chocolate and money.

Pets make you happy – True

Study after study has proven the positive effects pets have on our overall mental health. In addition to their unconditional love and loyalty without judgment, petting animals increases your levels of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”. This calms your nervous system, in turn relaxing you and soothing the soul. Dogs specifically make you happier as they keep you active and encourage you to be social. Walking your four-legged friend provides ample opportunity to meet new people and establish meaningful connections with others.  

Main image: Free People


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