New Definition of Happiness Can Be Applied to Finals Week

Everyone seeks happiness in different ways. But have you ever thought that the way that you are approaching your pursuit of happiness is scientifically wrong?

Recent studies have found that many people are actually looking for happiness in all of the wrong ways. There may indeed be ways to achieve greater happiness just by approaching it differently.

Although counterintuitive, setting grand goals such as “I want to get more involved” and “I want to help others” may not be the best way to go. Research has found that people who make these vague and broad goals for themselves are less happy than those who make more clear and achievable goals.

For example, people who say “I am going to volunteer at the soup kitchen this Friday” and then do this are more likely to be happy with what they have accomplished than those who say “I am going to volunteer more often.”

To-do lists are fun. Photo courtesy of Stacy Spensley/Flickr.

To-do lists make you happy
Photo courtesy of Stacy Spensley/Flickr

The reason for smaller goals leading to greater happiness is that a person, once accomplishing their goals, has a more tangible result for what they have achieved.

Being able to check things off of a list after they are completed adds a greater sense of fulfillment than setting more abstract goals that you cannot exactly “check-off” your list.

However, just because setting large goals in the short run does not lead to greater happiness at first does not mean that we should aim big. Researchers have found that it is important to divide up your larger goals into a bunch of smaller goals throughout the day so that you can physically see what has been accomplished.

So, in light finals coming up, in order to feel happier and more fulfilled, try to set more clear goals and lists, rather than saying “I am going to ace this test” or “I am going to study all day."

Selly Salah/Gavel Media.

Selly Salah/Gavel Media

In addition to setting goals to achieve happiness, paying attention to the type of activities that people do to achieve happiness proves to be important in creating lasting happiness.

While it is nice to sit around sometimes, watch your favorite rom-com and eat bowl of popcorn, this type of activity only leads to short-term happiness. Activities like volunteering --or acing your finals-- may be more tiring, but lead to more lasting happiness.

Studies show that people who seek happiness through volunteering and giving are less likely to show depressive symptoms over time than those people who find happiness in doing something for themselves, like watching TV.

All in all, the pursuit of happiness is something that most people strive for and there are scientifically proven ways that can enhance your chances of being happy for the long run.

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