The Math of Happiness and of Disaster

In the wake of the recent disaster in Japan, I would like to re-post an older story about the math of happiness. With 3,700 dead and over 6,700 still missing; hundreds or even thousands with a radiation exposure; 450,000 living in shelters in the freezing weather under snow, sleet and rain; and continuing aftershocks Japan needs our support. Please consider a donation and read below how helping others will make you happier.


The Math of Happiness

We've all heard that being optimistic, grateful and forgiving will make us happy. If you look in the mirror and still see a pessimistic, ungrateful or vengeful person in front of you, here are a couple of easy bits to improve your well-being.

Surround yourself with happy people.
A recent study conducted by Harvard University and the University of San Diego professors reports that each additional happy friend increases our probability of being happy by about 9%. For comparison, having an extra $5,000 in income increases the probability of being happy by about 2%. Therefore, two happy friends can make you as happy as $40,000, by increasing your chance of happiness by 18%. So, if you haven't received a holiday bonus this year, make up the difference by adding cheerful people to your circle of friends. And share your own happiness with your friends, or support them through hard times – their happiness will project back on you.

Spend money on others.
Not only moral support counts. Spending money on others (gifts and donations to charity) does bring us happiness, according to another scientific study from University of British Columbia and Harvard University. Giving other people even as little as $5 can lead to increased well-being for the giver. Additionally, people report greater happiness when spending money on others than when spending money on themselves.

Minimize your commute.
Commuting has been reported to be the least enjoyable activity in a survey performed by Princeton scientists, including the Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman. A separate European study found that if your trip takes an hour each way, you'd have to make 40% more in salary to be as 'satisfied' with life as a non commuter. If you are considering a relocation or contemplating a new job offer - weigh in the commute factor very seriously. A web tool that I created uses math to find the optimal home location to minimize your entire, combined household’s commute: http://www.optimalhomelocation.com/
On the other hand, if you are stuck with an hour commute each way – try to make the best of it. Many creative home business ideas come to people while they are driving.

Savor happy moments.
Most researchers agree that each of us has a baseline of happiness and our actual happiness curve snakes around this baseline. Happy life events bend the curve up and sad occasions push it down. Lets try to relish the “up” moments, increasing their magnitude and stretching their duration. Every achievement deserves a celebration. Be it progress at work, surviving a verbal wrestle with a teenager, entertaining your kids for the duration of a holiday week, or finishing home reorganization. Find a moment and treat yourself to a fancy cup of coffee, dinner with a friend or a shopping adventure. Don't wait too long, do it quickly before some set back overshadows the achievement and sends the happiness curve below the baseline.



Sooooo, trade the money for friendship, give generously, start working from home, and celebrate every little occasion – you will find yourself much happier and will see an optimistic, grateful and forgiving person in the mirror.

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