Twenty Surprising Facts About Happiness

happy kid

A lot of research has been done on the psychology of happiness in the past fifty years. Understanding what makes most people happier in their lives is an important step to making your own life happier.

Here are 20 facts about happiness you may find surprising.

1. Your genes and family upbringing account for only half of your happiness levels.

2. Only 10 percent of your happiness comes from external circumstances.

3. Your outlook on life, and what you choose to do with your life accounts for 40 percent of your happiness levels. This includes your friendships, work, and participation in your community.

4. It gets easier as you age. A 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey showed ages 20-24 are sad for 3.4 days per month. Those aged between 65-74 are sad only 2.3 days per month

5. A mere 20 minutes of exercise, three days each week will increase your happiness by 10 to 20 percent after six months.

6. The happier you are, the more antibodies your body generates – up to 50 percent more, in fact.

7. In the United States, the number of people with clinical depression is 3 to 10 times more common than it was for their grandparents at the same age.

8. Happy people generally earn more than unhappy people.

9. Women are unhappiest in their life around the age of 37; men around the age of 42.

10. Dancing increases happiness.

11. Sports facilities and community centres increase a community’s overall happiness.

12. Money buys happiness. Those who can afford to have their basic material needs taken care of are happier than those who cannot.

13. Money does not buy happiness. After having your basic material needs met, additional money does not have any impact on your levels of happiness.

14. People in relationships are usually happier than people who are single.

15. Happier people are more likely to retain relationships.

16. Education and intelligence do not make you more happy than anyone else.

17. Happiness has a fragrance. Clinical experiments on body odour have proved your scent changes between when you are stressed or happy

18. The more you hug your children, the happier they will be as adults.

19. The most powerful way to increase your short-term feelings of happiness is to perform random acts of kindness to others, or to send a letter of gratitude to someone you care about. Five such acts in a week will increase your happiness for up to three months.

20. The most powerful way to increase your long-term feelings of happiness is to understand your strengths and talents, or life purpose, and to work on sharing those parts of yourself with others.

Photo by Arsel Ozgurdal

How the World Reads

how the world reads

If you don’t enjoy reading as much as I do, well you’re probably not reading this.

Not surprisingly, e-books have not made physical books outdated, nor will they any time soon. About three quarters of books being bought come in hardcover or paperback form, rather than digital.

According to Pew Research, in a survey of people who have read paper books in the past year, their primary enjoyment is ranked as follows:

  • 26% primarily enjoy learning, gaining knowledge, or new information
  • 15% enjoy escaping reality and immersing themselves in another world
  • 12% enjoy the entertainment value of reading, including the drama of good plot
  • 12% primarily read to relax and have some quiet time
  • 6% enjoy the variety of topics they can access in books
  • 4% said they most like the spiritual enrichment reading offers and expanding their worldview
  • 3% enjoy the mental challenge offered by books
  • 2% said their primary enjoyment comes from the physical properties of a book, including the texture and aroma.

Check out this great infographic from FeelGood.

How to Save Time and Money By Cutting Cable TV

girl watching tv

I’ve been living without cable for more than two years now. Have I missed it? Not in the least. Sure, I still have my favourite shows and when there’s breaking news, I can tune in right away.

Sometimes I have to wait a few hours to watch the most recent shows. But in most cases, I’d rather wait a few months to catch up on Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix without having to sit through any commercials. It’s hardly a sacrifice.

The most recent numbers, from 2015, show the average American was spending just under $100 each month on cable, up 39% since 2010. The cost of cable has regularly outpaced inflation by more than twice as much since 1995. In Canada, the numbers are about the same, give or take a few percentage points. Add a few specialty channels and your bill can easily exceed $2400 per year.

Digital Antenna

Those rabbit ears your parents or grandparents used to have sitting on top of their square TVs have been gone for a few years now. Today’s antennas are 100% digital and high-definition, just like your cable or satellite.

The price of a digital antenna is about $20 and there’s no monthly cost, because the signals are free. In fact, these are the same signals the cable companies get and then charge you for. The only catch is that your TV needs a digital receiver, but as long as your TV isn’t more than ten years old, it has one already – by law.

If you don’t know what local stations may be available to you, just enter your address or ZIP code in this FTC map showing all over-the-air TV signals. It will tell you the signal strength for each channel and even which direction you should point your antenna.

For Canadians, the CRTC doesn’t have such a user-friendly service, however a developer in Ottawa has created his own here. The map may not always work, but it provides a good list of local stations and where to point your antenna.

Personally, I only get five channels, but I live in an apartment with a tin roof and there’s a furnace between my TV and the majority of signals. If I bought a different antenna or just moved the TV to the other side of the room, I’d probably get twice as many if I cared to do so.

Netflix etc.

Netflix provides more movies and TV shows than you could possibly watch for just $10 a month. This isn’t a bad deal at all. Americans have a lot of other services to choose from, including HuluPlus, HBONow and Amazon Prime. In Canada, there’s CraveTV, which I tried for a month and after finishing Battlestar Gallactica and a couple of other shows, I cancelled because there just wasn’t anything I was interested in.

The best feature of these services is the absence of commercials. The average US drama is 43 minutes long without the commercials. So for an hour-long show, you are spending 28% of your time watching commercials or fast-forwarding through them. Think about that for a minute. If you watch just one show a day, that’s two hours of your week spent watching commercials.

cable vs netflix cost comparison

But What About Sports?

If you watch a lot of sports, cutting cable can get tricky because of the blackout rules. Last summer, I paid for a whole season of MLB and watched just about every Red Sox game for $80, which was a bargain if you calculate the cost per game. However, if I want to watch the second half of the NHL season, that would cost me $127, and I’d be blacked out of every home game for the two closest teams until the playoffs start.

Internet Access

If you are using Internet streaming services, you better have a good Internet service, ideally with unlimited monthly bandwidth. If you already have that, cutting out cable will save you money. Where I live, I can get fast fiber internet with unlimited bandwidth for about $100 each month.