Shockingly, These 7 Things Don’t Actually Make You Happy, According To Science
When most people picture happiness, they imagine themselves super rich, taking vacations all the time, living with their dream partner in a perfect home. However, it turns out that people tend to be wrong about what actually brings them satisfaction. There are a number of things that don't actually bring happiness, according to science, and becoming aware of them can help you refocus your goals to help you strive for the stuff that actually will fill your life with meaning.
"People tend to look too much on the outside and externally, when they should really be looking on the inside and internally," therapist Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT tells Bustle. "If people know their purpose, their why in life and who they truly are, then it makes it easier to bypass all the fancy things on the outside and look at things from a deeper level: How can I be helpful to others, how can I improve someone’s life for the better, how can I make someone’s day a little brighter?"
It's easy to get caught up in thinking we would have the perfect life if only all the stars aligned, but it's time to start cultivating happiness on the inside instead of searching for it in other, less-fulfilling places. Here are seven things that don't actually make you happy, according to science.
1. Buying Material Objects
"Fancy cars, designer handbags, a bigger house — while these may be enjoyable or fun to have, possessions aren’t what brings us happiness," Kristina Hallett, PhD, ABPP tells Bustle. "Focusing on acquiring things to prove your worth or to make you feel better doesn’t work, it just leaves you looking for more 'stuff' (and drains your bank account)." If you're going to spend your money, look for new, fun or challenging experiences — research shows this does increase happiness.
2. Having A Lot Of Money
Of course, having enough money to meet all your basic needs can improve your happiness, but getting "rich" won't exactly change much. "The research here has been clear that making over $75,000 a year does not buy you greater happiness," neuropsychologist Kimberly Miller, PhD tells Bustle. "In most areas, with this amount of annual income, you can afford the basics and anything more just becomes gravy for saving or spending. At very high income levels, people can become prone to social comparisons, causing unhappiness and self-doubt."
3. Being Famous
"Being famous sounds like a path to happiness, but often it’s a fast track to increased stress," says Hallett. "Lack of privacy is a common issue for the truly famous, but even mild fame (within a particular industry or area) can result in a decrease in happiness. Often people feel pressured to live up to expectations or perceptions related to their fame, and this can be extremely draining and difficult. Having confidence in your abilities and mastering self-doubt is a more effective way of maintaining happiness."
4. Living In The Big City Of Your Dreams
Many people dream of escaping their small town to go to the big city, but the reality is, living in a metropolitan city isn't the source of happiness for most people. "Research shows unhappiness increases with higher density cities," says Miler. "The arguments are that cities that are very dense and crowded, have extremely high cost of living — which leads to lower quality of life — that traffic and daily noise are constant, and crime and poverty are rampant. Further, although cities tend to attract creative and artistic individuals, some of these individuals may rank higher in neuroticism and introversion in the first place."
5. Scoring The "Hottest" Partner
You might imagine yourself with a picture-perfect partner, but dating someone with movie-star looks isn't going to bring you the satisfaction you envision. "Research actually shows that most people end up with a mate that is about comparable to themselves, attractiveness-wise," says Miller. "Although certainly this is not true in every single situation, it does make sense that that if you believe you and your partner are both equally attractive, you are probably going to have higher self-esteem than if you feel you rank lower in the looks department."
6. Long Vacations
Vacations can be much needed for your mental health, but you don't need an extended one to feel a greater sense of well-being. Studies show that a two-week vacation is just as gratifying as a week-long one, as all your memories start to blur together. Longer doesn't mean better, so make the most of your quick little getaways.
7. Having Lots Of Sex
Most people would assume that more sex would equal more happiness, but actually, that isn't always the case. Research out of Carnegie Mellon found that when couples doubled their sexual frequency, they reported less happiness, decreased sexual satisfaction, and reduced well-being. It turns out this is another case of quantity versus quality. Having sex when you're in the mood is more important than increasing the amount just to make it more frequent.
Some of these things might provide you some fleeting joy initially, but for long-lasting happiness, you'll want to look somewhere else.