TIME Sex/Relationships

Couples Who Do This Together Are Happier

A study shows that giggling in tandem is a good indicator the relationship's going to last.

Study after study has shown that laughing is good for the soul. But now we know something else: sharing giggles with a romantic partner keeps the lovey-dovey feelings going, according to a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.

Laura Kurtz, a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina, has long been fascinated by the idea of shared laughter in romantic relationships. “We can all think of a time when we were laughing and the person next to us just sat there totally silent,” she says. “All of a sudden that one moment takes a nosedive. We wonder why the other person isn’t laughing, what’s wrong with them, or maybe what’s wrong with us, and what might that mean for our relationship.”

Kurtz set out to figure out the laugh-love connection by collecting 77 heterosexual pairs (154 people total) who had been in a relationship for an average of 4 years. She and her team did video recordings of them recalling how they first met. Meanwhile, her team counted instances of spontaneous laughing, measured when the couple laughed together as well as how long that instant lasted. Each couple also completed a survey about their relational closeness.

“In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships,” she says. “We can refer to shared laughter as an indicator of greater relationship quality.”

It seems common sense that people who laugh together are likely happier couples, and that happier couples would have a longer, healthier, more vital relationship—but the role that laughter plays isn’t often center stage. “Despite how intuitive this distinction may seem, there’s very little research out there on laughter’s relational influence within a social context,” Kurtz says. “Most of the existing work documents laughter’s relevance to individual outcomes or neglects to take the surrounding social context into account.”

Kurtz noted that some gender patterns emerged that have been reported by previous studies. “Women laughed more than males,” she notes. “And men’s laughs are more contagious: When men laugh, they are 1.73 times more likely to make their partner laugh.”

There’s also evidence that laughing together is a supportive activity. “Participants who laughed more with their partners during a recorded conversation in the lab tended to also report feeling closer to and more supported by their partners,” she says. On the flip side, awkward chuckles, stunted grins and fake guffaws all are flags that there may be something amiss.

This harkens back to a classic psychological experiment conducted in 1992, where 52 couples were recorded telling their personal, shared histories. The team noted whether the couples were positive and effusive or were more withdrawn and tired in telling these stories, then checked in with the couples three years later. They saw a correlation in how couples told stories about their past and the success of their partnership: the more giddy the couple was about a story, the more likely they remained together; the less enthusiastic the couple was, the more likely the couple’s partnership had crumbled.

While there are cultural differences in laughter display—Kurtz says that Eastern cultures tend to display appreciation with close-mouthed smiles, not the heartier, toothy laughs that are more Western—there’s no question that laughter is important. “Moments of shared laughter are potent for a relationship,” she says. “They bring a couple closer together.”

MONEY customer satisfaction

Car Buyers Haven’t Been This Unhappy In A Decade

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More cars are selling, but the buyers aren't happy.

Even though car sales are up, reaching towards totals not seen since before the credit crisis, all of those new car owners aren’t exactly happy with their purchases.

Owner satisfaction stood at 79 out of 100 points, down 3.7% from last year and the lowest score in a decade. Of the 27 brands tracked American Customer Satisfaction Index Automobile Report, 15 saw their satisfaction rating go down this year, according to NBC News.

A major reason for the drop in customer happiness? Recalls. There were a record 64 million recalls in 2014, led by the huge recall scandal at General Motors. Prices are also up, making it more difficult to meet customer expectations.

Foreign cars did better than American cars, with 77 percent of car models that received above-average satisfaction ratings being imports.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Parental Happiness Predicts If You’ll Have Another Kid

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Chev Wilkinson / Getty Images The happier a parent is after their firstborn, the more likely the child will have a sibling.

A study notes that baby number one affects parental satisfaction and, in turn, affects whether baby number two is in the horizon

It’s often said that happiness often dips for parents after the birth of a first child. The diaper changes, the middle-of-the-night wailing, the exhaustion—all this and more make for a not-so-blissful experience. Couple a crying infant with job stress and hormones, and you’ve got one crabby new parent.

And that crabbiness might mean baby won’t get a brother or a sister: New research from the Journal of Demography shows that how happy a brand-new parent acts as a pretty solid predictor of whether a couple decides to get pregnant again.

Mikko Myrskyla at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and his colleague, Rachel Marolis at the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Sociology, collected data from Germany’s Socio-Economic Panel Study, which included the former East and West Germanys (East Germany was added in 1991), foreigners, and immigrants between 1984 and 2010. From the survey, 2,016 people who had had first births were interviewed about their levels of life satisfaction—beyond the happiness of being a parent, Myrskala told TIME.

“We don’t ask parents about happiness with relationship to parenthood, because there is a strong implicit pressure to be happy,” Myrskala says. “If I go and ask a new parent these kinds of questions, they feel a pressure to put a positive picture of what a new parent is ‘supposed’ to feel.”

Having the first kid, the authors write, is a crash course in childrearing; having a second one, then, becomes a more informed decision. This can play out in a number of ways. Consider, for instance, the parents of a fuss-free newborn. The circumstance is likely to be seen as positive experience, making the new mom and dad more likely to have more kids. About 58% of parents who reported at least a three-point loss in happiness had a second child within 10 years of the first. But that shot up to 66% of parents who did not experience a dip in happiness.

There are some commanalities among parents who decide to go for baby number two and beyond. These individuals seem to have more life satisfaction around the time of the first child’s birth, and reported a smaller drop in happiness than parents who stuck with one kid. And there’s something about being older and wiser as a first-time parent: people who are over 30 and have a college education are more likely to be able to cope with the shock of an infant than younger, less educated couples, the study found.

While the study is focused on Germany—a country that has experienced economic and political upheaval along with a 2007 parental leave amendment that made paid leave “more Nordic”—Myrskala thinks the results are in keeping with other countries.

“What this suggests is that policymakers who are concerned about lower rates should pay attention to the wellbeing of new parents,” Myrskyla says, citing not only parental leave but also affordable kindergarten and childcare.

TIME psychology

10 Steps to a Happier Life, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

I went through a number of great books on happiness and pulled together ten research-based tips that can help build a happier life:

 

1) Cut the small talk. Discuss what matters.

Via Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology:

First, happier participants spent more time talking to others, unsurprising finding given the social basis of happiness. Second, the extent of small talk was negatively associated with happiness. And third, the extent of substantive talk was positively associated with happiness. So, happy people are socially engaged with others, and this engagement entails matters of substance.

(For more on how to be someone people love to talk to, click here.)

 

2) Have at least 5 friends you can discuss your problems with.

Via Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life:

“National surveys find that when someone claims to have five or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy.’

(For more on how to make friends and strengthen friendships, click here.)

 

3) Don’t just cheer people up. Celebrate their good news.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

The surprising finding is that the closest, most intimate, and most trusting relationships appear to be distinguished not by how the partners respond to each other’s disappointments, losses, and reversals but how they react to good news. Flourishing relationships have been revealed to be those in which the couple responds “actively and constructively”— that is, with interest and delight— to each other’s windfalls and successes… people who strove to show genuine enthusiasm, support, and understanding of their partner’s good news, however small— and did so three times a day over a week— became happier and less depressed.

(For more on how to avoid the four most common relationship problems, click here.)

 

4) Write down your hopes and dreams.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

…keeping a journal regularly for ten to twenty minutes per day, in which we write down our hopes and dreams for the future (e.g., “In ten years, I will be married and a home owner”), visualize them coming true, and describe how we might get there and what that would feel like. This exercise— even when engaged in as briefly as two minutes— makes people happier and even healthier.

(For more on how writing can help you overcome anxiety, tragedy or heartache, click here.)

 

5) Live a month like it’s your last.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

I’m currently conducting a one-month-long “happiness intervention” in which participants are instructed to live the month as if it’s their last month. Their instructions are not to pretend that they have a terminal disease but rather to imagine as fully and faithfully as possible that they are about to move a very long way from their jobs, schools, friends, and families for an indefinite period of time. Previous research hints that this exercise should prompt us to appreciate in a profound way what we are preparing to give up. When we believe that we are seeing (or hearing, doing, or experiencing) things for the last time, we will see (or hear, do, or experience) them as though it’s the first time.

(For more on what you can learn about happiness from ancient wisdom, click here.)

 

6) Know what makes everyone happy and everyone sad.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.

(For more on what the happiest people in the world do every day, click here.)

 

7) Join a group.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

The sociologist Ruut Veenhoven and his team have collected happiness data from ninety-one countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. He has concluded that Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, with Switzerland close behind… Interestingly enough, one of the more detailed points of the research found that 92 percent of the people in Denmark are members of some sort of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests. To avoid loneliness, we must seek active social lives, maintain friendships, and enjoy stable relationships.

(For more on how to never be frustrated again, click here.)

 

8) For a happier life, set goals.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression. According to Michael Argyle, simply having a long-term plan or goal gives people a sense of meaning in life. Progressing toward goals not only gives a purpose to life as a whole but also provides a structure and meaning to daily routines, strengthens social relationships, and helps us weather hard times.

(For more on what the most productive people do every day, click here.)

 

9) Optimism can save your life.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Within eight and a half years, half the men had died of a second heart attack, and we opened the sealed envelope. Could we predict who would have a second heart attack? None of the usual risk factors predicted death: not blood pressure, not cholesterol, not even how extensive the damage from the first heart attack. Only optimism, eight and a half years earlier, predicted a second heart attack: of the sixteen most pessimistic men, fifteen died. Of the sixteen most optimistic men, only five died. This finding has been repeatedly confirmed in larger studies of cardiovascular disease, using varied measures of optimism…

Men with the most optimistic style (one standard deviation above average) had 25 percent less CVD than average, and men with the least optimism (one standard deviation below the mean) had 25 percent more CVD than average. This trend was strong and continuous, indicating that greater optimism protected the men, whereas less optimism weakened them.

(For more on how to be optimistic, click here.)

 

10) Anticipating happiness will double your happiness.

Via Stumbling on Happiness:

In one study, volunteers were told that they had won a free dinner at a fabulous French restaurant and were then asked when they would like to eat it. Now? Tonight? Tomorrow? Although the delights of the meal were obvious and tempting, most of the volunteers chose to put their restaurant visit off a bit, generally until the following week. Why the self-imposed delay? Because by waiting a week, these people not only got to spend several hours slurping oysters and sipping Château Cheval Blanc ’47, but they also got to look forward to all that slurping and sipping for a full seven days beforehand. Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique for getting double the juice from half the fruit.

(For more on how to savor the good things and be happier, click here.)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s the Best Way to Make Tomorrow an Awesome Day

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Go back to that amazing first day

Pick an awesome first day: The first day you started a new job, opened a business, bought a new house, landed a huge customer, met your significant other…

Pick a first day when you felt incredibly excited. Pick a day when everything felt new and filled with promise and hope and potential and anticipation. Pick a day that truly felt like the start of a better, happier, and more fulfilling life.

Now remember how you felt that day. Bask in the glow of that memory. I’ll wait.

Done?

Now think about how you feel today.

Ouch. I’m guessing those wonderful feelings just disappeared. Today probably feels the same as yesterday, and tomorrow seems like just one more of a seemingly endless string of similar days stretching off into the distance.

What changed? You changed. You adapted.

But don’t feel bad. Adaptation is natural. When something good happens you feel happier for a while. Then you adapt to your new situation and return to your baseline “happy state.”

Buy a Porsche and for a little while you feel happier (and maybe a little smug)… but soon that new Porsche is just your same old car. Buy a new house and for a while you’re happier… but soon you adapt and your new house is just your same old house.

But wait! What if you bought a Lamborghini? Hey, now that would make you happy. And what if you bought a new house on the golf course… hey, now that would be awesome.

For a while.

We all naturally revise our expectations upwards, and when our expectations go up our level of happiness goes back down.

Research shows that where vacations are concerned the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation: Vacation anticipation boosts happiness for an average of eight weeks.

After the vacation, though, happiness levels quickly drop to baseline levels, typically within days. Soon the people who went on vacation aren’t any happier than the people who did not.

So do this: Think back to the first day you chose. Say it’s the day you opened your own business. You were excited and thrilled because finally — finally! — you got to start calling your own shots. For the first time in your life your professional success – and income – would only be capped by your skills, creativity, and work ethic.

Now think about today. Nothing has really changed. You still call your own shots. Your professional success is still only limited by your skills, creativity, and work ethic. You still don’t have a boss, still get to do what you love, still get to take chances and seize opportunities and work with people you enjoy.

Nothing has changed… except you. In reality, today is just like that first day.

You just see it differently.

And now do this: Step outside your office, workplace, or home. Think back to that first day. Picture yourself about to walk through the door. Remember how you felt. Remember your goals and dreams. Remember how thrilled you were to start what felt like a new life.

Then walk back inside. Look around.

Nothing has changed — except you.

So smile, nod to yourself, and go rock it like it’s the first day.

Because it is.

LinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn.

TIME psychology

We Need to Accept Our Failures

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Our resistance to thinking about failure is especially curious in light of the fact that failure is so ubiquitous. ‘Failure is the distinguishing feature of corporate life,’ writes the economist Paul Ormerod, at the start of his book Why Most Things Fail, but in this sense corporate life is merely a microcosm of the whole of life. Evolution itself is driven by failure; we think of it as a matter of survival and adaptation, but it makes equal sense to think of it as a matter of not surviving and not adapting. Or perhaps more sense: of all the species that have ever existed, after all, fewer than 1 per cent of them survive today. The others failed. On an individual level, too, no matter how much success you may experience in life, your eventual story – no offence intended – will be one of failure. You bodily organs will fail, and you’ll die. (Source: The Antidote.)

If failure is so ubiquitous you would think that it would be treated as a more natural phenomenon; not exactly something to celebrate but not something that should be hidden away either. In the book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman visits a ‘Museum of Failed Products’ and comes away with quite a few insights into our reluctance to accept, or even acknowledge, our less successful ventures.

By far the most striking thing about the museum of failed products, though, has to do with the fact that it exists as a viable, profit-making business in the first place. You might have assumed that any consumer product manufacturer worthy of the name would have its own such collection, a carefully stewarded resource to help it avoid repeating errors its rivals had already made. Yet the executives arriving every week … are evidence of how rarely this happens. Product developers are so focused on their next hoped-for-success – and so unwilling to invest time or energy in thinking about their industry’s past failures – that they only belatedly realize how much they need, and are willing to pay, to access (the museum of failed products). Most surprising of all is the fact that many of the designers who have found their way to the museum of failed products, over the years, have come there in order to examine – or, alternatively, have been surprised to discover – products that their own companies had created and then abandoned. These firms were apparently so averse to thinking about the unpleasant business of failure that they had neglected even to keep samples of their own disasters.

I’ve spoken about Burkeman’s book before. There is a great chapter on the flaws related to goal setting and another on the Stoic technique of negative visualisation but they all come back to the concept of turning towards the possibility of failure.

The Stoic technique of negative visualisation is, precisely, about turning towards the possibility of failure. The critics of goal setting are effectively proposing a new attitude towards failure, too, since an improvisational, trial-and-error approach necessarily entails being frequently willing to fail.

So what does it all mean? If avoiding failure is as natural as failure itself, why should you embrace it (or even attempt an Antifragile way of life).

… it is also worth considering the subject of failure directly, in order to see how the desperate efforts of the ‘cult of optimism’ to avoid it are so often counterproductive, and how we might be better off learning to embrace it. The first reason to turn towards failure is that our efforts not to think about failure leave us with a severely distorted understanding of what it takes to be successful. The second is that an openness to the emotional experience of failure can be a stepping-stone to a much richer kind of happiness than can be achieved by focusing only on success.

It’s almost jarring how simple and sensical that is, considering our aversion to failure.

Accepting failure is becoming more conversational, even if we’re a ways from embracing it. ‘Learning from our mistakes’ has become the new business mantra, replacing ‘being innovative.’ Although, I can see this quickly losing its shine when the mistake is idiotic.

Burkeman notes, it’s just too easy to imagine how the Museum of Failed Products gets populated (it is also worth noting that successful products have a lot to do with luck.)

Back in Ann Arbor, at the museum of failed products, it wasn’t hard to imagine how a similar aversion to confronting failure might have been responsible for the very existence of many of the products lining its shelves. Each one must have made it through a series of meetings at which nobody realised that the product was doomed. Perhaps nobody wanted to contemplate the prospect of failure; perhaps someone did, but didn’t want to bring it up for discussion. Even if the product’s likely failure was recognised … those responsible for marketing it might well have responded by ploughing more money into it. This is a common reaction when a product looks like it’s going to be a lemon, since with a big enough marketing spend, a marketing manager can at least guarantee a few sales, sparing the company total humiliation. By the time reality sets in, (Robert) McMath notes in What Were They Thinking?, it is quite possible that ‘the executives will have been promoted to another brand, or recruited by another company.’ Thanks to a collective unwillingness to face up to failure, more money will have been invested in the doomed product, and little energy will have been dedicated to examining what went wrong. Everyone involved will have conspired – perhaps without realising what they’re doing – never to think or speak of it again.

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking is an eye-opening look at how the pursuit of happiness is causing us to be more unhappy than ever.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

8 Powerful Things That Will Inspire You

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Eight ways to inspire yourself to get to the next level in life, with links to the research behind them:

  • To have meaning in your life you need a story. You need to reflect on how things could have been and why they turned out the way they did. Seeing that things had a direction and a purpose provides meaning.
  • Need something to help you act in line with your beliefs and values? To make sure you stay you? Buy a mirror.

For more on the best way to be both happier and more successful, click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME psychology

How to Help Others the Right Way

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

I’ve posted a number of times about how helping others makes you happier. But I know this leaves some people scratching their heads:

How much should I help others? How often? Will I be exploited? Will I end up resenting people I love if they don’t reciprocate?

We all know selfless givers who are taken advantage of and taken for granted. Nobody wants to feel like a sucker.

So this simple thing doesn’t seem so simple — and it feels safer to just be selfish no matter what fancy research and your conscience might tell you.

Adam Grant has a wonderful book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, which directly tackles this issue and provides some firm answers grounded in research. To help others the right way, give these tips a shot.

 

Constant Selfless Giving Is Not The Way

Being a martyr stresses you out and is actually bad for your health.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

Research shows that on the job, people who engage in selfless giving end up feeling overloaded and stressed, as well as experiencing conflict between work and family. This is even true in marriages: in one study of married couples, people who failed to maintain an equilibrium between their own needs and their partner’s needs became more depressed over the next six months.

 

Chunking Beats Sprinkling

Want to be happier? Do all your giving one day a week.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

The chunkers achieved gains in happiness; the sprinklers didn’t. Happiness increased when people performed all five giving acts in a single day, rather than doing one a day. Lyubomirsky and colleagues speculate that “spreading them over the course of a week might have diminished salience and power or made them less distinguishable from participants habitual kind of behavior.”

And this is exactly why selfless givers end us stressed out and overloaded.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

…selfless givers are more inclined to sprinkle their giving throughout their days, helping whenever people need them. This can become highly distracting and exhausting, robbing selfless givers of their attention and energy necessary to complete their own work.

 

So How Much Should You Give?

Remember The 100 Hour Rule. One hundred hours a year — in other words, 2 hours per week.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

One hundred seems to be a magical number when it comes to giving. In a study of more than two thousand Australian adults in their mid-sixties, those who volunteered between one hundred and eight hundred hours per year were happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who volunteered fewer than one hundred or more than eight hundred hours annually. In another study, American adults who volunteered at least one hundred hours in 1998 were more likely to be alive in 2000. There were no benefits of volunteering more than one hundred hours. This is the 100-hour rule of volunteering. It appears to be the range where giving is maximally energizing and minimally draining.

A hundred hours a year breaks down to just two hours a week. Research shows that if people start volunteering two hours a week, their happiness, satisfaction and self-esteem go up a year later.

 

What’s The Best Kind Of Giving To Do?

A kind that is meaningful to you. No, you can’t fake it if you want the benefits.

Via Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

Psychologists Netta Weinstein and Richard Ryan have demonstrated that giving has an energizing effect only if it’s an enjoyable, meaningful choice rather than undertaken out of duty and obligation.

 

Sum Up

Breaking it down:

  1. To be happier and healthier you need to give to others.
  2. Don’t be a martyr. Constant selfless giving is not the answer.
  3. 100 hrs a year is the minimum to increase happiness, so do about 2 hrs per week or a little more.
  4. You need to do it because you want to, so find a way to help others that is meaningful to you.
  5. It’s better to cluster those activities than to spread them out.

What do I personally plan to do? I’m going to designate a DAY OF GIVING per week and make sure I’m clustering my 2hrs of meaningful helping.

In a few weeks I’ll post my results. Please give it a try yourself and let me know how it works for you. You can write me here.

This is going to be fun. :)

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Warren Buffett’s 9 Tips for Happiness and Success

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Warren Buffett knows a thing or three about becoming wealthy and successful, and the Oracle of Omaha is not averse to handing out mostly excellent advice to others who’d like to follow in his footsteps.The personal finance site GOBankingRates has pulled together 14 pieces of advice Buffett has given to graduating classes and/or young people. They’re all great tips for the young—but also excellent advice that all of us should follow, no matter what age we are. Here are some of the best. You can find the full list here.

1. Invest in yourself before anything else.

Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do—anything that improves your own talents,” Buffett told Good Morning America. That’s excellent advice, whether it’s getting more education or training, to improve a skill you already have or to learn a new one—or whether it’s starting a company of your own. (In case it’s the latter, here are 10 Steps to Success as an Entrepreneur.)

2. Change bad habits as soon as you can.

Habits can make or break you, Buffett says. “I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns,” he says. “They really are entrapped by them.”

The trick, he says, is to get out of the trap before it closes on you, which is why he advised graduating students at the University of Florida to form good habits as soon as possible. “You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual,” he told them. “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

True enough, but if you’re older than a college senior, don’t despair. Though it may be tougher, habits can be changed at any time in life. Here’s the secret of how to do it.

3. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.

Use that knowledge to capitalize on the things that you do well, and avoid the risks of getting in over your head in your weaker areas, Buffett advises. “You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but knowing where the perimeter of that circle of what you know and what you don’t know, and staying inside of it, is all important,” he’s said.

4. Never risk something you need to get something you don’t need.

It’s not that taking risks is wrong–but do it only for the right reasons, Buffett explained to the University of Florida class. He added that he’s seen both businesses and individuals take big risks out of greed when they should have held back.

“If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t care if the odds you succeed are 99 to 1 or 1,000 to 1.”

5. Find work you love.

“You really should take a job that, if you were independently wealthy, that would be the job you would take,” Buffett said in that same commencement speech. “You will learn something, you will be excited about it, and you will jump out of bed. You can’t miss.” Finding work you love is a better bet than doing something because it pays well or because it would look good on your resume, he added. I couldn’t agree more.

6. Surround yourself with people you admire.

Buffett has often talked about the importance of mentorship and the role his own mentor, Columbia professor Benjamin Graham, played in his life. But even beyond that, he advised a high school student to spend time with people whose qualities he aspired to. “Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

7. Face down your fears.

Don’t let fear stop you from doing things, especially things you know you must do to be successful, Buffett advises. In fact, he did this himself–he was once terribly afraid of public speaking, so he took a Dale Carnegie course to improve this skill. He’s now one of the most sought-after and frequently quoted speakers in the world. You don’t need to go that far, but if there are things you’re afraid to do, or that you know are your weak points, do what you must to get better at them and become more comfortable doing them.

8. Your time is a precious resource. Use it accordingly.

Bill Gates once wrote that being jealously protective of his time was an important lesson he’d learned from Buffett. “There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.” Even though you’re not a multibillionaire, you shouldn’t either.

9. Never ignore a great opportunity.

Though much of his advice is on the conservative, cautious side, Buffett is a big believer in grabbing opportunities with both hands when good ones arise. “Big opportunities in life have to be seized,” he said in a commencement speech at Georgia State. “We don’t do very many things, but when we get the chance to do something that’s right and big, we’ve got to do it. And even to do it in a small scale is just as big a mistake almost as not doing it at all. You’ve really got to grab them when they come, because you’re not going to get 500 great opportunities.”

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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TIME psychology

8 Things That Make You Happier: Backed by Research

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Wouldn’t you love a real list of things that make you happier? Here’s what scientific research says will work:

 

1) Thank Someone

First thing in the morning, send an email thanking or praising someone. (Texting is fine, too.)

 

2) Spend Money — On Someone Else

Harvard professor Michael Norton, author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, explains how spending money on other people can generate more happiness than spending on yourself:

 

3) Give 5 Hugs

People assigned to give or receive hugs 5 times a day ended up happier than the control group.

From Sonja Lyubomirsky’s very interesting book, The How of Happiness:

In a one-of-a-kind study, students at Pennsylvania State University were assigned to two groups. The first group was instructed to give or receive a minimum of five hugs per day over the course of four weeks and to record the details. The hugs had to be front-to-front (nonsexual) hugs, using both arms of both participants; however, the length and strength of hug, as well as the placement of hands, were left to their discretion. Furthermore, these students couldn’t simply hug their boyfriends or girlfriends half a dozen times; they had to aim to hug as many different individuals as possible. The second, the controls, was instructed simply to record the number of hours they read each day over the same four weeks.

The hugging group (which partook in an average of forty-nine hugs over the course of the study) became much happier. Not surprisingly, the students who merely recorded their reading activity (which averaged a not-too-shabby 1.6 hours per day) showed no changes.

 

4) Do Stuff You’re Good At

People who deliberately exercised their signature strengths on a daily basis — those qualities they were uniquely best at, the talents that set them apart from others – became significantly happier for months.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full month later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

This has been shown repeatedly in research studies.

 

5) Do 5 Little Nice Things For Others

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

…individuals told to complete five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over. To try this yourself, pick one day a week and make a point of committing five acts of kindness. But if you want to reap the psychological benefit, make sure you do these things deliberately and consciously—you can’t just look back over the last 24 hours and declare your acts post hoc.

 

6) Create Something To Look Forward To

Make plans to do something fun:

“One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.”

 

7) Spend Time With Friends

Having a better social life is the happiness equivalent of making an extra $131,232 a year:

There is substantial evidence in the psychology and sociology literature that social relationships promote happiness for the individual. Yet the size of their impacts remains largely unknown. This paper explores the use of shadow pricing method to estimate the monetary values of the satisfaction with life gained by an increase in the frequency of interaction with friends, relatives, and neighbours. Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

 

8) Before Bed, Write Down Three Good Things That Happened Today

This technique has been proven again and again and again. Here it is, explained by its originator, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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