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autonomy, competence and connection

Kennon Sheldon, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri and author of Optimal Human Being, says we’ll be happiest if they meet our primary psychological needs: autonomy, or, as Sheldon says, “doing what you want to be doing and believe in doing”; competence, or “doing something well and/or seeing improvement”; and relatedness, like “connecting to others, immersing in a community, or contributing something to the world.”

Concrete goals are easier to achieve/measure = happinesss

Further experiments revealed that when people framed their happiness goals more concretely, they tended to get what they expected. In contrast, abstract goals tended to make people unrealistic. After all, can you really make someone happy in the long-term by telling them a funny story or giving them a gift? Of course not. But you can still make them smile. This research suggests that by thinking in concrete ways about our goals for happiness, we can minimise the gap between our expectations and what is actually possible.

Physical activity, even in small amounts, benefits both physical and psychological well-being | University of Cambridge

For the new study, data on physical activity was passively gathered from smartphone accelerometers, and participants were also sent a short survey at two random intervals throughout the day which asked questions about their emotional state. Users reported their emotional state on a grid, based on how positive or negative, and how energetic or sleepy, they were feeling. Users were also asked a handful of questions about how their mood compared to normal. The activity data was then averaged over the course of the day, so while the researchers could not pinpoint what participants were doing at any given time, they found that participants who had higher levels of activity throughout the day reported a more positive emotional state. “Our data show that happy people are more active in general,” said the paper’s senior author Dr Jason Rentfrow, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College. “However, our analyses also indicated that periods of physical activity led to increased positive mood, regardless of individuals’ baseline happiness. There have been many studies about the positive psychological effects of exercise, but what we’ve found is that in order to be happier, you don’t have to go out and run a marathon – all you’ve really got to do is periodically engage in slight physical activity throughout the day.” “Most of us don’t keep track of all of our movements during the day,” said study co-author Dr Gillian Sandstrom from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. “A person might track whether they went for a walk or went to the gym, but when asked, most of them probably wouldn’t remember walking from the desk to the photocopier, or from the car to the office door.”

Manipulating brain activity to boost confidence | EurekAlert! Science News

"Surprisingly, by continuously pairing the occurrence of the highly confident state with a reward - a small amount of money - in real-time, we were able to do just that: when participants had to rate their confidence in the perceptual task at the end of the training, their were consistently more confident". Dr. Hakwan Lau, Associate Professor in the UCLA Psychology Department, was the senior author on the study and an expert in confidence and metacognition: "Crucially, in this study confidence was measured quantitatively via rigorous psychophysics, making sure the effects were not just a change of mood or simple reporting strategy. Such changes in confidence took place even though the participants performed the relevant task at the same performance level".

The secrets of the world's happiest cities | Society | The Guardian

Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters. But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam, like Robert Judge. They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Virtual reality study finds our perception of our body and environment affects how we feel: Interaction of bodily, spatial cues serves to regulate emotions, exploratory behavior -- ScienceDaily

As one might expect, a bouncy gait intensified people's experience of the environment as negative and frightening when they were walking high off the ground. But surprisingly, at ground level a bouncy gait gave people more positive emotions about the environment. This meant high up, a bouncy gait made people explore the environment more below the horizon, whereas on the ground it increased their exploration above the horizon.

Pocket: My List

Just be optimistic about the future of your relationship. In a study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Edward Lemay, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, found people who predicted that they would be satisfied with their relationship in the future were more committed to their partners and treated them more kindly in the present-day.

Dopamine's influence on preferences

The next day (once the L-DOPA had cleared from the body), all the participants were brought back and presented with 40 pairs of vacation spots, each pair containing locations to which they had given equal ratings in the first part of the experiment. Participants were asked to pick which of each pair of places they would prefer to visit. It turned out that those who had imagined themselves vacationing the previous day under the influence of dopamine were significantly more likely to predict they'd be happier in those same spots. That same preference didn't occur in the placebo group.

It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment — even the death of a partner - The Washington Post

On average, new parenthood led to a 1.4 unit drop in happiness. That's considered very severe. To put things in perspective, previous studies have quantified the impact of other major life events on the same happiness scale in this way: divorce, the equivalent of a 0.6 "happiness unit" drop; unemployment, a one-unit drop; and the death of a partner a one-unit drop.

Belonging to a group boosts sense of control and satisfaction

The experimenters randomly assigned Americans to one of two conditions: high identification and low identification. Those in the former condition they asked a series of questions that made it very easy to disagree with negative statements about their country (e.g., “I feel no affiliation with the United States”) and agree with positive (e.g., “In general, I like living in the United States.”). Those in the latter, by contrast, were asked questions that made it very easy to agree with negative statements about their country (“There are some things I don’t like about the United States”) and disagree with positive (“I identify very strongly with the United States”). The experimenters reasoned that answering these questions would cause a temporary shift in people’s sense of national identity. And sure enough, those in the “high identification” condition reported being more proud to be an American than those in the “low identification” condition. Additionally, the more identified as American, the more control they felt over their lives. But the most important finding emerged when the experimenters asked participants to write about an experience in which they felt totally powerless. This sort of writing exercise can cause a temporary negative mood. And indeed, people in the “low identification” condition exhibited various negative emotions consistent with depression. On the other hand, those in the “high identification” condition showed no significant decrease in mood. Their feeling of national pride had bolstered their perceived personal control, which in term buffered them against dejection. Overall, then, this research suggests that belonging to a community—whether it’s your family, your workplace, your religious organization, or your country—can help you deal with life’s challenges.

Sports Are 80 Percent Mental: The Subliminal Power Of Positive Cheering

On their second visit to the lab, they watched a video screen in front of them as they cycled.  For a slight 16 milliseconds (0.02 seconds), either a series of happy faces or a sad faces was flashed on the screen.  At this speed, the human eye is not able to consciously recognize an image, even though it does register with the subconscious brain.  For the group that saw the happy faces, they were able to pedal three minutes longer than the group that saw sad faces.  RPEs were also lower for the “happy” group.

Experiences vanish, make us happier

Experiential purchases are also more associated with identity, connection, and social behavior. Looking back on purchases made, experiences make people happier than do possessions. It's kind of counter to the logic that if you pay for an experience, like a vacation, it will be over and gone; but if you buy a tangible thing, a couch, at least you'll have it for a long time. Actually most of us have a pretty intense capacity for tolerance, or hedonic adaptation, where we stop appreciating things to which we're constantly exposed. […]It's the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them. […]Even a bad experience becomes a good story.
In many studies, participants are asked to think about material items as purchases made "in order to have," in contrast with experiences—purchases made "in order to do." This, they say, neglects a category of goods: those made in order to have experiences,  such as electronics, musical instruments, and sports and outdoors gear. Do such "experiential goods," as Guevarra and Howell call them, leave our well-being unimproved, as is the case with most goods, or do they contribute positively to our happiness? In a series of experiments, Guevarra and Howell find that the latter is the case: experiential goods made people happier, just like the experiences themselves.