I've been very happy so far in retirement and it turns out it's not just me, there is actual scientific proof confirming my happiness. This article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal discusses a recent study of what makes people happy. Turns out we Americans are no more happy than a generation ago even though our standard of living has risen significantly. Why is this?
Well, the study isolates three factors contributing to happiness. The first is a basic predisposition toward happiness (no problem here). The second is life circumstances, which, by the way is only influential to a point. Previous studies show that once your basic needs are taken care of, more and more improvements to your circumstances (think, more and more money) do not make you happier.
What is new about this research is the addition of the third factor. And good news, this is the one you actually have significant control over--how you spend your time. Apparently, those that were happiest reported spending their time in "leisure and spiritual activities."
"things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party. When we spend time on our favorite of these activities, we're typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed."
No wonder I've been so happy, I've been doing exactly these things (well, not the church or fishing part, but certainly the other ones.) I didn't really need a scientific study to tell me this, but it is nice to hear that I figured this one out all on my own. Turns out I am just that brilliant.
Now, while everyone is not currently in a position to quit their day jobs to spend more time pursuing happiness, this article does have an answer for this dilemma. You can increase your happiness by engaging in more of these leisure activities by giving up an activity that does not add to your happiness--watching TV! Turns out this may be one of the reasons our happiness has not increased over the last 40 years. We have not increased the time devoted to activities that give us satisfaction, we have apparently just increased the time we spend watching TV.
Not sure my husband buys this, though. I think his happiness would be dramatically reduced if I canceled the cable and tossed all the TVs. So much for science.