What Really Makes Us Happy?

by Jené Luciani

What really makes us happy? What really makes us happy? We know money can't buy happiness (or can it?), and we all have the right to pursue it. But what are some things we don't know about this emotional state we all strive for? We tracked down several recent studies to reveal six things you don't know about happiness.

1. Money can buy happiness--sort of:
Making more money will boost more than just your income. According to a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a person's level of happiness and emotional well-being increased along with their paycheck-but capped out at about $75,000 a year. People who made more than that didn't get any happier after they hit that 75k mark.




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2. Meditate to beat the blues:
Several studies have linked regular meditation to actual physical changes in the brain that are similar to what anti-depressant drugs (or so-called 'happy pills') do. People who meditate are not only happier and nicer to others, but research shows that the areas of their brain that respond to stress actually shrink. Big corporations and even the U.S. Marines are all now reportedly using meditation to increase productivity.

Too busy to find time for meditation? It doesn't take much! Studies show that people who practice mindful meditation-sitting quietly with your eyes closed and repeating a word or "mantra" over and over-for just 20 minutes a day reap significant benefits.

3. Skinny wife, happy life: In a somewhat strange 2011 study, researchers in Tennessee revealed that marriages are happier when the wife is thinner than her husband. The researchers studied the BMI or body mass index of nearly 170 newlywed couples to come to this conclusion.

We don't recommend comparing yourself to your man, but we love the idea of staying fit as a couple-not just for the obvious health benefits, but also for the bonding experiences. Check out these 11 ways to lose weight as a team.

4. Reason to put a ring on it? Despite the divorce rate, there may be something to the phrase 'wedded bliss.' A recent study posed the question, are married people happier than their single counterparts? Essentially, yes. Researchers in Michigan found that un-married people showed a decline in happiness as time went on whereas those that had tied the knot, did not.

5. Age isn't just a number: Maybe you thought you were happy getting your driver's license, graduating college, or landing your dream job. But those teen and 20-something milestones are nothing compared to the feelings of elation that the ripe-young age of 33 brings. A U.K. based website found that 70-percent of people over 40 surveyed said they were happiest at that age and felt that was when they were able to attain 'true' happiness.

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6. Facebook failure: Psychology students at Stanford found that the social network may be making us sad. Why? Because others seem so happy in comparison. The studies examined how college students evaluated moods, and by scrolling through attractive pictures, braggy status updates, accomplished BIOS, and seemingly 'perfect lives' on Facebook, the students became miserable and depressed about their own lives. The researchers reasoned it to the human need of not just wanting to be happy, but wanting to be happier than others. Maybe these people are on to something (They're NOT on Facebook!).


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