How you spend your time could be the key to unlocking happiness.Research on the subject was analysed in a paper in ScienceDirect by Jennifer L. Aaker and Melanie Rudd of Stanford Business School and Cassie Mogilner of Wharton.
The psychologists identified five principles for good use of time:
1. Spend your time with the right people
People who spend time with other people tend to be happier, but equally important is with whom who they spend time.
“Interaction partners associated with the greatest happiness levels include friends, family, and significant others, whereas bosses and co-workers tend to be associated with the least happiness.”
Still since people have to spend time at work, they can benefit from developing friendly relationships at the office.
2. Spend your time on the right activities
What you do with your time is crucial in determining happiness. Working and commuting seem to make people the most unhappy, while socializing is one of the best activities for increasing happiness levels.
Thinking of your time as an investment can be helpful. For example, asking yourself what are the chances that the value of that temporal expenditure will increase over time?” The study adds:
When deciding how to spend the next hour, simply asking yourself the question, “Will what I do right now become more valuable over time?” could increase your likelihood to behave in ways that more clearly map onto what will really make you happy. Note that this question is slightly different than asking, “What is better for me in the long run?” or, “What will lead to greater long-term happiness?” — two questions that often cause a tinge of guilt or moral dilemma. This particular question focuses less on perceived trade-offs between short and long-term happiness, and more on maximizing the value of the present moment.
3. Enjoy the experience without spending the time
Thinking about things you enjoy can be almost as effective as actually doing the activity which makes you happy: “the part of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure, the mesolimbic dopamine system, can be activated when merely thinking about something pleasurable, such as drinking one’s favourite brand of beer or driving one’s favourite type of sports car. In fact, the brain sometimes enjoys anticipating a reward more than receiving the reward.”
4. Expand your time
Since time is fixed, it helps to focus on the “here and now.”
Thinking about the present “slows down the perceived passage of time, allowing people to feel less rushed and hurried. Similar effects accrue when individuals simply breathe more deeply.”
Having or perceiving that one has control over their time has been correlated to higher levels of happiness. “Having spare time and perceiving control over how to spend that time (i.e. discretionary time) has been shown to have a strong and consistent effect on life satisfaction and happiness, even controlling for the actual amount of free time one has.”
5. Be aware that happiness changes over time
Happiness is affected by a myriad of intertwined factors: culture, time, and perhaps most importantly, age. Younger people, for example, “are more likely to associate happiness with excitement, whereas older individuals are more likely to experience happiness as feeling peaceful.”
The amount of happiness one derives from social interactions changes as well. As people get older, ” the value of spending time with interesting new acquaintances decreases, while the value of spending time with familiar friends and family increases.”
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