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 21 Ways to Become Happier

12 Ways to a Happier World


This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Michael W. Fordyce, 12/14/44 - 01/24/11, whose pioneering work created the happiness movement we enjoy today.  Heaven and Earth are happier places because of you.  Thanks, and stay happy forever and ever.

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HAPPINESS BY KNOWING FREE WILL IS AN ILLUSION!

I explained how overcoming belief in free will can boost happiness on episode 7 Happiness and the Determinism vs. Free Will Question, 4-20-03, and 92 A Conversation about Happiness, Free Will and Determinism, 2-28-05

John Searle, the13th ranked post-1900 philosopher, says that our world overcoming the free will illusion "would be a bigger revolution in our thinking than Einstein, or Copernicus, or Newton, or Galileo, or Darwin -- it would alter our whole conception of our relation with the universe." 
 


Find out why at
my new show,
 Exploring the Illusion of Free Will

 

 

 

Who We Are
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What is Happiness?

   Why is Happiness so Important?

World's Happiest Countries

Happiness Facts

Happiness Benefits

The APACHE Method (Positive Adjectives Technique and List)

The Ortega Happiness Method

Other Ways of Becoming Happier

Happiness Increase Experiments

Top Happiness Researchers and Promoters

Dr. M. Fordyce

George Ortega's Happiness Skills Theory (2 drafts)

Happiness Books, Papers and Articles

Start a Happiness Show

Happiness-Increase Research and the Artifacts Dilemma

Happiness Research Still Needed

Proposals for Further Refuting Hedonic Adaptation Predictions

The Hey Bill Gates, Start an International Happiness Corporation Campaign

Happiness Increase International

George's Happy World Songs

Humankind's Age of Happiness

Happiness Quotes

100 Happiness Self-Statements

Outlines to Early The Happiness Show Episodes

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Key Happiness Facts
 

World's Happiest Countries:
 
1. Nigeria
 2. Mexico
 3. Venezuela
 4. El Salvador
 5. Puerto Rico
 (U.S. ranks 16th)

Countries with Highest Levels of Subjective Well-Being:
 
1. Puerto Rico
 2. Mexico
 3. Denmark
 4. Columbia
 5. Ireland

Click here for the complete ranking and more information

Americans consider happiness more important to them than money, moral goodness, and even going to Heaven.

Americans are, on average, only 69 percent happy.

The world population is, on average, less than 65 percent happy.

37 percent of the people on Forbes list of Wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.

At any given time, one forth of Americans are mildly depressed

14 percent of the nations on Earth are less than 50 percent happy.

Happiness Increase Experiments published in peer review journal have empirically demonstrated that individuals can be trained to be 25 percent happier through various training programs in from two to ten weeks.

All demographic variables combined, including age, sex, income, race, and education, are responsible for only 15 percent of the difference in happiness levels between individuals.

American Children feel happy 52 percent of the time, neutral 29 percent of the time, and unhappy 19 percent of the time.

Americans' personal income has increased more than 2 1/2 times over the last 50 years, but their happiness level has remained the same.

Americans earning more that $10 million annually are only slightly happier than average Americans.

(Click here for Citations and a Brief Paper on How our World Can Become Much Happier)



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A popular expression advises that at times the perfect can be the enemy of the good.  Such is the case with happiness research.  Since the 1960's over 3,000 published studies have explored happiness, and while much has been learned, much more can still be known.  The problem is that happiness research is not about understanding happiness as perfectly as possible; it is about understanding how to help individuals and societies become as happy as possible.  We generally know what makes people happy and what doesn't.  We also know how to make people happier.  What we don't yet know is how to practically apply that knowledge in ways that help our world become happier.  The following proposals are presented to inspire this research.  In essence, for our many happiness findings to gain real-world relevance, happiness research MUST progress from the domain of basic psychology to that of applied psychology (consumer behavior, motivation and advertising), and marketing.

 

Research Proposals

 

 

How can consumers best be helped to understand that happiness (or greater happiness) is their basic goal in life, and to begin seeking it directly through training rather than through often ineffective strategies like achieving greater wealth, possessions, power, knowledge, prestige, success, etc.?

How can entrepreneurs and business leaders best be introduced to the concept of selling happiness as a product?

 

What presentation strategies are necessary in order to convince consumers that their level of happiness can be dramatically increased in a few months through simple classroom or one-to-one training?

 

How much will consumers pay to become substantially happier through participation in a training course?

 

How long should happiness training courses be, taking into account both course effectiveness and consumer motivation?

 

One quarter of the American population is 57- 71 percent happy and 8 percent are even less happy.  Given that it is far easier to substantially increase the happiness of unhappy and marginally happy individuals than it is to substantially increase the happiness of much happier individuals, how is this less happy market segment best identified and solicited?

 

Why has psychology shied away from conducting studies designed to find simple and effective strategies by which to help human beings achieve their most basic goal in life?

 

The Case for Happiness-Increase Research by George Ortega

 

 

            Since the 1960's when such comprehensive research began, there have been over 3,000 published papers on Subjective Well-Being (SWB), or happiness, and the number of publications is increasing exponentially (Veenhoven, in press).   During these last forty years, however, less than a dozen published studies have attempted interventions to increase happiness (see Fava, 1999; Fava, Rafanelli, Cazzaro, Conti & Grandi, 1998; Fava & Ruini, 2003; Fordyce 1977, 1983; Lichter, Haye & Kammann, 1980; Reich and Zautra 1981; Sheldon, Kasser, Smith, & Share, 2002).  [Citations are from a citations list compiled by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ken Sheldon and David Schkade]. This scarcity is highly anomalous especially considering that initial SWB increase experiments were highly successful, (Fordyce, 1977, 1983; Lichter, et al., 1980). 

The majority of Americans rate personal happiness as very important, (Diener, Suh, Smith, & Shao, 1995; Triandis, Bontempo, Leung, & Hui, 1990), and respondents in England have rated happiness as their most important component of Quality of Life; even more important to them than money, health, and sex  (Skevington, MacArthur, & Somerset, 1997).  However, the average American is only 69 percent happy, and happy only 54 percent of the time (Seligman, 2002).  Also, at any given time, one in every four Americans is suffering from mild depression (Seligman, 1994).  While the happiness level of over one quarter of the American population falls between 57 and 71 percent, and 8 percent are even less than 57 percent happy, one fifth of Americans are over 85 percent happy, (Andrews & Withey, 1976) suggesting that much greater happiness is also quite possible for less happy individuals.

While we might be inclined to attribute this greater happiness to greater wealth, or related advantages, Diener, Horwitz, and Emmons (1985) found that Americans with a net worth of over $125 million were only trivially happier than randomly selected controls, and that 37 percent of the people on Forbes' list of wealthiest Americans were less happy than the average American.  Also, personal wealth in the U.S. has more than doubled since W.W.II, however, Americans are no happier today than they were in 1945 (Myers, 2000).   In fact, Nigeria is now the happiest nation in the world, followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico, with the U.S. ranked 16th.  (World Values Study Group, in press).

            There are three basic reasons why happiness increase research has been so neglected.   Firstly, hedonic adaptation theory (Headey and Wearing, 1989; Frederick & Lowenstein, 1999) and genetic "set point" studies (Lykken & Tellegen 1996) have predicted that long-term happiness increase is not possible.  However, recent demographic data coauthored by the leading SWB researcher, Ed Diener, (Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2003) has shown long-term happiness increase to be a matter of fact.  Secondly, SWB has historically been greatly undervalued by psychology, and clinical psychology in particular.  For example, published psychological articles of negative emotions outnumber those of positive emotions by a ratio of 17 to 1 (Myers, & Diener, 1995), and SWB is generally not used as an outcome variable in therapy effectiveness studies, (Veenhoven, in press).  Thirdly, funding happiness increase research has been difficult because there has been no industry wide vested interest in these findings, as there has been in, for example, research to demonstrate the effectiveness of anti-depressant medications, (R. Veenhoven, personal communication, June 3, 2003).

             The psychologist most actively promoting happiness increase applications is former American Psychological Association president, Martin E. P. Seligman who published a book on happiness (Seligman, 2002), and currently offers extensive happiness coaching instruction through his website -  http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/  .  Giovanni Fava, Ken Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky are the researchers most involved in happiness increase experimentation.  "Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change" by Sheldon, Lyubomirsky, & Schkade (Manuscript submitted for publication), provides a general review of happiness increase research.

            Happiness is supremely important to us, yet we marginally succeed in achieving it largely because we seek it in many ways that are either totally ineffective, or just slightly effective (For reviews, see Argyle, 2001; Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999; Myers, 1992).   When, however, over the course of four weeks, Fordyce (1977) instructed subjects in 14 fundamentals of happiness, and Lichter and colleagues (Lichter, et al., 1980) asked some subjects to discuss and consider happiness relevant issues, and others to recite happiness increasing affirmations for ten minutes each morning, subjects experienced an average 25 percent happiness boost.  These and several other successful happiness increase methodologies could be used in happiness training programs, however, because this body of research is so small, it has been largely ignored by business and government (Notable exceptions are Bhutan, which has officially declared itself more concerned with its citizens' happiness than the country's GDP (Bond, 2003), and Great Britain, who recently commissioned and published an extensive report on why and how their government should develop policies designed to raise the SWB level of its citizens. 

            A more extensive and authoritative body of happiness increase experiments would likely encourage businesses to take notice and offer happiness increase instruction as a product, and governments to use published methodologies as blueprints by which to develop happiness increase courses for school curriculums.  These two vehicles alone could produce substantial and lasting happiness increases for many millions of individuals throughout the world.  Psychologists have a profound responsibility as professionals uniquely qualified to encourage and conduct research needed to assist the world in better succeeding with our most fundamental desire; happiness.   

Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being. New York: Plenum Press.

 Argyle, M. (2001).  The Psychology of Happiness. (Rev. ed), East Sussex, Great Britain: Routledge.

 Bond, M. (2003, October 4). The Pursuit of Happiness, New Scientist, 179, 40-43

 Diener, E., Horowitz, J., & Emmons, R. A. (1985). Happiness of the very wealthy.  Social Indicators Research, 16, 263-274.

 Diener, E., Suh, M., Lucas, E. & Smith, H. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress, Psychological Bulletin, 125, (2), 276-302.

Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Smith, H., & Shao, L. (1995). National differences in reported well-being: Why do they occur? Social Indicators Research, 34, 7-32.

 Fava. G (1999).  Well-being therapy:  Conceptual and technical issues.  Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 68, 171-179.

Fava, G. A., Rafanelli, C., Cazzaro, M., Conti, S., & Grandi, S. (1998).  Well-being therapy: A novel psychotherapeutic approach for residual symptoms of affective disorders.  Psychological Medicine, 28, 475-480.

 Fava, G. A. & Ruini, C. (2003).  Development and characteristics of a well-being enhancing psychotherapeutic strategy: well-being therapy.  Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 34, 45-63.

Fordyce, M. W. (1977).  Development of a program to increase happiness.  Journal of Counseling Psychology, 24, 511-521.

 Fordyce, M. W. (1983).  A Program to increase happiness: Further studies.  Journal of Counseling Psychology, 30, 483-498. 

Frederic, S., & Lowenstein, G. (1999). Hedonic adaptation. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 302-329). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

 Headey, B., & Wearing, A. (1989). Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: Toward a dynamic equilibrium model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 731-739.

 Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y.,  & Diener, E. (2003).  Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (3), 527-539.

 Lichter, S., Haye, K., & Kamman, R. (1980).  Increasing happiness through cognitive retraining.  New Zealand Psychologist, 9, 57-64.

 Lykken, D., & Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychological Science, 7, 186-189.

 

Myers, D. G. (1992). The Pursuit of Happiness. New York: Avon Books.

 

Myers, D. (2002).  The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, 56-67.

 

Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995).  Who is Happy. Psychological Science, 6, (1), 12-19.

 

Reich, J. W., & Zautra, A. (1981).  Life events and personal Causation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1002-1012.

 Seligman, M. E. P. (1994). What You Can Change and What You Canít. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

 Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness.  New York: The Free Press.

 Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., Smith, K., & Share, T. (2002).  Personal goals and psychological growth: Testing an intervention to enhance goal attainment and personality integration.  Journal of Personality, 70, 5-31.

 Sheldon, K. S., Lyubomirsky, S., & Schkade. (2003)  Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Manuscript submitted for publication.

 Skevington, S. M., MacArthur, P., & Somerset, M. (1997). Developing items for the WHOQOL: An investigation of contemporary beliefs about quality of life related to health in Britain. British Journal of Health Psychology, 2, 55-72.

 Triandis, H. C., Bontempo, R., Leung, K., & Hui, C. H. (1990). A method for determining cultural, demographic, and personal constructs. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 302-318.

 Veenhoven, R. (in press), The greatest happiness principle; happiness as an aim public policy in Linley, A. and Joseph, S. (Eds.) Positive Psychology in Practice.  Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

 World Values Study Group (in press), World Values Surveys, 1999-2001, Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

 

 

Happiness-Increase Research and the Artifacts Dilemma  by George Ortega

 

 

While there are now well over 3,000 published happiness studies, there are less than a dozen published comprehensive happiness-increase studies.  Possible reasons why more happiness-increase experiments have not yet been conducted include;  1.  The fact that happiness is at least 50 percent genetic;  2.  The misapplication of adaptation level theory (the hedonic treadmill) to long term changes in happiness;  3.  The fact that the most important published studies, those of Michael Fordyce, are time consuming to replicate, and;  4.  The lack of funding for happiness increase experimentation.

 My personal conclusion, however, is that happiness researchers have shied away from conducting happiness increase experiments because of the difficulties inherent in adhering to traditional artifact control standards.  I believe that many psychologists have been completely at a loss regarding how to design happiness increase experiments wherein, for example, subjects are completely unaware that they are, in fact, taking part in a happiness increase experiment.

 Future happiness-increase experimentation will likely find that while subjects' conscious attempts to become happier are not a prerequisite to their becoming happier, they can be powerful amplifiers of any happiness increase intervention.  Future happiness- increase experiments should therefore encourage and incorporate, rather than eliminate, these efforts

 The influence and causal direction from happiness to ancillary benefits (e.g. greater creativity, higher quality of work, greater energy)  is becoming more firmly established .  After a successful happiness-increase intervention, subjects should experience these ancillary benefits to a greater degree than non-intervention controls.  That these happiness benefits can also be biological (like increased immune function) and therefore more readily amenable to objective measurement, facilitates the use of this indirect happiness  measurement methodology in happiness-increase experimentation.

This growing body of evidence that as people become happier they benefit  proportionally in various specific ways can enable happiness-increase experiment designers to dispense with traditional artifact controls such as random assignment.

Until indirect happiness measures like the one proposed above are developed, validated, and implemented, happiness- increase experimentation will likely continue to be neglected by many happiness researchers because of the artifacts dilemma.   To the degree that these indirect methodologies are not implemented, happiness-increase experiments will be limited to relatively weak interventions (whenever subjects are kept ignorant of the experiment's intent) or become easy prey to justified assertions that the experiments did not adequately control for artifacts (whenever subjects and/or experimenters are aware of the experiment's intent).  

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