Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania were tired of seeing inconclusive research reports trying to figure out the relationship between happiness and money. Over and over again, reports showed that there was no statistical correlation between making more money and being happier, but researchers just kept going back to the topic. So the researchers decided to look someplace else.

Time.

While no statistical evidence has been found to link how we spend our money to our happiness, these researchers found five principles of spending time that had a statistical correlation to increased happiness.

Based on their findings, they suggest five time-spending happiness principles.

 1.  Spend Time With The Right People.

Their research showed that happiness levels increase with spending time with the right people: family and close friends. They also noted that because most people spend a significant amount of time at work, individuals who reported having a “best friend” at work and individuals who liked their boss had higher levels of  reported happiness than those who didn’t.

2.  Spend time on the right activities.

Will what I am doing right now become more valuable over time ?  This question alone increased the chances that participants would experience more happiness. The question reoriented participants’ activities to something that gave energy and enthusiasm, and it helped participants get through important obligations (like paying bills and cleaning) faster. 

3.  Enjoy activities without actually doing them.

Neuroscience research has revealed that – in certain activities – merely thinking about an experience creates the same happy feelings as the experience itself. The researchers suggest that merely thinking about a happy activity like drinking a favorite local beer or driving a favorite sports car can increase our happiness just as much as actually doing it. Furthermore, the research showed that the increase in happiness experienced from planning and anticipating activities like a vacation or eating out at a restaurant had statistically higher positive effects on happiness than the actual experience of the vacation or eating at the restaurant.

4.  Expand your time.

Time is a limited resource. You can’t make any more than 24 hours in a day. But focusing on the future made participants feel like they had last time than participants who were told to focus on the present. Participants who focused on the present moment actually felt like time slowed down.  Participants who were told to take long slow breaths for five minutes reported feeling like their day was longer and they had more time to get things done than participants who were told to take quick short breaths for five minutes.

5.  Be aware that happiness changes over time.

The experiences and feelings people associate with happiness change over time. Younger participants reported associating happiness with more excitement, whereas older participants reported associating happiness with more peace. The important thing here: The changes in how we perceive happiness follow patterns. The researchers concluded that if you learn to predict how your perception of happiness will change, then you can spend your time more wisely to reap the greatest benefit.

~Dominick Albano