Are Our Happiest Years Behind Us? New Research Says Yes.
Surprisingly simple habits can reverse the trend.
A recent study by the Social Market Foundation has found that 1957 was the happiest year of the twentieth century. Plus the Victorians were happier than we are today.
In 1957 they didn’t have nearly the conveniences we have today. There were no microwave ovens, let alone Google or YouTube. They worked longer hours. Few enjoyed central heating in their homes. And less than half the public even owned televisions. Yet they were happier than we are today.
And the Victorians? C’mon, they didn’t even have indoor plumbing.
How could they have been happier than us when we live in a day of iPhones, and instant information, and easy credit, and fast cars, and Facebook, and climate control, and readily accessible healthcare, and streaming movies? We can communicate effortlessly across the globe. Travel nearly anywhere we want. And get more entertainment than we can possibly consume in a device that fits in our pockets. Wanna learn something? You can get it instantly. Opportunity is everywhere.
Strange. Life expectancies are higher, yet life satisfaction is lower.
How do they know this?
They used computational linguistics to chart how often positive and negative words appeared in eight million books in order to track the changing patterns of happiness.
Today our words, our thoughts, and our perceptions are much more negative. And that affects everything else — not the least of which it affects our health and wellbeing.
This reminds me of the findings that came from David A. Snowden’s Nun Study, appropriately named because they did, in fact, study nuns. They wanted to see what a difference happiness had in longevity. Many, many years ago when the women were ready take their final vows they were asked to write their life histories. The researchers then analyzed the women’s journals for the occurrence of positive and negative words (see a pattern?). Turns out those with more positive outlooks on life lived longer — generally ten years longer than their least happy counterparts.
This study is incredibly telling because when you think about nuns, they’re about the most standardized people around. They eat the same food. Live in the same place. Wear the same clothes. Have the same routines, practices, and habits (that’s a pun). What sets the women apart from each other is their attitude, and that’s what can make all the difference.
Ten years worth of difference in the end; a lifetime of difference everyday.
So what’s your attitude like?
How positive or negative are you?
Are you going with the flow? Do your circumstances determine if you’re happy? or make you irritable, frustrated, and angry? Can a bad day or a downturn of events throw you into a tailspin?
How happy are you generally? And are you willing to change that?
While the Social Market Foundation study shows that the happiest year ever is in the past for most people, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, society may continue this downward spiral. The mass of humanity may take life at face value and not expect more, but you can change your focus and amazingly change your life. And it’s easier than you might think.
If you regularly follow my blog, you know that the simplest exercise for you to do today that will begin to train and shape your outlook on life is for you to start writing in a gratitude journal. Commit to yourself that you won’t go to bed at night until you write down three fortunate things that happened to you today. Do not let a day pass without writing and stay away from repeat entries.
What you will begin to find is a repeated pattern where you find you are the recipient of deliberate kindness. Your life is fortunate. And good things happen every day.
When you recognize this pattern, you will see that it just makes sense that this trend will continue.
Life will continue to get better for you.
Optimism will ensue and tomorrow will be even brighter than today.
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