I’ve posted a lot about the research around how to be happier. But being satisfied with your life is something a little different.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, gave a TED talk where he explained the two pretty well:
Happiness is being happy in your life. We experience it immediately and at the moment.
Life satisfaction is being happy about your life. It is the happiness that exists when we talk about the past and the big picture.
There’s plenty of information about the former — but what about the latter?
What can we do to not just be happy at the moment, but to feel satisfied with our lives?
Here’s are five things research says can make a difference for you:
Having a lot of close friends boosts life satisfaction by nearly 20%.
Having more close friendships was associated with a 19 percent greater life satisfaction and a 23 percent greater sense of optimism. – Richburg 1998
Having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in life satisfaction.
Like your neighbors? That’s a double-digit boost in life satisfaction too.
Positive feelings about neighbors are associated with a 16 percent greater life satisfaction and a 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing loneliness feelings. – Prezza et al. 2001
Why does religion — any religion — make people so much happier?
It’s the friends that a religious community provides. A group of ten supportive friends seems to be the magic number.
After examining more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. In other words, religious people are more comfortable because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.
But it’s not all about what you get from friends; giving is extraordinarily powerful too.
Are you mentoring a young person? It’s four times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make.
Age, income, and health are four times less likely to predict whether a person is happy than is whether the person feels he or she is having a positive effect on a younger person. – Azarov 2003
(More on how to make and keep friends here.)
Have A Life Story
Research shows that meaning in life comes from the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.
Ever tried writing that story down? People who do are more than 10% happier with their lives.
People who wrote about their lives’ history were 11 percent more likely to feel happy with their lives and 17 percent more likely to feel optimistic about the future. – Yamada 2000
Knowing your family tree gets you a bump in satisfaction as well.
People interested in their family and ethnic histories were 6 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives. – Mowrer and McCarver 2002
Children who know the stories of those who came before them have higher self-esteem and a sense of control over their lives.
Marshall and Robyn asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001 and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests and reached some overwhelming conclusions. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.
People with goals are nearly 20% more satisfied with their lives.
People who could identify a goal they were pursuing were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves. – Krueger 1998
Those who are passionate about something score higher across the board on positive psychological indicators.