You Have More Control Over Your Happiness Than You Know

Making time for joy linked to greater well-being, less stress, better relationships
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2023 6:20 PM CST
Updated Nov 19, 2023 6:31 AM CST
You Have More Control Over Your Happiness Than You Know
Making time for moments of joy, whether alone or with others, is linked to improved well-being.   (Getty Images/Rawpixel)

At the start of a week, survey participants were asked how much they agree with the statement, "I have felt able to impact, influence, or play an active role in how happy I generally feel." A week later, they were asked the same question, and the difference was remarkable. Participants' level of agreement with the statement jumped 27%, according to researchers of the BIG JOY Project. At the same time, participants saw a 26% boost in emotional well-being. So what had changed? Over the course of a week, participants were asked to perform "micro-acts" of joy, whether that was setting aside time to meditate or offering to do a favor for a friend. It was clear that these small acts could make a big difference, just as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have proclaimed.

Participants who committed to performing these tiny acts of joy each day for a week saw a 23% boost in positive emotions, including hope, optimism, wonder, and amusement, while 30% more participants felt content with their relationships. There was also a 34% increase in participants' level of agreement with the statement, "I am in control, on top of things, like I have been coping well." Even sleep improved. "We're really excited," project leader Emiliana Simon-Thomas, an expert on the neuroscience and psychology of compassion, kindness, and gratitude at the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California-Berkeley, tells NPR. "There are statistically significant, measurable changes [including] greater well-being, better coping, less stress, [and] more satisfaction with relationships."

More than 70,000 people in over 200 countries have taken part, per NPR—and you can, too. Participants simply fill out a survey, then agree to perform daily activities shown to boost well-being. They might pay a stranger's bill, congratulate a colleague on a promotion, choose to look on the bright side (positive reframing), or watch an awe-inspiring video. The preliminary results suggest that by acting intentionally, participants can feel they have greater control over their thoughts and emotions. Researchers plan to compare the results from willing participants with those from a control group assigned to take part. In the meantime, they say we can all learn to exert more control over our happiness, even amid suffering. As the GGSC notes, per the Deseret News: "Joy is an inside job." (Read more well-being stories.)

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