Keys to happier life revealed

– Knowing when to turn off your smartphone enriches your life

– Face-to-face social interaction leads to a longer life

A smiley face is seen on a sunflower. (AP Photo)

– Chasing meaning, not happiness, is what really matters

What’s really making us feel sad is not a lack of happiness, it’s lack of meaning, she said. Happiness is a fickle emotion, fleeting, based on a moment or an experience. In fact, Emily Esfahani Smith realized, constantly evaluating our own happiness is actually contributing to feelings of hopelessness and depression. The quest for happiness doesn’t make us happy.

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Smith, author of the new book “The Power of Meaning,” said that after five years of interviewing hundreds of people, she discovered that meaning can be derived in four forms: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.

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In 2017, it took up almost all of it. Using a bar graph to illustrate this, Alter showed that in 2007, technology took up a sliver of our precious personal time in a day.

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While the ideas themselves might not be all that surprising, the explanations for how and why they better your life served as powerful reminders that we might be prioritizing the wrong things, and undervaluing that which makes life worth living. Among the dozens of big ideas shared this week at the international TED conference — from a robot that could outperform students on college exams to an ultraviolet light that could kill superbugs — were some simpler, almost obvious, life improvements we should all prioritize to live better lives.

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That’s what psychologist Susan Pinker has discovered in researching the impact that our human connections have on all aspects of our well-being, including our physical health. Smoking, drinking, exercise and even heart problems are not predictors of a person’s longevity — a person’s close relationships and social integration were. Those with intimacy in their lives, those with support systems and frequent face-to-face interactions were not only physically and emotionally healthier, but they also lived longer.

But scrolling on the phone is endless and we don’t know when to break away. People who spend time on social networks, dating apps and even online news sites reported being less happy. Alter has studied the impact all that screen time is having on our lives. But the technology has taken away what Alter calls our “stopping cues.” Most things we do for pleasure, like reading a book or watching a movie, have an end.

Don’t worry, be happy and live longer

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“Face-to-face contact releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters and, like a vaccine, they protect you now in the present and well into the future,” she said.
VANCOUVER — Want to live longer, enjoy life more and actually find that elusive happiness?

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The sender can email when the person is back from vacation, or, if it’s a work emergency, contact someone else at the office. Adam Alter, professor of marketing and psychology, told a room full of some of the most successful entrepreneurs, scientists and tech innovators in the world about a German company that gives employees the option to set their out-of-office response when they’re on vacation to tell the sender that their email will never be seen because it’s automatically deleted. The TED audience burst into applause.

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Most people find purpose through work because it’s how we feel like we’re adding value or contributing. But, she said, “that also means disengagement at work, unemployment, low labor force participation, these aren’t just economic problems, they are existential ones too. The second is having purpose. Without something worthwhile to do, people flounder.” So finding something to drive you forward, whether it’s work or something else, is a crucial slice of having meaning.  The first is exactly what it sounds like – having people in your life who truly love and care about you.

And it’s not enough to text or email. The actual health benefits of socializing are only achieved through in-person contact, she said.

And it doesn’t even have to be long, close interactions to have an immediate effect. Making eye contact, shaking someone’s hand, giving someone a high-five lowers your cortisone levels and releases dopamine, making you less stressed and giving you a little high, she said.