3 Happiness Myths—Busted

3 Happiness Myths—Busted

You’ve read the reports: Being happy and satisfied with life can make you healthier—helping your immune system, lowering your risk of stroke and heart disease, and even extending your life. And you would be a lot happier if only you could win the lottery, stay on vacation and enjoy some chocolate cake without guilt, right? Not so fast. We’ve got the science that busts these common myths about how to be happy—and what you should really do. 

The Comfort Food Myth
Most people assume that eating comfort foods bring, well, comfort. The association between junk food and happiness probably started when you were a kid—​when your mom or dad would soothe your skinned knee with a bandage and a cookie. But while the good memories you associate with that cookie might give you a smile, the treat itself probably doesn’t help your mood—​at least not any more than a granola bar would, according to a study at the University of Minnesota. While that study largely debunks the myth of comfort food, there are some good-for-you foods that really might have the power to boost your mood.

The Permanent Vacation Myth 
There’s nothing like a trip to Hawaii to brighten your outlook on life and give you a happier perspective, but happiness experts suggests that what makes you happy now may not continue to make you happy. As they say in the islands: “No rain, no rainbows.” One experiment found that people who travel a lot (and people who see themselves as world travelers) enjoy their experiences less than those who travel less. That’s not to say you shouldn’t start planning your next vacation as soon as you get back; research also shows people get the highest pleasure from the planning and anticipation.

The Money Myth
Winning the lottery would make anyone happy for a while, especially those who earn so little that they have a tough time paying for basic necessities. But once essential needs have been met, research shows that money can’t buy lasting happiness. It also shows that people with above-average wealth are not much happier than people of average wealth. One way that money can make a big difference: if you spend it on someone else. Really! Studies find that spending money on other people can have a more positive impact on your happiness than buying something for yourself.  

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Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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