The path to happiness has never been easy. Defining what makes you happy is one thing, while achieving that thing is quite another.
Scientists, philosophers and anthropologists have been trying to figure out for centuries what makes humans happy. Some of us have it worked out, but for many of us, it’s quite a struggle to remain content.
However, experts have identified some of the things that make us miserable, with scientific evidence to prove it.
1. Having Too Much Money
You might be a little confused by this one, and that’s entirely understandable! Of course, having plenty of money would get rid of any financial stress. However, research from the World Health Organisation has shown that people with higher income are more susceptible to depression.
People in wealthier countries are hit much harder by this mental health problem, and experts attribute this to a greater wealth inequality in richer countries.
What’s more, consumerism keeps you trapped in a cycle of working hard to buy material possessions and you will not feel content until you have them.
2. Unfair Treatment At Work
Surprisingly, a link has not been found between a heavy workload and depression. But misery can stem from having a lack of control over your job.
Being treated unfairly can lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which means intensified feelings of stress.
“In general, you can have a demanding job and if you are able to have control over factors such as the work pace it can be more manageable,” explains Dr. Greg Couser, a medical director at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
What’s more, “If you are at the bottom of an assembly line and things are coming at you at a rapid pace you don’t control, eventually you can’t keep up.”
The key is to find a job where you’re treated fairly and have ample control over the job you’re doing, regardless of what level you’re at (although we realise that’s far easier said than done).
3. Having Too Much Choice
We love to be able to choose things, whether it’s which type of yoga class to attend, or which type of fruits we’re buying for our next smoothie. Choice is a sign of freedom and independence.
However, a lot of research claims that too much choice is making us miserable. Scientists at the university of Stanford found that choice is more important to university-educated people than it is to the working classes and non-Western societies.
“In contexts where choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness,” says Professor Hazel Rose Markus in her paper, Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well Being?
In general, people find having too much choice bewildering and it can lead to uncertainty and regret if the right decision is not made.
4. Over-Analysing Things
When you have to make a difficult decision, naturally it causes you to think about it much more afterwards. However, experts have found that this worrying can lead to increased stress and feelings of unhappiness.
A study at the Florida State University identified two types of people: ‘satisfiers’, who make a decision and then live with it, and ‘maximisers’ who worry about their decisions for hours or days afterwards.
Leader of the study Dr. Joyce Ehrlinger says, “Maximisers show less commitment to their choices than satisfiers in a way that leaves them less satisfied with their choices. Maximisers miss out on the psychological benefits of commitment.”
The inability to commit to anything, whether it’s clothes shopping or choosing a partner will cause anxiety and uncertainty in the long term.
5. Social Media
It’s so easy when you have a spare moment to check Facebook updates and see what your friends are up to. However, a study at the University of Michigan found a correlation between time spent on social media and feelings of sadness and loneliness.
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,” says psychologist Ethan Kross, who carried out the study, “But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”
Other studies have relayed very similar results. One study found that social media use increases feelings of jealousy and can lead to suspicion and insecurity in relationships.
6. Not Getting Along With Siblings
Poor relationships with your siblings can put you at higher risk of depression. If you do not get along with your brother or sister during childhood, it could have consequences on your wellbeing as an adult.
Experts are still not sure why the link exists, but Dr. Robert J. Waldinger, author of the study, believes, “Sibling relationships have been under-emphasised in learning about child development,” so more research must be carried out.