Give Your Happiness More Staying Power

We know a lot about what makes us happy and what makes us unhappy. Unfortunately, while we spend a lifetime perfecting how to chase it, we can't always make it last very long. That said, the way to more lasting happiness in life could actually be free.

Consumer psychologists with University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University have just released research looking into active ways mindset can play a role in cultivating happiness. It turns out one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal for this is our ability to set goals. "If people watch a movie with a specific goal, like feeling excitement, then they may be less likely to remember the funny or meaningful elements of the movie," said author Rohini Ahluwalia in a press release. In short, our goals can focus our emotions — and sometimes our goals can divert us from savoring happiness.

In a series of studies, the researchers asked participants to describe a recent purchase that fit either a general goal ("increasing their level of joy and happiness in life") or a specific goal ("to become happier by increasing excitement or to become happier by increasing peace of mind and relaxation"). Two weeks later, those who associated that purchase with the general goal of overall happiness tended to rate themselves as happier overall.

"These initial results show that we can make small changes in our thinking patterns to help us experience more joy," Ahluwalia said. "A general happiness goal can leave a longer-lasting positive emotional imprint."