Social pursuits can increase your life satisfaction

Successful striving for happiness.

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Individuals who thought of ‘prosperity’ procedures that included other individuals are more happy with their lives, a new study suggests — while considering that they were insignificantly more joyful in any case. The study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that one should try socially-focused strategies that involve nonsocial pursuits to be more satisfied in life.

Scientists examined data from a subsample of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, a nationally representative survey of German adults.

In 2014, members in this example revealed how satisfied they were with life, giving a rating from 0 (totally disappointed) to 10 (totally fulfilled). They additionally revealed how satisfied they thought they would be in 5 years and depicted the techniques they could take to guarantee supported life satisfaction later on. After one year, the members again evaluated their present level of life satisfaction.

Of the 1178 participants, 596 made a general statement (e.g., “there is not much I could change”) or expressed an idea that did not entail individual action (e.g., “different politics would improve life”), whereas 582 reported a specific strategy. These two groups showed no substantive differences in life satisfaction over time.

Scientists further examined the data from the 582 participants who actually described specific strategies. Of these, 184 mentioned approaches centered on some form of social engagement (e.g., “helping others,” “spend more time with family,” “spend more time with friends”), while 398 described some form of nonsocial strategy (e.g., “stop smoking”).

People who described a social strategy showed increased life satisfaction one year later, whereas those who reported nonsocial strategies showed relatively constant levels.

Psychological scientist Julia Rohrer of the University of Leipzig said, “Our research showed that people who came up with ‘well-being’ strategies that involved other people were more satisfied with their lives one year later — even after taking into account that they were marginally happier, to begin with.”

“In contrast, people who came up with strategies that did not explicitly involve others remained, on average, as satisfied as they were.”

Other co-authors include David Richter, Martin Brümmer, Gert G. Wagner, and Stefan C. Schmukle.

Rohrer said, “Many people are interested in becoming happier, but there is a lack of evidence regarding the long-term effects of pursuing happiness through various types of activities. After all, there’s no guarantee that trying to become happier doesn’t make you more miserable in the end. I think our study partly fills that gap in the literature, although more research with a longitudinal perspective is certainly needed.”

Rohrer notes that additional research, including experimental studies and longitudinal studies with multiple follow-up assessments, will help to illuminate why social strategies seem to improve life satisfaction and nonsocial strategies do not.

Their research is published in Psychological Science.