Working fewer hours won’t make you happier, says study

Doing fewer hours at work doesn't improve life satisfaction. (pic:

Doing fewer hours at work may not improve life satisfaction. (pic:

The opportunity to work fewer hours may be on many people’s wishlists but, in reality, working less does not lead to increased life satisfaction. A 10-year study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies of workers in South Korea found that, while people were satisfied with a shorter working week ( a reduction of 10%), their levels of happiness in their lives overall did not increase.

One of the reasons for this outcome is that, even though workers put in fewer hours, their workload was not similarly reduced. In other words, they had to do the same amount of work in a tighter timeframe. However, one could conclude from the research that people’s wellbeing is not necessarily linked to the number of hours they work – and long hours may not be detrimental to some.

One particularly interesting finding from the study, however, was the different uses to which men and women put their new spare time. Men used it for leisure and hobbies. Women used it to catch up on their household duties.

Can gardening boost your mood?

anima gardening

Keen gardeners who enjoy spending time with their rakes, plants and mowers feel they are happier, have more purpose and are less depressed than people who are not at all green-fingered.

A survey for Gardeners’ World magazine found that 90% of gardeners say that gardening boosts their mood. Eight out of 10 people who love gardening say they are satisfied with their lives, compared with two-thirds (67%) of people who classify themselves as non-gardeners.

Gardeners’ World editor Lucy Hall said: “Our research means we can definitely say gardening makes you happy. Part of it comes from nurturing something, but it also brings a natural optimism that no matter how bad the weather, there’s always next year.”

It’s not just gardening that lifts the spirits. Anything that takes people into the outdoors seems to boost the mood. The survey of 1,500 people also found that 78% of walkers and 75% of people who go fishing are also satisfied with their lives.

Remember to count your blessings on International Happiness Day

ImageGenHappy International Happiness Day. The UN has decreed that the globe will be happy today. It has decided that a nation’s happiness will no longer be decided by its success or power but by the compassion and wellbeing of its people.

But I think happiness is more personal and a subtle than a group hug that wraps its arms around the globe. It’s an initiative to applaud, but each person’s happiness is surely individual? How do you define happiness? By reaching out to help someone? By having more meaning in your life? By spending time with loved ones? Or are you seeking that elusive happiness through work, relationships, money, belongings and status symbols?

Action for Happiness – “a movement for positive social change” – helpfully provides 10 keys to happier living. It also says that happiness comes from being grateful for what you’ve got rather than looking to all the things you’re living without. It says that “people who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled”.

So perhaps today is for a day for counting our blessings. In the words of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, perhaps we can appreciate “the moments of life that is itslef but a moment”.

Stop pursuing happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists

Call off the pursuit of happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists

Call off the pursuit of happiness if you want to be happy, say psychologists (pic:

It sounds a cruel irony, but if you put too much pressure on yourself to be happy it can have totally the opposite effect, according to psychologists. Focusing on your own fulfilment rather than your connections with others can leave you feeling lonely, they say.

Researchers from the University of Denver and the University of California, Berkeley, asked people to fill out an online questionnaire to gauge how far they valued happiness. They then filled out journals at the end of the day, reporting on stressful events during the day and how stressed and lonely they felt about them. The results showed that the higher someone values happiness, the lonelier they feel during a stressful event – regardless of their age, gender or background.

A second part of the experiment tested whether prioritising happiness is the cause of loneliness, asking people to watch a film clip after reading an article about the importance of happiness. Again, those who had higher expectations of happiness ended up feeling disappointed. The research authors say: “A desire for happiness can lead to reduced happiness and wellbeing. It may be that to reap the benefits of happiness people should want it less.”

This study backs up recent research from Germany suggesting that pessimists have a longer, happier life than optimists.

But rather than pessimism or optimism, perhaps it’s realism – and being grateful for what we have rather than continually wanting something more – that leads to real happiness? I’m reminded of the quote from Epictetu: “A wise man is he who does not grieve for the thing which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”