Over the years, a number of studies have found that more taxiing and stimulating pastimes are associated with a strong belief in longer term happiness and well-being. The anomaly, however, is that we don’t often act on those beliefs; we default to for more sedate activities such as binging on pizza and watching television.
We know what will make us happier, then do the exact opposite. A new study by Schiffer and Roberts in a recent Journal of Positive Psychology sheds a little more light on the so-called Happiness Paradox. In a large-scale study in the US, the authors found that we tend to associate more enriching activities with effort and so tend to avoid them, defaulting to the notorious couch potato syndrome. The more daunting something appears, the less likely we are to engage in it, so minor happiness now wins out over greater happiness in the medium-to-longer term.
So, what can be done to counter our tendency to prefer Netflix to enlightenment? Well, one solution could be to simply prepare more, making the effort we need to expend far less daunting. Schiffer and Roberts observe that even something as simple as preparing our gym kit the night before can have a dramatic positive effect on whether we go through with that work out the next morning, rather than flopping on the sofa with that oh-so-tempting Game of Thrones box-set!