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The Science of Happiness: What Really Makes Us Happy!

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The Science of Happiness: What Really Makes Us Happy!

The Science of Happiness: What Research is Telling Us

We all want to be happy—and for decades, psychologists have tried to figure out how to achieve that state of happiness. Countless studies and experiments have explored a wide variety of approaches, from giving away our things to stopping using Facebook or forcing yourself to smile showing your teeth.

But psychology has faced challenges in the last decade, with researchers realizing that many studies in the field were unreliable and unrepeatable. This has resulted in closer scrutiny of psychological research methods, and the study of happiness is no exception. So, what really makes us happy? Undeniable paths to happiness have been identified, while others have yet to be proven and remain under examination, according to a new analysis published in the Annual Review of Psychology.

A classic 1988 study found that smiling makes us feel happier. However, a larger test of this hypothesis in 2016 with nearly 1,900 participants could not replicate the findings, as reported by researchers. The need to counter psychology’s reproducibility crisis has led researchers to review and retest many long-standing theories. One effective strategy has been for scientists to publicly declare, or pre-register, their analysis plans before conducting their experiments. This practice has resulted in a reevaluation of many theories and studies of happiness.

The thorough analysis narrowed the field of happiness research to 48 published papers, some of which were of high quality in terms of their methodology and participant diversity, beyond mere pre-registration. Researchers found that practicing gratitude, acting in a social way, spending money on other people, and more natural expressions of smiling were good paths to happiness that were supported by new pre-registered research.

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In contrast, other well-known approaches to happiness such as volunteering or meditation did not currently show clear evidence of benefits, at least with the current state of pre-registered studies. Ultimately, the review provided only a preliminary look into the broader landscape of happiness research, as researchers look forward to ongoing improvements in the field.

As a result of these findings, the study of happiness is on the threshold of an exciting new era. Pre-registration and the enhanced rigor brought by the renaissance in the field suggest that progress is being made and that happiness research continues unabated.

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