How to Find Happiness in Hard Times
One of the ways that an economic recession takes a mental toll on us is that we focus our attention on a single issue...in this case, money woes. Researchers call this the "focusing illusion," which is our tendency to narrowly focus attention on unique aspects of a circumstance. Football fans, for example, tend to overestimate how much a win or a loss will affect their future happiness because they focus on the sporting contest while overlooking work, health, relationships and the bevy of other factors that affect daily well-being. In the same way, you are more likely to mentally weigh the effects of money troubles while overlooking your great friends, personal values and other rewarding aspects of life.
If you are anything at all like Ilene, you too have worried about recent economic trends. It makes sense to fret over the kids' college funds or your retirement account precisely because these things are important. It is equally sensible to, like Ilene, examine all areas of your life and not get hung up only with financial setbacks. Remember to take stock of your health, friendships, spirituality and goals. Finally, when it comes time to spend money, especially discretionary funds—even in small amounts—it makes sense to purchase gifts, experiences and opportunities to interact with others.
5 ways to get happiness dividends from your dollars
Dr. Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener are the authors of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, which won the 2008 PROSE award for best book in psychology. The father-and-son team has published, collectively, nearly 300 scholarly articles on happiness.