A Source of Happiness

What’s New in Psychology?

A Source of Happiness

Jim Windell

             Who knew that there is a happiness journal?

            And why aren’t we reading this journal regularly in order to increase our happiness?

            Apparently, developing the habit of reading the Journal of Happiness Studies will provide information to make us happier. For instance, a recent article in the journal describes a simple way to increase happiness.

            And what is that simple way? Inherit a million dollars? Buy a bigger house? Gain more friends? Become famous?

           According to new research from the University of Kent and the University of Reading, upping your consumption of fruits and vegetables is all you have to do to increase your level of happiness. Eating more fruits and vegetables – along with exercise – will take your happiness to a new level.

           The researchers, Dr Adelina Gschwandtner (University of Kent's School of Economics), Dr Sarah Jewell and Professor Uma Kambhampati (both from the University of Reading's School of Economics) considered the impact of two measures of lifestyle – the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercise – on individual well-being. Since lifestyle is likely to be endogenous, the scientists corrected for this by using two dimensions of delayed gratification as instruments. The ability to delay gratification enables individuals to give greater weight to the investment component of lifestyle decisions rather than merely the affective component.

          The data for this study came from the UK Understanding Society Data. This data covers 40,000 UK households over a period of time. In the first stage of the study, the researchers found that the two delayed gratification instruments were positive and significant in influencing lifestyle. In the second stage, they found that fruit and vegetable consumption and sports activity increased life satisfaction. However, it was found that the impacts of both varied for men and women. Yet, the results, the researchers report, are robust across income quartiles, region, gender, education and age groups.

           Although the link between lifestyle and well-being has been previously documented and often used in public health campaigns to encourage healthier diets and exercise, these new findings demonstrate that there is also a positive causation from lifestyle to life satisfaction. In fact, this is the first research to unravel the causation of how happiness, the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercise are related. In effect, this research argues that it is the consumption of fruit and vegetables and exercising that makes people happy – not the other way around.

           These findings suggest that the ability of people to delay gratification and apply self-control plays a major role in influencing lifestyle decisions, which in turn has a positive impact on well-being. The research also shows that men appear to exercise more, and women eat more fruit and vegetables.

           “Behavioral nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr Adelina Gschwandtner. “If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it is a clear win-win situation.”

           And Professor Uma Kambhampati commented: “There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices. To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development. This may also prove useful for policy campaigns around environment and sustainability.”

          We knew we should be eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising more. Now we know that these habits will lead to better health – and happiness.

          Who knew?

          To read more, look for this article:

Gschwandtner, A., Jewell, S., & Kambhampati, U.S. (2021). Lifestyle and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Delayed Gratification. Journal of Happiness Studies; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-021-00440-y

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