According to an extremely scientific survey by soft drink Appletiser, getting a compliment put 41% of women in a better mood, making compliments more reliable happiness agents than chocolate or sex. And in another, more legit study, college students got more satisfaction from compliments than from sex, money, or drinking. Therefore, in our patent-pending happiness ranking system, compliments are No. 1.
According to a new study by Carsten Grimm of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, which surveyed people by text message to see when they were happiest, sex is the most pleasurable human activity (apparently this is still true even when it’s interrupted by a text message). A similar study last year also found sex to be the most enjoyable.
Whether chocolate is a bigger mood-booster than sex is a perennial pop-science question. A 2011 survey found that women would prefer great sex to free chocolate — but another survey found that 52% of women chose chocolate rather than sex when they wanted to “treat themselves” (no word on how they felt about crystal beetles or cashmere). And a third found that 39% of single women would rather go without sex for a year than give up their favorite food, although that favorite food could be anything — one accompanying photo shows a woman ripping apart some raw tuna. So the evidence regarding sex and chocolate is inconclusive: We’re calling it a draw.
Several studies actually link drinking to happiness, which will come as no surprise to drunk people. Grimm found that drinking alcohol was actually the second most pleasurable activity, after sex. And in another study, college students who reported binge-drinking were actually happier than non-binge-drinkers. Also, those who don’t drink at all may be at higher risk of depression than moderate drinkers. Basically, science is telling you drinking is awesome.
“Socializing” was the seventh-most enjoyable activity in Grimm’s study, right after listening to music and above the rather generic “hobbies.” And having a large circle of friends has been linked to happiness in the past. The only caveat: Interacting with your friends on Facebook can make you less happy, because they look so exaggeratedly joyful that you feel like a loser (also, using Facebook was one of the least enjoyable activities in Grimm’s study). So stick to more wholesome pastimes, like drinking.
According to one study, money is a less reliable producer of happiness than sex — having sex once a week rather than once a month, for instance, can make you as happy as an extra $50,000 a year (but it requires way less work). However, making $75,000 or more per year apparently makes people more satisfied with how their lives are going (extra money above that doesn’t appear to increase this effect). And multimillionaires say their wealth makes sex better, and sex makes you happy, so clearly money is #2.
Recent research shows religion does make people happier, but only in countries lacking in food, jobs, or health care. In richer countries, religion makes people less happy. However, in the Grimm study, “meditating/religion” ranked fourth in activities that produce happiness — below sex, but above shopping.
A 2011 study found that buying something nice made people happier, with few negative side effects: “Retail therapy purchases were overwhelmingly beneficial, leading to mood boosts and no regrets or guilt.” But the more you shop the less money you have, which means worse sex, which means less happiness. Except if you get lots of compliments, which could make you more happy. More research on shopping is needed.
10. Taking care of kids
Grimm found that taking care of kids made people pretty happy — it was the fifth most enjoyable activity, just behind “meditating/religion.” But other research has found that having children makes people less happy, and that people found child care only slightly less crappy than housework, commuting, and their jobs. Also, having children has the potential to reduce your supply of money, sex, and chocolate.
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