True
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How excited would you be if you discovered that your guilty pleasures don't always need to make you feel guilty?

GIF from "The Voice."


Like what if the blissful satisfaction you get from that slice of warm apple pie isn’t necessarily evidence of an intervention-level addiction to sugar and carbs (despite what that magazine cover told you) but could also just be a sign that you’re craving connection and feeling nostalgic?

Or that embarrassingly joyful feeling you have when small, random objects fit perfectly into another may not be a sign that you have obsessive compulsive disorder but just that you, like most people, really appreciate small moments of order in a chaotic world?

In other words, what if we could trace our feelings of happiness and satisfaction back to our brains and our humanity — and just a little farther away from the guilt-riddled land of right and wrong?

Well, according to science, maybe we can.

Over the past decade, a lot of research has been done into the science — both neurobiological and psychological — around why certain things make us feel so darn good. The science of happiness and satisfaction is a broad, relatively new area of study, and even though, like most big scientific questions, it will take a long time to have definitive answers, a few themes seem to be emerging from the research.

If true, they would be pretty powerful antidotes to the shame-based culture that makes us feel guilty about everything from a blissful bite of chocolate to our pursuit of wealth.

Image by iStock.

So without further ado, here are three ideas about satisfaction and happiness that could make you feel a bit more ... happy and satisfied.

1. It's possible that our brain wiring has a lot to do with how happy we feel.

Image via PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.

Researchers at Kyoto University used MRI scans to see if they could find where happiness actually happens in the brain. The results showed there was a positive relationship between an individual's subjective happiness score and gray matter volume on the right precuneus (an area in the medial parietal lobe of the brain, located at the top of your head, toward the back). People who were more content with their lives had a larger precuneus. They also found that the same area was associated with positive and negative emotional intensity and life satisfaction.

So while we know that pleasure is both genetic and learned (nature and nurture), it is good to understand that overall happiness and satisfaction is also made up of a lot of factors. Good old biology may be one of them.

2. Some things that we're told "shouldn't" affect our happiness actually do — but not as much as we think.

Does money buy happiness? Well, despite the sweet old moral adage that says it can't, the science tells a different story. Studies show that our instinct (the one that we would never tell our kids about but deep down inside we think is true) is right: Money can increase our life satisfaction. Statistically speaking, household income is strongly related to both emotional well-being and a person's quality of life assessment. In other words, you don't have to feel amoral or greedy for always wanting more money. It makes sense!

Image by David Koontz/Flickr.

But it's the why that's important and can reduce our anxiety a bit. Money increases our life satisfaction in as much as it helps us satisfy other evolutionary needs (like our desire for safety, freedom, health, or novelty, for example) and only up to a certain point. Studies show that after a certain amount, it has diminishing marginal returns on our satisfaction. So we can calm the never-ending desire for more — and stop comparing ourselves to the uber-rich. They aren't that much happier than the rest of us!

3. Overall life satisfaction leads to longer life. (Duh.)

In a nine-year-long study published by Chapman University that looked at adults over 50, the researchers learned that as participants' life satisfaction increased, the risk of mortality was reduced by 18%. By contrast, greater variability in life satisfaction was associated with a 20% increased risk of mortality.

So what's the actionable takeaway here? If we know that life satisfaction is tied to our mortality, it probably makes sense for us to spend time learning what brings us true satisfaction and fulfillment and actually pursuing those things ... right? Allowing ourselves guilt-free pleasures as well as investing in the deeper things that bring us overall life satisfaction isn't a selfish pursuit. It really may be a life-saving (or at least life-extending) measure!

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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