Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. The word has different meanings for different people. For many, the sense of happiness derived from a luxurious vacation, or a new dress may seem short-lived, but what if it was possible to extend the joy?
Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University decided to explore whether the way people frame their goals for an experience influences how much happiness they glean from the experience over time.
While this approach may be effective in setting work, exercise or weight loss goals, the researchers hypothesised that this may not be as beneficial when happiness is the goal. In this area of life, general goals may be an advantage because people will be open to experiencing a broader range of positive emotions.
Study author, Rohini Ahluwalia, said, “If people watch a movie with a specific goal like feeling excited, then they may be less likely to remember the funny or meaningful elements of the movie. We predicted that people with general goals would engage a broader range of emotions and experience more happiness over time.”
She added, “Our findings suggest that people can change the amount of happiness they get out of an experience. A general happiness goal can leave a longer-lasting positive emotional imprint.”
This can apply to material purchases like a new car or dress as well as experiential purchases like spending money on vacation or a new pair of shoes.
Another experiment in the study showed that participants with broader happiness goals experienced more positive emotions after listening to a new song than the participants who had a specific goal of feeling excitement and energy. The participants with the broader goals were also willing to pay more for the song.
The full findings are present in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
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