Increase Happiness by Getting Out of Your Comfort Zones

If you ever feel that you’re in a rut then do something to get you out of your comfort zone. A new study reveals the importance for expanding one’s boundaries to increase one’s happiness.

Going out of your comfort zone doesn’t need to be skydiving, public speaking, or anything extreme. It all depends on you and what you need to do to expand yourself.

An increasingly large body of research in social psychology has underscored the power of brief situational interventions in promoting purposeful change. The present research contributes to the literature on positive psychology interventions (PPIs) by testing a novel volitional intervention that encourages people to engage in activities ‘outside their comfort zone.’ Participants were randomly assigned either to a condition that encouraged them to engage in an activity outside of their comfort zone over the following two weeks or to a control condition that encouraged them to keep a record of their daily activities. The intervention boosted the life satisfaction of people who were relatively less happy at baseline, with exploratory analyses tentatively suggesting benefits strongest among people who went outside their comfort zone by helping others. Discussion centers on the potential of behavioral ‘stretch’ interventions to promote positive change and well-being among people dissatisfied with their life.

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Volunteering Increases Happiness

person studying

People who volunteer tend to be happier than those that don’t. Is that because happier people volunteering or that volunteering can make you happy? It turns out that volunteering does increase your happiness. Researchers found that the average volunteer gets a happiness equivalent to a salary boost of $1,100 USD.

So volunteering helps the world and it helps you too. So what are you waiting for? Go volunteer!

Evidence of the correlation between volunteering and wellbeing has been gradually accumulating, but to date this research has had limited success in accounting for the factors that are likely to drive self-selection into volunteering by ‘happier’ people. To better isolate the impact that volunteering has on people’s wellbeing, we explore nationally representative UK household datasets with an extensive longitudinal component, to run panel analysis which controls for the previous higher or lower levels of SWB that volunteers report. Using first-difference estimation within the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society longitudinal panel datasets (10 waves spanning about 20 years), we are able to control for higher prior levels of wellbeing of those who volunteer, and to produce the most robust quasi-causal estimates to date by ensuring that volunteering is associated not just with a higher wellbeing a priori, but with a positive change in wellbeing. Comparison of equivalent wellbeing values from previous studies shows that our analysis is the most realistic and conservative estimate to date of the association between volunteering and subjective wellbeing, and its equivalent wellbeing value of £911 per volunteer per year on average to compensate for the wellbeing increase associated with volunteering. It is our hope that these values can be incorporated into decision-making at the policy and practitioner level, to ensure that the societal benefits provided by volunteering are better understood and internalised into decisions.

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Reminder: Occasionally Pop You Filter Bubble

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

When Russia recently expanded their invasion into Ukraine they clamped down on what they called “fake news”, meaning that the increased their censorship. Many western-owned media companies were banned from operating within Russia while other companies continued to operate but with high levels of censorship. The popular app TikTok kept running in the country and now serves vastly different content to Russians than it does to others. The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is not that far from the Russian city of Belgorod yet what they see about the war couldn’t be further apart.

NRK recently looked into TikTok filter bubbles and it’s a good reminder for all of us to alway check our filter bubbles so we don’t fall prey to manipulation. Check other country’s news and thoughts on matters for a variety of perspectives. As always, use reason.

In Kharkiv, the war is raging. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of videos like this have been uploaded to TikTok.
The social medium has become a place where an increasing number of people are looking for the latest news about the Ukraine war – although it can be difficult to know what’s real.

In Belgorod, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked. Chinese-owned TikTok still operates as one of the few global, non-Russian platforms.
But will a TikTok user who lives here get to see any of what’s going on in the Ukrainian neighbouring city?

Check out NRK’s filter research.

Make People Feel Ignorant So They Listen To Experts

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

The rise of disinformation by organizations big and small means the role of experts is even more important. We have seen how people have been manipulated around elections to vote against their interests and even to deny a well-documented global pandemic. The notion that people deny reality isn’t new, we’ve seen it with climate change. So how do we address this knowledge problem?
Making people realize that they don’t know everything is the solution. People are more receptive to the knowledge of experts when they themselves realize they don’t know everything – and opinions aren’t knowledge.

While they usually should, people do not revise their beliefs more to expert (economist) opinion than to lay opinion. The present research sought to better understand the factors that make it more likely for an individual to change their mind when faced with the opinions of expert economists versus the general public. Across five studies we examined the role that overestimation of knowledge plays in this behavior. We replicated the finding that people fail to privilege the opinion of experts over the public across two different (Study 1) and five different (Study 5) economic issues. We further find that undermining an illusion of both topic-relevant (Studies 2–4) and -irrelevant knowledge (Studies 3 and 4) leads to greater normative belief revision in response to expert rather than lay opinion. We suggest one reason that people fail to revise their beliefs more in response to experts is because people think they know more than they really do.

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Punctual Meetings are More Productive

Interview

It’s not just you who thinks there’s too much useless chatter at the start of the meeting. Meetings that don’t start on time are less efficient than those that do, and less creative. Another neat factor researchers found out is that people are less satisfied with a meeting that starts late, so if you want a reputation of running good meetings that aren’t a waste of time then start on time.
The next time you run a meeting skip the small talk and get down to what you’re meeting about.

Meeting lateness is pervasive and potentially highly consequential for individuals, groups, and organizations. In Study 1, we first examined base rates of lateness to meetings in an employee sample and found that meeting lateness is negatively related to both meeting satisfaction and effectiveness. We then conducted 2 lab studies to better understand the nature of this negative relationship between meeting lateness and meeting outcomes. In Study 2, we manipulated meeting lateness using a confederate and showed that participants’ anticipated meeting satisfaction and effectiveness were significantly lower when meetings started late. In Study 3, participants holding actual group meetings were randomly and blindly assigned to either a 10 min late, 5 min late, or a control condition (n = 16 groups in each condition). We found significant differences concerning participants’ perceived meeting satisfaction and meeting effectiveness, as well as objective group performance outcomes (number, quality, and feasibility of ideas produced in the meeting). We also identified differences in negative socioemotional group interaction behaviors depending on meeting lateness. In concert, our findings establish meeting lateness as an important organizational phenomenon and provide important conceptual and empirical implications for meeting research and practice.

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