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Will Children Enrich Your Life?

Both single and married parents consistently say that the best thing to ever happen to them is their kids. We’ll be the first to admit: kids are not for everyone. Not every adult wants to limit their options in life by contributing to climate change with the single biggest carbon footprint you can leave behind (we’re not making a point there, we’re just saying it because it’s true). But whether or not to have (or adopt) children is completely up to you.

In any case, is it true? Will having children enrich your life and make you more fulfilled?

There are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, the most important factor in longevity — and this is according to science — is the continued social relationships you maintain well into old age. Having children or a tight knit community can help cement these bonds. That’s not to say you can’t maintain social bonds without children. You can! But it might be more difficult as you get older and people have families of their own.

Second, having kids won’t necessarily make you happier. We know this is contrary to everything you hear from, you know, actual parents, but science says it’s true. Professor of sociology at University of Texas in Austin Jennifer Glass says that life satisfaction is “not the same thing as happiness, and it’s not the same thing as financial well-being, good physical health or good emotional health.”

Glass says the research shows a slight increase in overall happiness soon after birth — but that it goes away just as fast.

Professor of sociology at the University of Maine Amy Blackstone explains, “You find that [parents’] happiness plummets pretty quickly once they discover all of the work that’s involved in a brand new baby.

Some people avoid the earlier hurdles of having children by adopting or fostering older kids or teens. This will obviously be paired with a whole new set of struggles, but some would-be parents find the challenge of navigating adolescent stages of life a fulfilling experience — especially since some people are simply better at dealing with teenage angst. 

Not sure if adoption or fostering is the right choice for you? Shoot a message to a Maitland Family Law Attorney for a free consult. You can also chat with an attorney if you’re going through divorce or need to change the terms of a legal contract that was already written. 

It’s important to focus on the positives more than the negatives when you struggle with your own kids — which is good, because parents tend to do precisely that. Glass says, “And thank goodness for that, because those same marvelous little creatures can put us into the abyss of despondency if anything goes wrong.”

Another important factor into whether or not kids will enrich your life? Money. We’ve routinely said that more money won’t necessarily make you happier — because it depends on how you spend it — but one thing’s for certain: poverty definitely leads to depression. And having kids can absolutely bring you below the poverty line. No matter what happens, these are personal choices. Make them carefully.

How To Be Happy When You’re Single

We previously discussed best practices for staying happy while building relationships — but it’s always important to recognize that we won’t be paired with another person 100 percent of the time. If you’re young and single — or a senior living the bachelor’s life — then you need to learn how to make the most of your time. Here are a few tips for doing so.

Here’s the hardest: work as little as possible. Free spirits are happier for a reason. In another recent post, we shared research that indicates the optimal work week only involves one day of work. It’s true, some people feel more fulfilled when working as much as possible, but you can find volunteer opportunities or things around the house that need doing if you feel like you need to do more. And of course, people have to work to stay financially sound. But if you’re rich…then consider shortening the amount of time you spend working.

Social media radicalizes people in an average of six months. Stay away from it! Reduce your time staring at your phone screen. All this will do is remind you of people who are already in loving relationships. If you’re single, find new friends outside of the internet. Walk around town, say “hi” to people you don’t know. Visit the library. Go on a hike. Whatever you do, get outdoors! Another crazy study found that you get happier the more bird species there are!

You also want to carve out a routine exercise schedule. This is a great time to listen to new music or explore nature. All three of those activities release happy hormones, so why not combine them? Exercise also helps you get to sleep when it’s actually time to sleep — which will become even easier if you stay away from “screens” in the hour or so before bed. Try reading instead.

Last but not least, you have more money because you’re single! Go on a road trip, fly to a new city, or visit a new part of town. Whatever you do, get traveling!

How To Stay Happy In Your Relationship

We’ve all had that urge to end a relationship whether that bond is a few weeks or a few years in age. Staying with one person for long periods of time can be a struggle — especially when that person is someone we have strong feelings for. We’re always more comfortable getting angry with a loved one over someone we don’t even know. But that can test even the strongest of relationships. How can you stay happier in yours?

Some advice is obviously cliche: you should listen more than you talk, and you should talk only when you should do so constructively during disagreements. There’s nothing wrong with seeking the help of a therapist or family counselor, either alone or with the participation of your loved one. This will help you locate your problems and target them one by one until they don’t exist.

Many people bottle up feelings for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to hurt their loved ones, or perhaps they don’t think there’s a point to sharing at all. A common reason people fail to communicate properly is because they think they shouldn’t try to “change” a loved one. Shouldn’t you simply accept a person for who they are? Well, yes and no. It’s important to talk about your feelings even when you don’t expect to change a person’s mind. Get it off your chest.

It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone mellows with age. That doesn’t mean you should stay with someone with whom you have irreconcilable differences. But it does mean that the desire to part ways will like lessen over time. It’s important to recognize the difference between this change in heart being due to that mellowness that comes with age versus when it occurs simply because you feel comfortable. Comfort can be a sign of a strong relationship. But some people feel comfortable even in toxic relationships!

Travel as much as possible! Visit here or there — and watch your relationship strengthen because of shared experiences and memories. Set aside a few dollars from every paycheck. Cut out the things you don’t need. Sell material possessions you don’t use. Devote the money you save to traveling as far and wide as your dreams demand. You’ll be happier and healthier whether you’re single, in a relationship, or have 18 kids.

Many relationships ultimately break apart because of youthful “clinginess.” If you need to spend every waking second with a partner, then the relationship might be doomed. Two people will always need time apart to explore their own personal interests. Remember: opposites attract, and that means you won’t have 100 percent of your own hobbies in common with your partner. You do you every once in a while.

The opposite is also true. Jealousy also dooms relationships. If you aren’t getting enough time with your loved one, then ask if there are any changes that can be made at work or home. One idea is to make a weekly checklist of three new activities (small ones, like building a puzzle) that you can do together. 

Has COVID-19 Diminished Worldwide Mental Health?

It’s not much of a question if you’ve been following the news for the past 12 months: a gloomy economic outlook, people out of work and going bankrupt, the inability to socialize with friends or close relatives, and general doom. But guess what? Columbia University researchers actually found out that long-term happiness was unaffected by the pandemic even though short-term emotions boiled to the surface. For all the apocalyptic talk from the media, we’re actually doing pretty good.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs said, “What we have found is that when people take the long view, they’ve shown a lot of resilience in this past year.”

The research was part of a larger annual report that aggregates many different data points to rank 149 countries. The most important factors include GDP, life expectancy, and personal opinion. This year’s report could only acquire participation from 100 countries due to the pandemic, but the news was mostly cause for optimism. 

Sachs explained, “We find year after year that life satisfaction is reported to be happiest in the social democracies of northern Europe. People feel secure in those countries, so trust is high. The government is seen to be credible and honest, and trust in each other is high.”

He added, “We asked two kinds of questions. One is about the life in general, life evaluation, we call it. How is your life going? The other is about mood, emotions, stress, anxiety. Of course, we’re still in the middle of a deep crisis. But the responses about long-term life evaluation did not change decisively, though the disruption in our lives was so profound.”

Author of The Nordic Theory of Everything Anu Partanen said, “In Finland as well, of course, people have been suffering. But again in Finland and the Nordic countries, people are really lucky because society still supports a system buffering these sorts of shocks.”

Birds Can Make You As Happy As Money — No, Really.

Science is always trying to unlock the next big key to happiness. We all know that poverty can hurt your overall level of happiness, even though material wealth won’t buy happiness either. Life is about balance — and knowing exactly what you like wherever you are in life. For some people, the answer is birds. And it’s all according to science. One recent study published in Science Daily sheds some light on this strange phenomenon.

Lead author Joel Methorst said, “Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity. According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Here we have common misconception — i.e. that some people just hate the outdoors — against the reality of scientific studies and surveys. The Science Daily publication wasn’t the first to determine that more species equates to more happiness. A 2012 European Quality of Life Survey found that people were generally ten percent happier when living in environments with ten percent more birds. How about that?

Director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Katrin Bohning-Gaese said, “We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income.”

What’s the rub, though? Many bird habitats are disappearing — and the birds with them. Climate change won’t just have a noticeable impact on economic prosperity, sea levels, weather patterns, and temperature — it will also affect our overall happiness. As biodiversity continues to decline, so will our mental health.

Methorst added, “This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all.”

The relevant studies discovered that the happiness increase that occurs when another 14 bird species live in the same habitat as you is the same as the one that occurs when you earn another $190 a month (guess we were lying when we said money couldn’t buy happiness — but hey, you know the deal: use it on travel and not material wealth, or it’s wasted). The studies based this finding on people with a static monthly income of $1,837 before the extra money was provided.

Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in people spending far more time outdoors — especially those who have been laid off or fired from their jobs. It will be interesting to see how the overall mental health of our population has endured over the past twelve months. We’ll probably have to wait a bit longer for that study.

What Does Science Say About The American Work Week?

A Cambridge University study analyzed the employment patterns of 5,000 people over 12 months, and suffice it to say the results were…interesting. Politicians have long been dogged by the question “Is the American work week too long?” According to this new study, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Americans typically work more than 40 hours per week, while many Europeans work an average of 35. 

Lead researcher Brendan Burchell said, “We had assumed that the maximum levels of wellbeing would be among those working three or four days a week.”

What did the team find? The happiest study participants worked only one day per week.

Other research had suggested that failing to work one full day a week had a detrimental effect on overall mental health. This current study suggests that one day is all that is required, and certainly enough to reap “the benefits of employment in terms of mental wellbeing and happiness.”

Perhaps the future is looking bright. Many futurists have been pushing for a universal basic income (UBI) to offset the coming job displacements that will be spurred by artificial intelligence. Maybe there will be more positions but for fewer jobs — and we won’t need to work more than a day. Just kidding, that’s liberal socialist utopian poppycock talk…Or is it?

Another study surveyed nearly 20,000 new mothers and pregnant women to find that nearly three-quarters of them “were forced to work fewer hours because of childcare issues.”

The original study is the reason that Chancellor Rishi Sunak revised the country’s furlough policy to provide government funding even for those who were only working part-time. By the way, the “one day a week” finding showed that even part-time workers and furloughed workers are happiest working that little. Needless to say, science is about a body of research studies and not just one. Peer review is important, so we’ll be waiting to see what other scientists have to say.

How To Remain In Control During A Bankruptcy

To say this has been a stressful year is a massive understatement. We can’t emphasize enough the severity of the consequences that have arisen because of the coronavirus pandemic — and keep in mind, we might not know the full extent of those consequences for years and years. Many people have lost their jobs. With this in mind, attorneys around the world expected an influx of new cases both because their offices were clothes and also due to the fact that people are angry and afraid for their financial security. The future might seem grim.

But bankruptcy shouldn’t be considered the end of the world. First and foremost, everyone started someplace. You might be headed backwards financially — and you might even lose assets along the way — but you’re also gaining an opportunity for perspective that few people are given.

What do we mean by that? Well, “job entrapment” is real. When you feel financially safe and secure in a position, you’re statistically less likely to search for a new job or a better job or whatever else it is you might want. In other words, you stop dreaming — and you start settling down to a life that lacks any kind of invigorating change.

Bankruptcy means you probably lost your job and the majority of your livelihood. But you have the chance to significantly change your life. Have you ever experienced a major obstacle you never thought you’d pass…only to arrive better off on the other side? Not everyone has one of those stories, but it’s a real thing that happens to real people every day. And it becomes more possible the more you look for it. When you go through a bankruptcy, try to find the opportunities — and take advantage of them.

An anonymous bankruptcy attorney at Toronjo & Prosser Law (https://www.t-plaw.com/) told us that bankruptcy isn’t necessarily the only answer to financial problems, either: “A lot of people come into our offices already dead set on declaring bankruptcy. They think we’re there just to tell them how and to file all the necessary paperwork. But we’re more like the financial consultants and life coaches you wish you had before ever learning the word ‘bankruptcy.’ Sometimes you just need some lifestyle changes to come out okay. There are plenty of other debt relief options.”

We were also informed that bankruptcy can be a very bad idea if someone doesn’t expect their financial situation to change for the better anytime soon — because there’s a “cooling off” period after bankruptcy. You can’t just file over and over and think life is all good. That means you really need to be at the lowest point of your financial troubles before you even consider bankruptcy.

Many people who file for bankruptcy will believe they’ve made a mistake, while many others will know it was the best decision they’ve ever made. Your own personal circumstances matter most — so be sure to look for financial help before you make that decision.

Should We Even Strive To Live Life Happily?

To say the United States is obsessed with happiness is a wildly overstated fact of life. But in other countries — say, France — happiness isn’t the goal. That might sound crazy. In France, though, the people are better known for their rather drab demeanor. They have that reputation because they strive to live life in contentedness rather than joy. They understand that striving for something wholly unattainable can be draining. And happiness, whether we like it or not, is improbable for many people. 

Suffice it to say, living life to the fullest often hurts a ton.

A recent Washington Post article asked similar questions about the struggle to be happy, but framed it with an outright statement: “Our obsession with happiness is making our kids miserable.”

Where did that conclusion come from? A variety of psychologists, it turns out. You see, we’re told from a young age to “be happy.” We’ve been told innumerable times that how we feel each day is a “choice.” But that’s nonsense. How we feel is determined by a complex combination of factors including environment and biology. Chemicals in the brain have more to do with feelings than anyone’s choice. 

The Post’s author, Dr. Andrea Bonior, writes: “Teach your kids that their thoughts don’t define them….Encourage your children to observe their thoughts with curiosity rather than fear, in a nonjudgmental way rather than with shame. Establish that not only is a thought not automatically true, but it’s not automatically ‘you.’ Encourage labeling distressing thoughts like ‘I’m having the thought no one likes me’ rather than ‘No one likes me,’ which helps your child separate from them.”

And isn’t that the trick? We’re often taught that our thoughts and feelings show us who we are — and when others have shown outward disapproval of people who turn similar thoughts into everyday actions, we feel different or as if we would be unwanted if we turned them into actions too. Ask anyone in the LGBTQ communit if that’s true, for example!

Does Owning A Vehicle Make You Happier?

You’ve probably heard the taglines before: Men in more expensive cars look healthier and more attractive. Having a nice car will help you “get laid.” Nice car stereotypes are a dime a dozen, but are they true? Will you really be happier driving around a mercedes instead of a toyota? Well, there’s not exactly much science on the subject one way or the other. But there’s psychology that we can deep dive into…so let’s do that!

Not everything we want will make us happy. Science definitely does tell us that. You might want a new video game or a few beers after work one day, but the payoffs for those kinds of purchases are temporary. They wear off. Money that goes toward life experiences is more likely to make us happy. That’s a fact.

So when questioning whether or not that new car will make you happy, you have to first ask yourself: Do I need this? Do I want this? …And why?

Purpose matters when making a decision like this. You might be making the right decision if you have an insane passion for cars. But if you’re just worried about the way you look or thinking about the potential benefits of the purchase, you’re probably making a bad decision. Especially when that decision costs you more money than you need to spend.

It is, however, worth noting that personal expression can result in personal satisfaction — and owning a vehicle can be a powerful way to express yourself. No one expects a thrillseeker to own a nissan. No one expects a red-blooded southerner to buy a vehicle made in Japan. And they shouldn’t. It isn’t about the personal beliefs behind the choice — it’s about the personality behind the choice. Who are you? And what do you want your car to say about your when other people see it?

But owning a nice car can also lead to accidents. There’s a reason insurance rates are higher for faster, flashier cars. Not sure what kind of car you want to buy for yourself? Getting a more affordable vehicle with greater mileage per gallon and enhanced safety options might be worth a second thought — especially if it helps you avoid a serious car accident. More info here.

We want you to enjoy a vehicle, and have the time to enjoy the vehicle, but safety is the priority. You won’t be happy if a joyride leads to heartache. 

So what are the best reasons to own a vehicle? You probably already know our answer: travel and scenery. Those wheels will get you to where you want to go, so why not start with a road trip to the places nearby you’ve never seen before? We’re thinking about state parks, monuments, museums, etc. These are the decisions that will matter most — where you go in life and how you choose to get there. Don’t make bad ones!

Does Marijuana Actually Make You Happier — Or Is It Just An Illusion?

The legality of marijuana is a hot topic lately, in part because our new president hasn’t made his intentions on its categorization by the federal government clear. Will he reschedule the relatively safe drug? Or will it remain a controlled substance just like heroin or cocaine? We’ll have to wait to find out the answer, but for now we can explore the reasons why someone might — or might not — want to try the drug for the first time.

Many people who consume marijuana in some form will experience a boost in happiness. It has the reputation for making people giggly. But the same can be said of alcohol, and we know that alcohol has a depressing effect up to two weeks later. Is marijuana’s effect a similar illusion?

We’re always telling you to get outside for a walk or run. Believe it or not, consuming marijuana can provide that same feeling because of a chemical called anandamide, which was first discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964. Anandamide is already present in our brains, and it’s one of the chemicals associated with the processing of emotion, glee in particular.

Dr. Gary Wenk wrote: “Cannabinoid neurons…influence the function of our cortex and various limbic (emotion-controlling) regions; when we stimulate these receptors, we impair higher cognitive functions as we experience euphoria, and when they are blocked, we feel depression.”

Don’t celebrate too much yet, though. It’s far too early to know for sure if marijuana has a long-lasting effect on overall happiness, or if it just helps in short bursts. It’s also worth mentioning that everyone experiences the effects of THC differently, and not everyone experiences the giddy, euphoric sensation for which marijuana is known. 

Science does seem to show that marijuana can impact growing brains in a negative way, meaning you should still keep it away from your children — along with the alcohol.