If you want to be happy, new research indicates that it may simply be a matter of trying to be happier.

Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon published the results of two studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology that present the results of two experiments on this topic. In the first study, participants listened to “happy” music. Those who actively attempted feeling happier reported higher levels of positive mood after the study. In a second study, participants listened to “happy” music over a two-week period. Half of the participants were instructed to try to improve their levels of happiness. The other half were told to simply focus on the music. Those who attempted to improve their happiness levels reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the study.

These studies challenge earlier research that suggested trying to become happier was counterproductive. According to the researchers, what made the happier group so much happier was both a combination of trying to be happier and using the right methods, suggesting that people interested in becoming happier might need to take a more active role in improving their mindset.

This study supports an assertion by Martin Seligman—one of the psychologists at the heart of the positive psychology movement—who theorized that 60 percent of happiness is genetically determined, while 40 percent is up to the individual.
Congratulations! You’ve received an unexpected financial windfall. Should you use the money to buy a new GPS or go to a concert with friends?

According to a 2009 study conducted by the San Francisco State University psychology department, you’d be well served to choose the concert; your appreciation of the experience will grow over time, whereas your appreciation for the GPS will lessen in a matter of weeks.

Participants in the study answered questions about purchases they made with the intention of making themselves happy. Most were initially happy with their purchases regardless of whether they were material or experiential. However, those who invested in experiences tended to show higher levels of satisfaction for a significant amount of time after the events occurred. Also, because the experiences usually included other people, they reported a sense of connecting to friends or relatives, fulfilling a need for social bonding.

We found out about this study in a blog post from David DiSalvo called Ten Psychology Studies from 2009 Worth Knowing About. There are some other interesting studies on his list. We encourage you to take a look.