On Friday I went to a great talk by Dr. Matthew Killingsworth wherein he gave us some data-based pro tips on how to increase happiness. The secret? Interacting frequently and deeply with other people.
As part of his research project, Dr. Killingsworth developed a smartphone app called Track Your Happiness. At random moments during the day, the app will prompt a few simple questions about your activities (e.g., “How are you feeling?”; “What are you doing?”; “Who are you with?” etc.). Then the app gives you feedback on the factors that promote your personal happiness, and your responses to the questions go into a large, anonymous dataset that Dr. Killingsworth and his colleagues use to advance knowledge vis-à-vis the science of happiness.
Analyzing data from over 50,000 people and 2,000,000 Track Your Happiness moments, Dr. Killingsworth has found that people seem to be happiest when they are interacting with other people (vs. being alone). Notably, just being around people doesn’t increase happiness; you have to be interacting with them. These effects are highest when engaging in leisure activities (e.g., bowling), but it seems that any activity with others is associated with greater happiness compared to activities where you’re alone. Additionally, interacting with friends in particular appears to yield the greatest increases in happiness, even more than romantic partners and family members! (This, I suppose, makes sense considering that we’re more likely to fight with our romantic partners/family than we are with our friends.) Intriguingly, these effects aren’t just for people who are already happier or more talkative on average—everyone benefits from interacting with others by approximately the same amount.
Finally, Dr. Killingsworth had some really interesting findings regarding the type of interaction that is associated with the most happiness. Interacting with other people in-person is likely to make you 7x happier than interacting with others virtually. In fact, tech-based interaction increases happiness only a little bit above the levels reported when people are alone.
The take-home message? New research suggests that meaningful interaction with others promotes happiness. Try it today: Grab a friend, go get cocoa, and see how you feel.