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What Makes People Happy?

Hint: It's not money

If you've ever thought that winning the lottery would make you happy, a recent study suggests that money really doesn't buy happiness. People feel the happiest when they enjoy strong social connections and have autonomy and competence in their work and personal lives.

Money and power aren't bad by themselves, says Dr. Alan Manevitz, a New York City psychiatrist. They can "lead to security that allows [people] to be more relaxed and autonomous." But these outward signs of prosperity can also mask loneliness, incompetence or self-doubt, he says.

The pursuit of wealth and influence can divert attention from more rewarding things in life, says Kennon Sheldon, a psychologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, who studied the aspects of life that more than 1,000 college students found satisfying. A feature from the New York Daily News describes how work by Sheldon and other researchers may motivate people to find happiness.

Two recent HealthScout stories explain how happiness lowers the risk of stroke and a positive outlook can boost the immune system.

A small, but growing number of psychologists are now focusing on positive aspects of personality. Rather than dwelling on how to treat psychological problems, a revisionist group of researchers hopes to study optimism, play and virtue. The Bergen Record reprints a feature from the Baltimore Sun explaining that this new movement is still regarded with skepticism outside of the United States.

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