The vlogbrothers’ Hank Green has found the secret — or rather, the secrets — to increasing happiness. They aren’t cure alls, and they certainly won’t apply to everyone, but they’re a lot better than most happiness advice you’re likely to get.
That’s because Green has limited his recommendations to changes that meet a few strict criteria:
- They have to have measurable, significant, dose-dependent, peer-reviewed impact.
- They have to be both actionable and passive (so they don’t require active effort to maintain).
- They have to be non-intuitive (so there’s still a point to sharing them).
Green found three things that met his criteria. The first, which he shares in the video above, is cutting down your commute. Commuting has been linked to a host of health issues, as well as lower life satisfaction, and decreased social participation and general trust.
If you have the luxury of moving closer to work, telecommuting, or even changing your job, you may be able to get an appreciable happiness boost. If not, active commuting like biking or even public commuting can be better for your general well-being than commuting alone in a car.
Green found two other life changes that meet his criteria: getting a cat or dog and getting married.
It appears that being needed by the animal makes the human feel as if they have intrinsic value which…I mean it would be nice if we had that without pets but, there it is. If you want the best bang for your buck, I would suggest a small dog or cat from the pound as it will eat significantly less food than a bigger animal.
Pets provide a few major benefits, including companionship, routine, and activity. And as much as classic sitcoms might try to convince us otherwise, marriage is generally associated with more happiness and higher levels of personal well-being.
Of course, if you’re depressed, these links get a little more complicated. Things that increase happiness do not necessarily decrease depression. Marriage has been linked with psychological gains for people with depression, but depression can also exacerbate relationship problems. Pet ownership has been found to be helpful in some cases, but not others. And while commuting has been tied to psychological conditions in women, that doesn’t hold true for men.
Not only that — all of this presupposes that you’re able to work, participate in romantic relationships, and take care of pets in the first place. If not, the happiness benefits will seem particularly out of reach.
So if you’re dealing with depression, the first step is to get help — once that process is underway, it will likely be a lot easier to find the things that will make you happy. If you’re already there, big changes like the ones Green proposes could well be worth a (life-changing, difficult to reverse) shot.