Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., an author, and Harvard psychology researcher, was urged by his mom to aim three things in life:
- To be a successful man and well-paid
- Getting married to someone nice
- Having children
It seems that this notion does not only apply in Indonesia. It is also a sentiment echoed by American culture. When Gilbert was growing up, his life was full of searching to get those things. But the question is, does marriage make us happy?
Research led by psychologists highlights whether the three aspects of marriage, money, and children bring happiness. Gilbert conducted a series of scientific studies from economics, psychology, and neuroscience to assess his mother’s recipe for happiness.That is true, but some things are wrong, said Gilbert in his book “Stumbling on Happiness” (Knopf, 2006).
- It is not marriage that makes you happy. It is a happy marriage that makes you happy. Married people are happier than unmarried people, perhaps because the best predictor of human happiness is the quality of social relationships. “People in unhappy marriages experience a spike in happiness once the marriage breaks up,” Gilbert said. One of Gilbert’s graduate students has found that people are happiest when they have sex, talk, or invest in social relationships. In fact, resting and relaxing does not bring happiness because they can make your mind wander, and you may remember unpleasant experiences when you do nothing.
- Money has abilities to buy happiness. People with money can go places with loved ones, worry less about their family, enjoy better nutrition, and have more freedom to set their schedules. But still, according to Gilbert, the ability of money to buy a high level of happiness for people in the United States is sufficient for middle-class incomes of $40,000 to $70,000. Once that level is reached, increases in wealth generate smaller rises in happiness.
- Happiness falls for both men and women after the first child is born. There have been 20 years of research showing that people without children are happier than people with children. Moreover, people with young children they live with are the least happy, Gilbert said. While the data establish that children don’t make their parents happy, parents need to ‘believe’ they are happy because they have to raise their child well.