We conducted a systematic review of the evidence underlying some of the most widely recommended strategies for increasing happiness. By coding media articles on happiness, we first identified the five most commonly recommended strategies: expressing gratitude, enhancing sociability, exercising, practising mindfulness/meditation and increasing nature exposure. Next, we conducted a systematic search of the published scientific literature. We identified well-powered, pre-registered experiments testing the effects of these strategies on any aspect of subjective wellbeing (that is, positive affect, negative affect and life satisfaction) in non-clinical samples. A total of 57 studies were included. Our review suggests that a strong scientific foundation is lacking for some of the most commonly recommended happiness strategies. As the effectiveness of these strategies remains an open question, there is an urgent need for well-powered, pre-registered studies investigating strategies for promoting happiness.
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How to be happy, how to get rich - Explore. Google Trends (2021); https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=CA&q=how to be happy,how to get rich
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We thank S. Lyubomirsky and H. Passmore for comments on a previous version of this manuscript, and M. Smith for providing guidance on conducting the systematic literature search. We also thank J. Tan, P. Ramachadran, R. Li, R. Kaur, C. Peretz and C. Cardle for assistance with the media and scholarly literature searches. Our work was supported by grant #GR012572 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC; E.D.) and the SSHRC Doctoral Award #6567 (D.F.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
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Folk, D., Dunn, E. A systematic review of the strength of evidence for the most commonly recommended happiness strategies in mainstream media. Nat Hum Behav 7, 1697–1707 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-023-01651-4
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