University of B.C.’s John Helliwell and Dr. Joti Samra, host and psychologist on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood, talk about some of the most important discoveries in the field of happiness research and key indicators of life satisfaction.

1. It’s not all about the money, money, money
“It’s not huge amounts of wealth that makes us happy,” Samra says. “We know that we need enough money to meet our basic needs and basic comforts in life. Beyond that, the amount of income that we have is not that strongly correlated with happiness.”

2. Trust or bust
“As human beings, we are social creatures,” Samra says. “The amount of good-quality social support we have makes us resilient to other stressors in life. Having a sense of trust, community and engagement in those that we work with is really key, (since) we spend more time at work and those that we work with than we may even with our family and friends. When those relationships are healthy and intact, that’s really good for our overall quality of life and happiness.”

3. The need to belong
Having a sense of belonging is another key indicator of happiness, Helliwell says. “(People) really like to feel at home,” he says, adding that feelings of belonging in the neighbourhood or locally have much more impact than that at the national or provincial levels. “It’s tightly tied up with how much you trust your neighbourhoods,” he says. “If it’s a place where everybody looks out for each other, then of course you can trust them and then you can feel you belong.”

4. It’s better to give than to receive
Studies show that people who give money away rather than use it on themselves often receive greater personal satisfaction, Helliwell says. Those who volunteer or engage in philanthropic efforts gain more than the recipients. He says that a recent study shows that cancer patients who counselled their peers received more benefits.

5. Free people are happy people
“We know that from a mental-health perspective, when we’re in situations that we have control over, including our (life choices), and when there’s some element of predictability in our life, that we are much more at ease and psychologically and emotionally in a better place,” Samra says.

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