Being happy with the ordinary

Researchers explore what makes us happy - and how this changes with age. In a series of studies, Cassie Mogilner and Amit Bhattacharjee considered what they defined as ‘ordinary' and ‘extraordinary' experiences.Ordinary experiences are defined as frequent, common and part of everyday life - organising a cupboard or sharing a meal with family or friends.Extraordinary experiences are uncommon and infrequent - a trip around the world for example, or bungee jumping or achieving a life milestone.The research concluded that younger people get more happiness from extraordinary events or experiences but as people get older, ordinary experiences are increasingly associated with happiness.The pair then went on to use Facebook to ask participants about whether their most recent status update described an ordinary or extraordinary event. The participants were asked to rate an experience using certain adjectives.  While extraordinary experiences were viewed as self-defining by people of all ages, "ordinary experiences were viewed as more self-defining by older participants than younger ones, becoming increasingly self-defining with age."Self-definitionIrrespective of how old the participants were, it was the self-defining events which made them the happiest.  What was changing was the nature of the experiences which people were using to define themselves.The researchers believe the findings will have an impact on how organisations market and position products and services."A happy life includes both the extraordinary and the ordinary, and the central question is not only which, but when."More on this work from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]