Reflect on the different ways your life could have gone. Believing that the way things did work out was “meant to be” and appreciating the benefits of that journey both can add a deeper feeling of meaning to your life.
Four experiments explored whether 2 uniquely human characteristics—counterfactual thinking (imagining alternatives to the past) and the fundamental drive to create meaning in life—are causally related. Rather than implying a random quality to life, the authors hypothesized and found that counterfactual thinking heightens the meaningfulness of key life experiences. Reflecting on alternative pathways to pivotal turning points even produced greater meaning than directly reflecting on the meaning of the event itself. Fate perceptions (“it was meant to be”) and benefit-finding (recognition of positive consequences) were identified as independent causal links between counterfactual thinking and the construction of meaning. Through counterfactual reflection, the upsides to reality are identified, a belief in fate emerges, and ultimately more meaning is derived from important life events.
Source: “From what might have been to what must have been: Counterfactual thinking creates meaning.” from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – Vol 97, Iss 5
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Looks like the answer might be yes:
Can incentives be effective when trying to encourage the development of good habits? We investigate the effect of paying people a non-trivial amount of money to attend an exercise facility a number of times during a one-month period. In two separate studies, we find that doing so leads to a large and significant increase in the average post-intervention attendance level relative to the control group. This result is entirely driven by the impact on people who did not previously attend the gym on a regular basis, as the average attendance rates for people who had already been using the gym regularly are either unchanged or diminished. In our second study, we also obtain biometric evidence that this intervention improves important health indicators such as weight, waist size, and pulse rate. Thus, even though personal incentives to exercise are already in place, it appears that providing financial incentive to attend the gym regularly for a month serves as a catalyst to get some people past the threshold of actually getting started with an exercise regimen. We argue that there is scope for financial intervention in habit formation, particularly in the area of health.
Source: “Incentives to Exercise” from Departmental Working Papers, Department of Economics, UCSB, UC Santa Barbara, 2008
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Affection exchange theory and previous research suggest that affectionate behavior has stress-ameliorating effects. On this basis, we hypothesized that increasing affectionate behavior would effect improvements in physical and psychological conditions known to be exacerbated by stress. This study tested this proposition by examining the effects of increased romantic kissing on blood lipids, perceived stress, depression, and relationship satisfaction. Fifty-two healthy adults who were in marital or cohabiting romantic relationships provided self-report data for psychological outcomes and blood samples for hematological tests, and were then randomly assigned to experimental and control groups for a 6-week trial. Those in the experimental group were instructed to increase the frequency of romantic kissing in their relationships; those in the control group received no such instructions. After 6 weeks, psychological and hematological tests were repeated. Relative to the control group, the experimental group experienced improvements in perceived stress, relationship satisfaction, and total serum cholesterol.
Source: “Kissing in Marital and Cohabiting Relationships: Effects on Blood Lipids, Stress, and Relationship Satisfaction” from Western Journal of Communication
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We can’t be sure about fun, but female blondes do make more money:
This study contributes to the economics literature that links physical characteristics to labour market outcomes, by investigating the influence of hair colour on women’s own wages and also their spouse’s wages. Using U.S. panel data, we find that blonde women receive large wage premiums.
Source: “Physical appearance and wages: Do blondes have more fun” from Economics Letters
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Little is known about why some human beings make risky life-choices. This paper provides evidence that people’s health decisions and addictive actions are influenced by the gender of their children. Having a daughter leads individuals — in micro data from Great Britain and the United States — to reduce their smoking, drinking, and drug-taking. The paper’s results are consistent with the hypothesis that human beings “self-medicate‟ when under stress.
Source: “The Effects of Daughters on Health Choices and Risk Behaviour” from Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York
And the effect is significant:
…every additional daughter rather than son makes a person approximately 6% more likely to quit smoking and 7% less likely to have an alcohol or drug problem.
So why might people who have boys continue to drink and smoke? Because having young boys is more stressful and drinking/smoking/drugs help parents reduce stress:
Why would there be a link between people‟s health actions and the gender of their children? There is research evidence that bringing up sons is inherently more stressful than bringing up daughters; male children are more aggressive, noisier, more worrisome, and harder to placate… Human adults can if they wish choose to “self-medicate‟. They may do this, when under strain, by using substances such as tobacco and alcohol. A combination of these two assumptions leads to the prediction that the parents of boys will be observed to consume larger quantities of cigarettes and of alcoholic drinks than the parents of girls.
Next time I meet someone with five sons, drinks are on me.
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