How do you get satisfied in life

Paths to greater satisfaction

The basic mood with which we go through life depends surprisingly little on the twists and turns of our biography. Then what is satisfaction based on? And what is the best way to get there?

Finally being satisfied with yourself and life: who doesn't want that? But: When judging how this state is to be achieved, people apparently err astonishingly often. Material prosperity, health or marriage are generally considered to be the guarantors of a happy life. However, a number of studies show that such events and circumstances only have a limited influence on the way we view life and what we have achieved and what we have missed.

It therefore makes sense to study the findings of psychologists, neuroscientists and CV researchers, who now paint a very precise picture of what constitutes satisfaction at its core, what it is based on - and how it can best be achieved. A central, perhaps the most important, message from the experts is: The basic mood with which we go through life depends only to a surprisingly small extent on the turns our fate may take. Even more: basically everyone is able to improve their satisfaction.

The important difference: Why happiness and satisfaction are closely related and yet follow completely different rules

It is a longing that seems understandable: the relentless pursuit of moments of happiness. On top of that, feelings of happiness are a strong driver: euphoria, for example, helps to get a task done quickly. A very special one among the high feelings is even the prerequisite for the continuation of our species: Sex makes you happy for a short time. In the brain there is then a release of substances that put us in ecstasy.

When we feel happiness, we experience the greatest sense of well-being that a person is capable of. In its force it can even cover up basic needs: For example, people who have recently fallen in love often forget to eat; And those who have just been promoted enthusiastically work overtime, often without realizing that they are reaching the limits of their physical capacity.

A permanent state of happiness would therefore be quite unhealthy. In any case, the euphoria is inevitably followed by disillusionment, also biologically: the body breaks down the intoxicating messenger substances in order to recharge for the next emotional outburst.

And so people are always looking for happiness anew - regardless of whether it is about sex, good food, higher earnings or simply running faster. But while happiness often comes over us ecstatically (and sometimes evaporates just as quickly), satisfaction is a much more lasting feeling: it sets the tone with which we look at our lives, so to speak.

And it is not easy to equate with what psychologists refer to as "subjective well-being". Rather, it is a whole complex of sensations made up of momentary happiness as well as the lasting feeling of satisfaction.

You can read the entire text and two other ways to greater satisfaction in GEOkompakt "Who am I?"

That well-being is pretty constant in many people, even over the long term. Although the momentary feelings are often subject to considerable fluctuations, they fluctuate around a certain level, which for most of us remains roughly the same over long stretches of life.

One-time experiences of happiness have a surprisingly little effect on long-term well-being. The US psychologist Philip Brickman was able to prove that people who had won a large sum in the lottery did not judge their current life situation more positively after a few months than those who had not experienced anything of the kind.

Even more: the researchers even found that the winners had a loss of happiness in life. These people were less able to enjoy the little things in everyday life. In addition to the immense profit and the new amenities that it made possible, the simple pleasures faded.

This adaptation to a state that is actually perceived as happiness can set a negative process in motion, warn psychologists: The "hedonic treadmill" lets us chase after supposed lucky charms over and over again, but as soon as a dream is fulfilled, we quickly get used to the new state , the exhilaration disappears. And then a new project has to be found that promises fulfillment for us.

Anyone who alone wants to increase their well-being in the long term is therefore doomed to failure in principle. But what about satisfaction? Of course, it also feeds - at least to a not inconsiderable part - from our current well-being.

But many researchers emphasize that how closely it is linked to this varies not only from person to person, but can also change in the course of life. The scientists see the reason in the fact that satisfaction, like well-being, is an emotion, but into which our thoughts and attitudes also flow, our evaluations of all experiences, experiences and achievements in our lives. They therefore also refer to satisfaction as "cognitive well-being". Its change is subject to its own laws - and can be controlled much more through conscious thinking.

The influence of personality: why nothing determines a person's satisfaction as much as their character

For researchers, it is more or less obvious that the great feeling of happiness is hardly suitable for increasing our long-term satisfaction. You know: a curmudgeon does not turn into a life-affirming person just because he is offered a wage increase, wins a competition or is invited to the Caribbean. He may experience brief spikes of great satisfaction. Nevertheless, in principle, he will judge his life just as surly as before.

According to the researchers' results, the differences in life satisfaction can only be explained to a maximum of 20 percent by factors such as age, gender, origin, income, education and marital status. There is therefore much to suggest that satisfaction is above all a question of personality.

Evaluations of studies show that when looking at their life, people who achieve high scores for the character trait "extraversion" in tests (who are sociable and active and see difficult situations as a challenge rather than a problem) find fulfillment in particular. Or those who have the characteristic "conscientiousness" (which are characterized, for example, by structured action, adherence to principles and discipline).

On the other hand, those who have developed the trait "neuroticism" (for example, people with this trait suffer more often than others from anxiety and stress) tend to be less satisfied with their existence. Psychologists have not yet been able to explain why the factors "extraversion" and "conscientiousness" have such a beneficial effect on personal satisfaction.

They suspect, among other things, that the two character traits primarily have an indirect effect: for example, extroverted people establish particularly diverse and stable social relationships (which in turn increase satisfaction). And especially conscientious people have good prerequisites for realizing long-term goals in life (and thus also for satisfaction).

Other researchers emphasize that another aspect is more decisive - the perception of positive and negative events: Some people experience good things particularly intensely and thus tend to have a more satisfied attitude. Others, on the other hand, react more to negative experiences and therefore often see their entire existence in a gloomy light.

Our personality can, so to speak, make us believe that we are particularly favored by fate - or, on the contrary, that we are abandoned by luck. No matter how much the respective impression corresponds to reality.

Genetic predisposition plays an important role in this. Because the genetic make-up has a significant part in shaping our personality, and that in turn determines our well-being.

For example, US researchers found that identical twins who grew up separately show a similarly pronounced degree of life satisfaction as adults, even though they sometimes lived under very different conditions. In the case of dizygoti twins who grew up together in one household, the differences between happiness and satisfaction were significantly greater.

Two researchers from the British University of Warwick even succeeded in identifying a genetic influence on the well-being of entire nations. They compared studies on deviations in the genome between the populations of numerous countries with test series on happiness and satisfaction in the respective countries.

From this data, the scientists calculated: The greater the genetic proximity to the population of Denmark (which always takes a top position in international comparisons), the higher the subjective well-being of the people in a country - regardless of geographical, economic or political factors.

This predisposition can still shape people even if they grow up in another country: On the basis of studies from the USA, which also recorded ancestry, the two researchers found that there is a clear connection between the well-being of today's Americans and that the inhabitants of the very country from which their ancestors emigrated.

Scientists are still arguing about how strong the respective degree of our satisfaction is already inherent in our genetic make-up; some believe that 50 percent of the different manifestations are genetically determined, others even assume up to 80 percent.