Science Knows What Makes You Happy the Longest

There are many ways to say, "I love you."

The best one is just to say, "I love you." They're three of the most important words we'll ever hear in our lives. That, and "I think we got away with it."

In fact, hearing"I love you" from one's partner can make us happy for four hours. Romantic partner, not your business partner. In that case, the best words are still "I think we got away with it."

According to a recent study commissioned by Capital One UK, people really do feel happy for four hours if their partner says they love them.

However, that's not what makes us happiest the longest, it's only sixth on the list. There are five other things in life that can make us happier longer.

According to the survey, the thing that makes us the happiest is when your bank behaves ethically and doesn't try to gouge you for every little fee.

Capital One. What's in your wallet?

Your fingers.

Actually, the thing that makes us happiest the longest is "spending time with family." Then, our happiness lasts for four hours and 33 minutes when we spend time with our family, and they're not staring at their phones, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and randomly bursting into laughter at memes.

No, no, I'm not irritated. I love spending time with my kids while they don't talk to me for hours. Happy Father's Day.

Coming in second and third are "booking a vacation" for four hours, 31 minutes, and "getting home from a vacation with a glowing tan" for four hours, 13 minutes.

In other words, you're happier 18 minutes longer by booking a vacation than after finishing the vacation. In fact, being on vacation didn't even make the list.

Booking a vacation? Happy.

Coming home from vacation? Happy.

Taking the vacation? Meh.

Saving money by not going on vacation with your emotionally-withdrawn family? Priceless.

It would be a whole lot cheaper if you'd just book vacations and then hit the tanning beds a couple times.

Numbers four and five were "your sports team winning" at four hours, nine minutes, and "when your child makes you a piece of art" at four hours, one minute.

We should feel guilty about that. That we're somehow happier a little longer when a bunch of people we've never met defeat another bunch of people we've never met than when our children pour their hearts into drawing a beautiful picture for us.

But I've seen your kids' drawings, and I get it. I mean, the dog looks like a cow and the people are as big as the house. I just expected more from a 27-year-old.

And holding up sixth place at four hours even is "a partner saying 'I love you.'"

Just so we're clear: You'll be happier longer if your favorite sports team wins than if your favorite person expresses their love for you. Don't mention that to your partner, though, or it may be the last time you hear it.

For the most part, people are happier with more of the little things in life. Booking and getting home from vacation are pretty significant events in our day-to-day lives, so it's understandable that they would make us happy.

And your favorite sports team winning doesn't happen that often when you're a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. (Seriously! They have the fifth worst record in baseball. Their GM couldn't sign a good ballplayer if you gave him a pen and said, "Just make an X.")

But most things that make us happiest the longest are the small things. Like "finding a bargain in a shop" (3:39), "tidying the house" (3:36), "getting complimented" (3:30), or "having a cold alcoholic drink on a hot day" (3:17).

You could give yourself a seven-hour boost if someone told you, "Wow, I love your house. It's so tidy!" You'd need two declarations of love to beat that, but your partner's still pretty ticked off about the whole favorite team thing, so don't hold your breath.

The last two items on the list are "eating junk food" (3:06) and "drinking a cup of tea" (3:04). What happens if we do both of them at the same time? Do we get six hours and ten minutes of straight happiness, or do we somehow get a super mega-happy boost where we're extra happy — even happier than if our kids finally put down their phones and talked to us? While on vacation? I'll try it this weekend and let you know.

Finally, "finishing a workout" clocks in at three hours, thirty-six minutes, but I'm much happier by not starting a workout in the first place. In fact, the best way to make myself extremely happy is to sit at a restaurant and watch all the joggers staggering past, sweat pouring down their faces as they grimace with every step.

Although I'd be just as happy watching videos of them on my phone.

Photo credit: Christopher Ross (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.