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How To Be Happy: Talk To People, Not Your Phone

10/10/2013 11:24 EDT | Updated 10/11/2013 05:37 EDT
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iPhones and other gadgets can be useful, but they don't make us happy -- but people and human relationships do, at least according to a new Swedish study.

A team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg scoured Swedish news articles looking for words that appeared with the word happiness. After analyzing more than 1.5 million words, "people" words -- celebrities such as Prince Daniel and soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as words like "grandmother" and personal pronouns like "you," "us," and "we" -- were closely associated with the word happiness. Conversely the names of gadgets and trends, such as "iPhone" and "Google," were almost never associated with happiness.

"It's relationships that are most important, not material things, and this is in line with other findings in happiness research," said lead researcher Danilo Garcia. "This doesn't mean that material things make you unhappy, just that they don't seem to come up in the same context as the word for happiness."

"Just as the Beatles sang, most people understand that money can't buy you happiness or love," said Garcia. "But even if we as individuals can understand the importance of close and warm relationships on a social level, it isn't certain that everyone is aware that such relationships are actually necessary for our own personal happiness."

Happiness, or any emotion, is difficult to quantify, which is why Garcia and his team said that analyzing newspaper articles could be a good start to identifying what makes people happy and why. Next they plan to tackle how certain life events, such as having a baby or losing a job, affect happiness.

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