There are many things that can make us happier or less happy and there’s no one ‘magic bullet’ that’s going to automatically turn you into a happy-go-lucky character without a care in the world. That said, there are certainly some things that appear to play a particularly large role in determining whether or not we’re happy.

Social Comparison Theory

One theory that has been put forward as having a lot to do with how happy we ultimately are is something called ‘social comparison theory’. Originally postulated by social psychologist Leon Festinger, the idea is that we largely define ourselves via comparison with others. While there are many aspects of this theory, the basic idea as it relates to happiness is that many of us aren’t happy because we are constantly comparing ourselves with others who are better off.

In other words, while you might be incredibly wealthy and successful, you won’t feel that way if the people you spend most time with are actually more wealthy. Similarly, you might not be happy with your relationship if your friends seem to be happier. The same goes for your house.

Making Matters Worse…

Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles are very much designed to make matters worse. On Facebook most of us put forward a very idealized version of our own lives – meaning that we receive a constant feed of images of our friends on spectacular holidays or giving talks at conferences. At the same time, the media is constantly showing us the lifestyles of the rich and famous – people who have perfect looks and millions of dollars.

How to Overcome Social Comparison Theory

So what can you do to overcome social comparison? One option is to leave Facebook and never come back, though many of us would consider that a rather drastic move.

More important though is to focus on your own goals and to try and keep a realistic idea of your life as it compares with others. Sure, that person has become incredibly successful in what they do… but is it exactly what you would want to do? Focus on your own goals and how they differ from those of other people.

Meanwhile, make sure to focus on what you do have and to set your own points of comparison. Don’t think about what you could have – think about what you’ve already accomplished and how much harder life could be.