Prioritizing enjoyment over achievement could bring greater happiness, study finds

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A recent international study led by Dr. Paul Hanel of the University of Essex Department of Psychology reveals that individuals who focus on achievement over enjoyment experience less happiness the following day.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Personality, explored how different values impact our well-being for the first time.

People who aimed for freedom experienced a 13% increase in well-being, including better sleep quality and life satisfaction.

Those who sought to relax and engage in hobbies recorded an 8% boost in well-being and a 10% decrease in stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, values like ‘achievement’ and ‘conformity’ had no significant impact on happiness.

The study involved more than 180 participants from India, Turkey, and the UK, who filled out diaries over nine days to report how different values affected their well-being.

Interestingly, all nationalities reported similar results, suggesting the findings may have universal applicability.

Implications for Mental Health

Professor Greg Maio from the University of Bath, who collaborated on the study, suggests that the findings could have significant implications for mental health provision.

He said, “Against the backdrop where achievement-oriented values have ring-fenced a great portion of our time, we found that it helps to value freedom and other values just enough to bring in balance and recovery.”

What the Experts Say

Dr. Hanel commented, “There is no benefit to well-being in prioritizing achievement over fun and autonomy.”

He added that “people could in fact be more successful as they will be more relaxed, happier, and satisfied” by focusing on enjoying themselves and following their individual goals.

Future Research

The team believes that achievement could potentially have an impact on happiness when linked to job satisfaction or the number of days worked.

They also plan to explore how these patterns interact with relevant personality traits like conscientiousness and specific situations like type of employment.


The study strongly supports the notion that a balanced life, valuing enjoyment and personal freedom, leads to increased happiness and well-being.

As Dr. Hanel noted, “Our research further shows that it might be more important to focus on increasing happiness rather than reducing anxiety and stress, which is of course also important, just not as much.”

These findings offer a new perspective on how people should approach life for optimal happiness and could influence future mental health treatments and therapies.

If you care about depression, please read studies about Scientists find new way to treat bipolar disorder depression and findings of Suicide attempts during depression linked to higher death risk.

For more information about depression, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to a higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Personality.

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