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Greater life satisfaction depends on focusing on the future

02.08.2017 Society
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People who have the greatest life satisfaction are those who are able to plan and focus on the distant and positive consequences of their own actions, according to a study by psychologists from the University of Warsaw, published by the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Life satisfaction depends not only on what we have already achieved and is not about what happened in the past. It is also important what kind of time perspective we have: past - positive or negative; present - hedonistic or fatalistic; future - also positive or negative.


Research of Dr. Maciej Stolarski and his team from the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Warsaw shows that each of these perspectives can have a significant impact on the emotions experienced in the present.


Much energy and motivation comes from the hedonistic perspective of the present, connected with the desire to maximize immediate enjoyment. However, satisfaction is greater when we can focus more on the future and the distant consequences of our own actions, than on the immediate effects.


The worst scenario is when we focus more on the negative experiences of the past, because they worsen our mood and decrease life satisfaction.


We can not completely break from our past, and it is particularly difficult to distance ourselves from failures and traumatic experiences. Psychologists argue that the past is the foundation of our identity: focusing on good or difficult, joyful or sad memories, we unconsciously shape our beliefs about our entire lives.


Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd from Stanford University showed the so-called time perspectives that we use to organize our perception of reality. We can be "immersed" in the present and enjoy the promotion at work, or believe that the promotion "happened to us". The future is always uncertain, but remains the most important source of motivation for action through plans and goals.


Zimbardo and Boyd believe that people differ in intensity and focus on particular "horizons of time". These differences, in light of numerous studies, are a key determinant of motivation, emotion, and overall quality of life.


The research of Dr. Maciej Stolarski's team suggests that the situation is best when we are able to effectively switch our attention between building memories of the past, motivating plans for the future and attentive "tasting" of the present.


"Through this perception of time, we can feel energetic, cheerful and less stressed, more effectively deal with anger and aggression, build more satisfying relationships and achieve greater efficiency in the workplace" - emphasise Polish specialists.


It is unclear whether time orientation focused more on: past, present, or future is genetically conditioned. This could be answered by further research, which will be conducted by the psychologists from the University of Warsaw. They will investigate to what extent biology affects our thinking about the past, present, and future.


These studies include identical and fraternal twins of the same gender. Non-twins can also participate in a parallel study conducted to determine the extent to which the time perspective is affected by temperament.


Psychologist Katarzyna Wojtkowska from the University of Warsaw revealed that there were prizes for participation in both studies. Inquiries regarding this matter and applications can be sent to the e-mail address: katarzyna.wojtkowska@psych.uw.edu.pl. More information (in Polis) is available on the website of the Faculty of Psychology: psychologia.pl.


PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland


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