Because the bibliography for The Bliss Experiment contains over 500 scientific studies, I wanted to create this separate page that highlights some of the key studies that deserve special attention or seem to regularly get mentioned at my talks or media appearances.
I'm going to allow this section to grow organically over time. Instead of going through the book right now and deciding in advance what's "most important," instead, I will periodically add a new study here when I notice that it's being referred to a lot in one place or another. So keep checking back as this page will be continuously updated....
1. The Pew Research Foundation released a very important survey of Americans and their religious beliefs. One of the most important findings (it had many parts to it) was that nearly 50% of all respondents reported having had a mystical/spiritual/bliss experience sometime in their lives.
It's amazing--and essential--to realize just how common and widespread these experiences are. The only problem is that most people don't understand what happened to them all that well, nor do they realize that they can learn to live in these exalted states much more frequently and with all the great benefits that come from doing so.
Citation: Pew Research Center. (2009). Many americans mix multiple faiths. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Washington, DC.
2. It's no secret that the West is generally obsessed with youth and beauty. Most of us try to achieve or maintain it to some degree or another. What's often not understood is the tremendous cost that comes with this obsession. The more we focus on external things like beauty or perceived youthfulness, the more miserable we become. A very dramatic study that compared the mental states of runway fashion models--the very pinnacle of that profession, reserved for only the most striking women on the planet--to average looking people found that the fashion models were actually less happy than average people and overall, exhibited all sorts of negative personality traits. The more we focus on external things like youth and beauty--and the reactions of people outside of us to these things--the more miserable we become.
Citation: Meyer, B., et al. (2007) Happiness and despair on the catwalk: Need satisfaction, well-being, and personality adjustment among fashion models. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(1): 2–17.
3. There's no doubt that romantic love is one of the most commonly pursued happiness strategies in the West. It's also a delusion. Genuine, unconditional love not only exists, it's one of the most important of our human capacities and essential for bliss. However, the specific sub-genre of "romantic love" is something entirely different. While unconditional love is eternal, romantic love is fleeting. Several studies, including two cited below, show that it disappears relatively quickly. In one of them, researchers actually measured physical changes associated with being "in love" and found that these chemical changes lasted only a year before disappearing. In a second study, which took a survey approach, researchers found that the average couple reported that their romantic stage lasted about 2 1/2 years.
Moreover, it provides no bump in happiness. In a huge, 15-year long study that included thousands of people, scientists discovered that single people who then entered long-term romantic relationships that were successful enough to lead to marriage found absolutely zero increase in their reported levels of happiness over time. At most, they got a small bump and then quickly returned to whatever their "baseline" was prior to their romantic involvement.
Emanuele, E., et al. (2006). Raised plasma nerve growth factor levels associated with early-stage romantic love. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 31(3), 288-294.
The Daily Mail Staff (Ed.). (2008, October 29). Two years, six months and 25 days: The length of time it takes before romance is dead. Daily Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1081193/Two-years-/index.html
Lucas, Richard E., Andrew E. Clark, Yannis Georgellis, and Ed Diener. (2003) Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 84.3: 527-39.