Ah, happiness. It’s such an elusive concept: so hard to define and even harder to achieve.
Firstly, there’s the whole “Can Money Buy You Happiness?” debate. (It can, to an extent, apparently.) Then there’s the question of whether intelligent people are actually capable of happiness . (For the record, yes, we are. Kidding!)
Jokes aside, it turns out that smart people derive happiness rather differently from the rest of us. Here’s how.
The Link Between a Healthy Social Life and Happiness
Recently, a couple of researchers from Singapore’s Management University and the London School of Economics and Political Science did a study on the savanna theory of happiness. This theory posits that we react to our circumstances as our prehistoric forebears would, back when they lived on the savanna.
The study zeroed in on the correlation between an interviewee’s location and his or her life satisfaction. It found that people tend to be happier in rural, less populated areas. Also, our brains apparently evolved to function well in groups of no more than 150 people – about the size of a tribe that lived on a savanna thousands of years ago.
Any more than that, and human minds tend to get uneasy, it seems. In addition to this, the average person’s network totaled to about 153 people, further supporting the said premise.
So, where does having friends come in? Well, in the days before civilization, such bonds weren’t just desirable. They were critical to survival.
Solid alliances facilitated a tribe’s group hunting and food sharing activities, reproduction, and even child-rearing. (You’re probably familiar with the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” bit.) Going solo was practically suicide, what with formidable wildlife and little to no protection from the elements back then.
Thankfully, humans have come a long way since. These days, friendships remain crucial, but in a different way. You see, interacting with friends simply increases life satisfaction for most people.
How Intelligent People Differ
Li and Kanazawa’s study did unearth another interesting discovery, however. It’s that the correlation between happiness and spending time with friends is weaker when it comes to intelligent people.
In other words, smart people typically feel less happy after hanging out with their pals.
There are plenty of theories as to why that is. One is that those with high intelligence find greater satisfaction in pursuing a loftier objective than in socializing. Another is that smart people find it difficult to find others who can understand and appreciate the depths of their minds.
Lastly, people with very high IQ’s have an insatiable craving for loftier things. They find great joy in uncovering patterns, meanings, and significant purpose. That’s not exactly easy to accomplish when you’re stuck doing small talk with someone, eh?
So, does this mean that enjoying the company of your friends make you any less smart? Probably not. Interpersonal skills are a form of intelligence, and what brainiac doesn’t enjoy learning from other people?
Perhaps what we can take away from this is that those who can be happy alone are onto something. After all, no matter how many adoring friends, relatives, and significant others you might have, you remain your own constant companion throughout this life.
We’d best learn to enjoy our own company then.