Why do decisions make people unhappy?

psychology Happy without making your own decisions

Having to decide something costs energy. Often we don't just have a choice between two things or two ways. We are also pressed for time and may be influenced, which makes it even more difficult for us to listen to our inner voice. For many decades, scientists have been studying how we make decisions under certain conditions and what goes on in our brains. They all come to the same conclusion: it takes strength to make a decision.

The neuroscientist Moran Cerf (Northwestern University, USA) concludes that it relieves the burden and thus contributes to our happiness when others make decisions for us. Then when it's even people we like, we feel even better.

I was able to determine that the presence of a likable person ensures that the brainwaves almost synchronize. Among other things, smells and noises that we perceive from the other are responsible for this.

Moran Cerf, neuroscientist

Let others decide - a recipe for luck?

From this knowledge he has derived a recipe for happiness that he uses himself. It is best to only travel with people you find good. They would then make the right decisions for you. Cerf, for example, basically lets others choose a restaurant and each time takes the second daily offer on the menu in order to save himself the decision. Does that always make you happy?

Saving energy alone does not make you happy

Cerf's study results, however, neglect one thing - what the scientists call "internal control belief": to take the reins into your own hands.

Believing yourself to be able to control the consequences of my behavior and to influence it is just as important for our well-being, i.e. for our happiness. Passing an exam, for example, or successfully getting a raise, that feels good.

Annegret Wolf, Psychologist Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

If decisions are constantly taken from us, even if they are only small, then it can happen that at some point we feel helpless, at the mercy of and dependent. In the worst case, we forget to make decisions ourselves. Annegret Wolf leads a classic experiment on mice:

No matter what the animals did, the experimenter randomly gave them cheese or an electric shock. This unpredictability and this vulnerability led to the fact that the mice sat apathetically in the corner and almost became depressed, if you can say that with mice.

Annegret Wolf

Not being able to decide can also make you unhappy. It also depends on what kind of decisions are involved. Cerf's strategy may work when it comes to going to a restaurant, that is, when it comes to spending free time. But what about decisions that determine our life path? What job? Which city? Which partner?

Despite all the similarities to people we like, we each lead our own life with a lot of individual aspects. We should rather listen to our inner voice.

Annegret Wolf

Decision is (also) power and control

How we efficiently make the right decision is a big issue for politics and in companies. Studies are commissioned for this purpose, employees are trained for this, and money is invested for this. Because profitability and market success often depend on it. Stock market crashes, for example, make clear the consequences of people making the wrong decisions. But you don't have to go that far:

People who are more involved and able to help shape companies and organizations are usually also happier and more productive. This benefits everyone: the employees stay healthy and the work processes run smoothly.

Annegret Wolf

Happiness is diversity

The good news for everyone who can't decide whether they like to decide for themselves or not: Our happiness doesn't just depend on one factor. It is an interplay of different things that are good for us.