London: Scientists claim to have found the key to happiness -- keeping a balanced perspective on the past, present and the future.
Researchers at the San Francisco State University in the US found that a "balanced time perspective" involving looking fondly on the past, enjoying the present and having goals to strive for in the future can make people feel more happy.
Having this sort of positive and balanced outlook can make people feel more vital, more grateful, and more satisfied with their lives, said Ryan Howell, who led the research.
"If you are too extreme or rely too much on any one of these perspectives, it becomes detrimental, and you can get into very destructive types of behaviours," Howell said.
"It is best to be balanced in your time perspectives," he was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
While it may seem obvious that people who have a positive attitude about their past, enjoy the present, and focus on goals for the future would be the happiest, Howell said that a sense of well-being depends on the balance between these elements.
"If you are really dominant in one type of perspective, you are very limited in certain situations," he added. "To deal well when you walk into any situation, you need to have cognitive flexibility. That is probably why people with a balanced time perspective are happiest."
It can be fine to have fond memories of childhood, for instance, but spending too much time remembering the past can keep you from enjoying the present.
It might be great to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but "living in the moment" like that every night could keep you from achieving future goals, Howell and his team reported in the `Journal of Happiness Studies`.
There is some evidence that people can "rebalance" their
time perspectives, Howell said, while noting that "there hasn`t been a lot of work that`s tried to change time perspectives explicitly."
But in general, "if you`re too future-oriented, it might be good to give yourself a moment to sit back and enjoy the present," Howell suggested.
"If you`re too hedonistic and living for the moment, maybe it`s time to start planning some future goals."
Howell and his colleagues hope that their findings will help individuals to extend the benefits of a balanced time perspective into the area of consumer choice.