If you want to be happy, you need to put mind over matter, a new study finds.
In the June 2016 issue of Body Image, researchers from Chapman University published the findings of a national survey titled Correlates of appearance and weight satisfaction in a U.S. national Sample: Personality, attachment style, television viewing, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.
Over 12,000 American adults between the ages of 18 and 65 answered questions about their personality, beliefs, romantic relationships, self-esteem, television viewing, and personal characteristics in relation to overall life satisfaction.
The results showed just how powerful an impact our sense of self — particularly our physical self — has on our ability to be happy.
"Our study shows that men's and women's feelings about their weight and appearance play a major role in how satisfied they are with their lives overall," David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and lead author on the study told BioSpace.
Among women, satisfaction with overall appearance was the third strongest predictor of overall life satisfaction, following satisfaction with financial situation and satisfaction with romantic partner. For men, the correlation was even stronger. Satisfaction with appearance was the second strongest predictor of life satisfaction, after satisfaction with financial situation.
Unfortunately, not many feel satisfied.
Few men (24 percent) and even less women (20 percent) "felt very or extremely satisfied with their weight, and only half felt somewhat to extremely satisfied," according to Dr. Frederick. "These findings are consistent with the emphasis placed on the importance of being slender for women and for appearing athletic and/or lean for men," he told the publication. "It would seem, therefore, that we still have a long way to go before we achieve the goal of Americans being truly happy with their bodies."
Those dissatisfied with their weight also reported being less satisfied with their sex lives and experiencing lower overall self-esteem.
Frederick noted that appearance dissatisfaction and anxious attachment styles can fuel each other, leading to a vicious circle. "People who are less confident in their appearance become more fearful that their partner will leave," he said, "which further fuels their worries about their appearance."
But here's the thing: true satisfaction doesn't come from a number on a scale, but what you believe when you see that number.
You can lose all the weight in the world, but it won't make any difference about how you feel about yourself until you decide it does.
Interestingly, satisfaction with overall appearance may be the only predictor a person can control without any outside forces. While your satisfaction with your financial situation and your romantic partner are both dependent upon other people, you can decide to live a rich, inner life by embracing and appreciating your outer beauty.
Those who reported feeling satisfied with their overall appearance not only had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction, but also had higher openness, conscientious, extraversion, and were more secure in attachment style.
But you don't need to "lose three pounds" to be happy. You simply need to redefine what "satisfaction" means for you. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. And if it doesn't matter, you'll be satisfied.