Count your blessings but forget Lady Luck if you want to be happy – research

An irrational belief in luck controlling one’s life is linked to high levels of neuroticism, pessimism and negativity, researchers have said.

24 March 2022

Those who believe in fate are more likely to be prone to anxiety and neuroticism, new research has found.

A team at the University of Bath found that people who believe in the concept of “luck” as a random, external phenomenon affecting their lives often have high levels of pessimism and negativity.

But on the other hand, the research found individuals who consider themselves lucky in terms of their personal circumstances are more likely to describe themselves as happy.

The findings undermine the term “happy-go-lucky”, the researchers claim.

In the paper Do the happy-go-lucky? The researchers concluded: “Taken together, these findings could lend support to a more accurate, if less elegant, aphorism that, broadly: though luck believers aren’t happy, those who believe themselves lucky are.”

The research was based on a survey of 844 ethnically Chinese students at an English language university in Hong Kong.

They were asked questions such as: “Some people are generally very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this characterisation describe you?”

The paper said a belief in luck had a positive correlation with a range of irrational beliefs and negative traits such as “awfulizing” – a tendency to overestimate the seriousness of events.

It is also linked to “problem avoidance” – a coping strategy where individuals try and avoid stressful situations rather than engaging with them and overcoming them.

Professor Edmund Thompson, of University of Bath School of Management, who led the team of international researchers, said: “Those who irrationally believe in luck as an agentic phenomenon would appear to do so because they are by disposition more neurotic, pessimistic and negative.

“These are personality traits long associated with lower levels of life satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness.”

He continued: “However, those who think they are fortunate because things have luckily turned out well for them, often by complete accident rather than purposeful design, generally believe this because they have a suit of characteristics disposing them to objectivity, logic and gratitude, personality traits found broadly to be linked to higher happiness levels.”

“When it comes to happiness, the saying that ‘the happy go lucky’ may be wrong, but the expression ‘count your blessings’ would seem to be quite right.”

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