Lesser ways to greater happiness: try less money, less choice, less junk food

Research for my next book, Natural Happiness, is yielding surprising insights from the vast array of happiness research. Here are some highlights on areas where more of it means less happiness, or vice versa.

Too much money: Research has shown that very wealthy people actually suffer from higher rates of depression. A World Health Organization survey from 2010 interviewed 89,037 people in 18 countries and found that depression was more likely to hit those living in high-income countries than poorer ones (France was highest with 21% occurrence of depression, next to 6.5 percent in China, the lowest country).

Too much choice: Choice is a buzzword of the modern age, whether that's five types of organic honey in your local supermarket or a string of pilate classes to select from at the gym down the road. But a 2010 research paper from Stanford University's Department of Psychology discovered that too much choice makes us miserable.

Professor Hazel Rose Markus, the author from Stanford University's Department of Psychology, said: "We cannot assume that choice, as understood by educated, affluent Westerners, is a universal aspiration, and that the provision of choice will necessarily foster freedom and well-being.  "Even in contexts where choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness."

Eating junk food: Countless studies have linked poor diet with depression, including a 2012 paper published in the Public Health Nutrition journal. Researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada studied the eating habits of 8,964 participants who had never been diagnosed with depression over a six-month period. The results revealed that those who regularly consumed commercial fast food (hamburgers, hotdogs, doughnuts and pizza) are 51% more likely to develop depression, compared to those who eat little or none.