So happiness – isn’t that the thing that all of us strive to find and keep? Nobody is happy all of the time, but some people are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies on what makes people happy reveal that it doesn’t have much to do with material goods or high achievement; it seems to whittle down to your outlook on life, and the quality of your relationships with the people around you. If you appreciate your life you are sure to be a happy person!
1. Be optimistic. In the 1970s, researchers followed people who’d won the lottery and found that a year after they’d hit the jackpot, they were no happier than the people who didn’t. They called it hedonic adaptation, which suggests that we each have a baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the effect on our happiness is only temporary and we tend to rebound to our baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than others, and that can be attributed in part to genetics, but it’s also largely influenced by how you think. So while the remainder of this article will help boost your happiness, only improving your attitude towards life will increase your happiness permanently. Here are some excellent starting points for doing that:
2. Follow your gut. In one study, two groups of people were asked to pick out a poster to take home. One group was asked to analyze their decision carefully, weighing the pros and cons, and the other group was told to listen to their gut. Two weeks later, the group that followed their gut was happier with their posters than the group that analyzed their decisions. Now, some of our decisions are more crucial than picking out posters, but by the time you’re poring over your choice, the options you’re weighing are probably very similar, and the difference will only temporarily affect your happiness. So next time you have a decision to make, and you’re down to two or three options, just pick the one that feels right, and go with it.
3. Make enough money to meet your basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing. In the US, that magic number is $40,000 a year. Any money you make beyond that will have negligible effects on your happiness. Remember the lottery winners mentioned earlier? Oodles of money didn’t make them any happier, and it won’t make you any happier. Once you make enough money to support your basic needs, your happiness is not significantly affected by how much money you make, but by your level of optimism.
- Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort isn’t what makes people happy. It makes people bored. That’s why it’s important to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel your growth as a person.
- Don’t assume you’re the exception, as in “Sure they didn’t use their lottery money wisely, but if I won it, I’m spend it differently, and it’d definitely make me happier.” Part of the reason many people are unhappy is because they don’t think research-based advice about happiness applies to them, and they continue chasing more money and achievement and material goods in vain.
4. Stay close to friends and family. Or move to where other members are- so you can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this because we think increases in salary will make us happier, but the fact is that our relationships with our friends and family have a far greater impact on our happiness than our jobs do. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you’d need a salary increase of over $100,000 USD to compensate for the loss of happiness you’d have from moving away from your friends and family. But if your relationships with your family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and you are bent on moving, choose a location where you’ll be making about the same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people feel more financially secure (and happier) when they’re on similar financial footing as the people around them, regardless of what that footing is.
5. Find happiness in the job you have now. Many people expect the right job or the right career to dramatically change their level of happiness, but happiness research makes it clear that your level of optimism and the quality of your relationships eclipse the satisfaction you gain from your job. If you have a positive outlook, you’ll make the best of any job, and if you have good relationships with people, you won’t depend on your job to give your life a greater sense of meaning. You’ll find it in your interactions with the people you care about. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire towards a job that’ll make you happier; it means you should understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small in comparison to your outlook on life and your relationships with people.
6. Smile. Science suggests that when you smile, whether you feel happy or not, your mood will be elevated. Moreover, studies show that happiness is contagious. With this in mind, consider the implications for happiness that the very act of smiling at another in passing has on not only our psyche, but that of the larger good. More importantly, when we smile at another, it shouldn’t be with the expectation of having a smile in return. Sometimes the people we are smiling at who don’t return the gesture may be the ones who need the smile the most. Just the act of doing something positive — sharing a smile — might be enough to send our neurochemicals in the right direction, regardless of the response.
7. Don’t take things to heart. Just because one person tells you something doesn’t mean it’s true. Even if it is try to be optimistic about it. Remember – just because one person is against you doesn’t mean the whole world is. Sometimes people don’t know what they are saying.
8. Practice Acts of Kindness. When we treat others in ways we would wish to be treated, a certain type of synergy develops. The altruistic actions on our part plays dividends in fostering positive relations and forging an upbeat mental attitude. There is an unspoken return to acts of kindness, in which they can manifest in various forms, such as a returned gesture, a happier mental state, and/or improved circumstances for one’s life. It ties into the law of karma, which implies that the merit of actions or deeds come back to the individual who performs them. Given this, acts of kindness are a way to move our lives in a positive and more fulfilling direction.
9. Exercise, exercise, exercise. For a boost to the immunity system and for an increase in overall wellbeing, exercise provides a healthy means for relieving stress and anxiety. Studies show that people who suffer from depression and other psychiatric conditions benefit greatly from engaging in physical exercise, and those without these conditions stand to benefit just as significantly. Rigorous physical activity can help defuse any stressful thoughts, returning the individual to a healthier equilibrium. Exercise also has the double benefit of making the individual more productive in day to day tasks, and as evidence of this, employees who exercise can generally carry more value in terms of productivity than those who don’t.
10. Take a vitamin B supplement. For a simple suggestion for increasing one’s level of happiness, a vitamin B supplement can carry a huge health dividend in positively impacting the mood.
11. Meditate. Meditation is a source of release from the pressures of cumulative, worrisome, and/or troublesome thoughts. Spending even as little as 5 minutes a day engaged in deep breathing exercises can help signiciatnly ease the pressures of the build-up of tension that happens to everyone on a daily basis. Meditation also provides the individual with a useful means to detach from negative thoughts, which prevents distressful thoughts from manifesting in the psyche.
12. Practice forgiveness. There is a tendency for people who are experiencing distressful circumstances to pass blame onto others. Children, for instance, may commonly blame their parents for the life challenges that they are facing. However, when we practice forgiveness, with it comes a sense of relief from burdensome thoughts in addition to the ability to forge healthier relationships with others. When forgiveness becomes a conscientious practice, anger finds a resolution and true healing can commence. Anger is counterintuitive to happiness, and any incidence of it is best resolved through positive emotions – and forgiveness helps provide this necessary release.
13. Love yourself. You are here on this planet for a reason. Your very presence is an act of beauty and a gift to humanity. Never undermine the good that you have given and that you stand to give. In saying and thinking positive things about one’s own inner value, tremendous feelings of joy can begin to manifest in even the most depressed mind. Remember that everyone has issues — everyone has something to contend with — and you too have obstacles and challenges. In loving yourself sincerely and humbly you can find a great deal of comfort and joy in knowing that no matter how badly the world may treat you or how badly you may feel about yourself at any given time that you are worthwhile and intrinsically good. Your presence here on Earth signifies your value and worthiness, and your interconnectedness with everything else on this planet signifies your importance in the grand web of life. So love yourself because your love is felt by all of those around you, and your love for yourself is just as important as anyone else’s, especially in times of distress and trouble.
- Just because something seems to make other people happy doesn’t mean that it really does. People are very good at pretending they’re happy, especially when they’ve invested so much into the things that are supposed to make them happy; it’s hard to admit that you’ve been placing all your eggs in the wrong basket.
- Don’t hold grudges against anyone.
- Don’t ruminate over past mistakes.
- Don’t hold onto material things too dearly; you cannot keep them forever.
- Happy people aren’t happy all the time. Everyone has times when they feel sad, frustrated, guilty, angry and so on. Happy people are just better at bouncing back to a state of contentedness. We may all feel negative at some moment in our lives, but try to bounce back and live in the moment, and be content with everything you do.
- Some people may question why you are always happy/complain about you always being happy.
- You might be considered strange or even odd. They might ask you what you have been doing and who it concerns.
Sources and Citations
- The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson
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