Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Five Ways to Happiness

happinesspic

Five Ways to Practice Happiness

 

When it comes to the quest for greater happiness, waiting and hoping are out. Learning and practicing are in.  Here’s how to create your own happy reality — starting now.

 

We travel in search of it, marry for the sake of it, see coaches and therapists to enhance it, switch jobs to capture it, and sock away money to secure it. Yet, for many of us, happiness remains elusive. And even though we spend much of our lives chasing happiness, many of us would be hard-pressed to even define it in the first place.

 

So what is happiness? Where can we find it? And once we do, how can we keep it?

 

These are questions that have consumed philosophers, spiritual leaders and artists (to say nothing of folks like you and me) for thousands of years. In the past decade, though, the same questions have attracted the attention of a growing number of psychologists, neurologists, and other respected academics and clinicians.

 

These researchers are turning their attention toward the mechanics and chemistry of happiness, which they define (in simplified terms) as the emotional experience of having a pleasant, engaged and meaningful life. And their findings are having a dramatic impact not just on the field of psychology, but also on the way many of us are cultivating happiness in our own lives.

 

At first glance, the notion of investigating happiness may not seem particularly revolutionary. But, in fact, the new interest in happiness represents a relatively contemporary shift in psychological focus. Historically, it seems that psychology has been more interested in fixing mental-health problems and illnesses than boosting actual happiness. And so the problems got more than their fair share of attention.

 

GETTING PAST GLUM

“Sigmund Freud famously suggested that the goal of psychoanalysis is to make extraordinarily unhappy people ‘ordinarily’ unhappy,” says Darrin McMahon, PhD, a professor of history at Florida State University in Tallahassee and the author of Happiness: A History (Grove, 2006). In short, psychology tried to make life tolerable for people suffering from severe mental illness.

 

Yet today most psychologists don’t treat the severely mentally ill. Instead they primarily work with people who are dealing with everyday dissatisfactions and worries, and the classic “talking cure,” meant to remedy acute mental illness, remains stuck in the same old Freudian paradigm.

 

“As a clinician, I treated people with depression and anxiety,” explains Andrew Shatté, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and coauthor of The Resilience Factor: Seven Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles (Broadway, 2002). “The way that we defined success was that people would come in and we measured their symptoms: If they had 30 symptoms and we got them to five, we called it a success. If we got it down to zero, we said ‘mission accomplished.’” In other words, helping clients build more happiness into their lives wasn’t part of the picture.

 

But if plumbing the mind’s recesses and dredging up past miseries doesn’t necessarily promote happiness, what can it hurt? Perhaps a lot, says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., a prominent figure in the study of happiness, and the author of numerous books, including Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial, 1991). “Most people, when they ruminate about the cause of their wretchedness, become more wretched,” he says. “For most people, that’s just compounding their misery.”

 

A LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

Shatté and Csikszentmihalyi are just two of a growing number of psychologists who, as part of what’s known as the Positive Psychology movement, have shifted their attention to advancing the knowledge of what makes us feel satisfied, energized, hopeful — and happy.

 

What they’ve discovered is that while overall life satisfaction does have an innate component (some people are just born happier and are wired to stay that way), happiness is also something we can practice and cultivate.

 

Happiness hinges on our choices, attitudes and thoughts — and when we know more about how these choices, attitudes and thoughts affect the quality of our lives, we have a powerful recipe for cooking up more lifelong joy, meaning and satisfaction.

 

Below are five of the fundamental conclusions from “happiness studies” done in recent years. Many of them sound like commonsense realizations — principles you’d think that we’d all be acting on already. But when it comes to creating our own happiness, turning common sense into common practice is a step most of us have yet to make.

 

  1. YOUR MENTAL GAME MATTERS, SO SHIFT YOUR THINKING.

Studies suggest that each of us has a baseline for happiness. Positive and negative events — winning the lottery or suffering a spinal cord injury are two examples that researchers have studied — will knock us off our baseline. But over time, we tend to return to roughly the same level of happiness, whether we are millionaires or confined to a wheelchair.

 

Where this baseline is set involves our temperament and genetics as well as our fundamental belief systems and thinking styles, explains Shatté. “The thing about our belief systems is that they become habits of thinking,” he explains, “and often these thinking styles are inaccurate.”

 

To illustrate the point, Shatté describes an experiment he frequently performs at seminars. He flashes a series of “word jumbles” on a screen and gives attendees 12 seconds to solve each puzzle. What he doesn’t tell them is that none of the puzzles has a solution. After several minutes, he pauses the exercise to ask participants to chart their feelings about their failure — frustration, anger, embarrassment.

 

“Each specific kind of feeling results from habits of thinking,” he explains. “If you think you’re not as good as other people, you’re going to be sad; if you are looking for a violation of your rights, you’ll be angry; if you think you will lose standing, you’re embarrassed. The point is, every one of these thoughts was wildly inaccurate, given the truth that the puzzles are unsolvable. We make mistakes in our thinking and we pay a price for them.”

 

The takeaway? People who gain self-knowledge about their inaccurate beliefs and feelings, Shatté says, can permanently lift their baseline for happiness. The more you understand your thinking style and beliefs, the more you are able to see the inaccuracies for what they are and be less affected by them.

 

Happiness Practice: Pay attention to your instinctive emotional responses and begin consciously challenging the negative thoughts and limiting belief systems that underlie them. Develop a self-calming or hopeful mental mantra (“Everything is an opportunity.” “I get to choose my responses.” “This, too, shall pass.”) to get you through anxiety-ridden moments. (For more suggestions, see “Three Deep Breaths” in the October 2006 archives.)

 

  1. DON’T COUNT ON MORE MONEY TO MAKE YOU HAPPIER.

The relationship between money and happiness is a complicated one. Some studies show that living in a wealthier nation can increase your happiness, regardless of your income level, but that within those countries, the rich report only marginally higher levels of happiness. Other studies suggest even the poorest people of the world, like those who live in the slums of Calcutta, can achieve happiness.

 

How to explain these discrepancies? Well, it turns out that basic needs like food and warmth generally must be secured as a precursor to happiness. To that end, money helps. And another ingredient of lasting happiness is pleasure, which can also be bought. But pleasure by itself, untethered from meaning and purpose, doesn’t stay pleasurable — or promote happiness — for very long.

 

Research shows factors such as meaningful relationships with family and friends and a sense of duty and purpose outside ourselves are equally important in determining overall happiness. Lacking those things, no amount of money is going to up your happiness quotient.

 

In fact, focusing on money to the detriment of things like relationships, duty and purpose is a proven recipe for unhappiness. Study after study shows that the more stock you put in what psychologist Tim Kasser, PhD, calls “extrinsic” values like status, possessions or good looks, the unhappier you are. It turns out that materialism — a preoccupation with material goods at the expense of other cultural, social and spiritual values — is a highly reliable way to drive your happiness downward.

 

Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., and the author of The High Price of Materialism (The MIT Press, 2002), considers well-being to depend on the fulfillment of four psychological needs: safety and security, competence, connection to other people, and autonomy or freedom.

 

“Our research shows that when people have strong materialistic values, they tend to feel low satisfaction of those needs,” he says. “Fundamentally, they’ve hinged their sense of worth on what others think of them, so their [happiness] is always fragile and contingent.”

 

The key to sustained happiness, it seems, is finding a balance between pleasure and meaning — and knowing when enough material wealth is enough.

 

Happiness Practice: If you’re compromising your close relationships, authentic priorities or sense of inner purpose in the pursuit of material wealth, it’s time to refocus your energy. Make a list of your core values and the experiences that matter most to you, then start building more of them into your schedule and budget, even if it means making some financial sacrifices in other areas. Seeking meaning, and finding ways to be generous with your time, care and money, will bring you far more happiness than a pile of greenbacks. (See “For a Good Cause” in the January/February 2002 archives.)

 

  1. APPLY YOURSELF FULLY TO WHATEVER YOU DO.

If only you could take early retirement and spend the rest of your days in a hammock sipping margaritas — then you’d be happy! Don’t count on it.

 

One of the crucial ingredients of a happy life is what Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.”

 

If you’ve ever been so absorbed in an activity that you’ve lost track of time, you’ve probably experienced flow for yourself.

 

“It’s when you are completely involved in something that stretches you and forces you to use your skills. You’re so focused you don’t even know you exist,” Csikszentmihalyi explains. You’re not thinking that you’re happy at the time, he continues, “because being happy would distract you from what you’re doing. But after you finish, you look back on it and wish you could stay in it forever.”

 

Here’s one of Csikszentmihalyi’s most surprising research discoveries: The actual task doesn’t matter. He’s studied factory workers and fishmongers who take routine jobs and “turn them into a work of art,” he says. A person can cultivate flow whether organizing paint cans in the basement or preparing a seminal speech for a big client at work. Entering a state of flow requires no more than presence, a problem-solving attitude and the conviction that you are going to do the best job you can at the task at hand.

 

To get lost in your next undertaking, says Csikszentmihalyi, shift your mindset. “Instead of approaching [it] with the attitude ‘here’s another stupid thing I have to do,’ say, ‘I’m going to do it as well as possible.’” When you’ve found your groove, you’ll have found more genuine happiness.

 

Happiness Practice: Regularly stretch your skills and abilities and be willing to give your full attention and intelligence to whatever you’re working on (or playing at) at the moment. Seek opportunities to develop mastery in various areas of your life (for ideas, see “The Skillful Life” in the June 2008 archives), and begin swapping passive “sit around” entertainments for active, meaningful, challenging ones that allow you to apply your skills and to experience “flow” on a regular basis.

 

  1. EMBRACE VIRTUES, AND ENJOY THEIR REWARDS.

One of the most profound — and profoundly simple — tenets of positive psychology is that happiness is found not only through individual thoughts and behaviors, but also by connecting to a wider purpose and contributing to the well-being of others.

 

This idea has been with us for a long time, says history professor McMahon. “Before the 18th century, ‘happiness’ was not predominately a description of a feeling or an emotional state, but a description of a virtuous life,” he says. “When people began to think of happiness as a positive emotion and good feeling, it was a profound shift.” Today, positive psychology has rediscovered the value of “virtues” using the scientific method, he says.

 

Psychologists are still exploring the territory, according to Csikszentmihalyi, but new and emerging studies show that when a person feels gratitude, forgiveness or another classical virtue, she reports higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.

 

These studies seem to indicate that happiness is tied not just to living for yourself, but trying to do something for others.

 

One study, for example, found that senior citizens who tried to live out their faith in everyday life reported higher levels of happiness than seniors who simply went to church to socialize. Shatté’s studies in the workplace corroborate the findings: Those who are happiest feel they’re contributing to something important.

 

“We’ve compared people who make a million dollars a year to people making a tenth of that amount in the public sector,” says Shatté. The public-sector employees who believe they’re “contributing to the greater good” were, Shatté says, “more satisfied than anyone.”

 

Happiness Practice: Make a point of doing considerate, loving and generous things for others (“random acts of kindness”) daily. Seize every opportunity to do the right thing and to express gratitude for kindnesses you receive. Get involved with at least one organized cause that inspires you to share not just your money, but at least a little face-to-face time and effort. If you’re looking for meaningful ways to get involved, check out Web sites like http://www.idealist.org and http://www.volunteermatch.com to connect with organizations that might need your expertise.

 

  1. FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIPS AND CULTIVATE COMMUNITY.

Ed Diener, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one of the nation’s foremost happiness researchers, has conducted countless studies on the variables that contribute to happiness. His lab has explored many different cultures, including African tribes, the Amish and Calcutta slum-dwellers, as well as more prosaic groups, like American college students.

 

What do the happiest people have in common? Positive social relationships. Happy people cultivate friendships and tend to be married or in relationships.

 

Surprisingly, it isn’t necessarily the quality or the quantity of friendships that matter. One study of college students found that the happiest of them had a “best friend,” but that companionship — just hanging out together — was more important to their happiness than making deeper connections.

 

Happiness Practice: Make some time every day to connect with the important people in your life. Establish some weekly or other regular rituals that give you opportunities to interact with others in meaningful ways. (For more on building community, see “Community Matters” in the June 2007 archives.)

 

Not sure where to start? Form a happiness-seekers circle with some friends, and meet monthly to compare notes on the practices that are working best for you. Try a different practice each month, and by this winter you might just find that cultivating happiness is fast becoming your hobby of choice.

 

MORE THAN A FEELING

 

The field of Positive Psychology has made it clear that enhancing happiness is not about turning your frown upside down or ignoring life’s disappointments. And it’s not about trying to feel happy when you don’t. Rather, it’s about taking daily actions that shift some of your core behaviors and attitudes over time. Here are three simple places you can start:

 

Develop Your Strengths: Each of us has a set of core strengths that can serve as a foundation for building happiness in life. By identifying and claiming your strengths (as opposed to just obsessing about your wants and weaknesses), you’ll experience more success and satisfaction in bringing them to bear on your work, activities and relationships. To get started, you can take a free, detailed 20-minute test called the VIA Inventory of Signature Strengths at http://www.viasurvey.org.

 

Scale Back on Stuff: Mountains of material goods do not equal happiness. Look for ways to reduce your acquisition of material possessions and to declutter and donate the excess stuff you’ve accumulated so far. On his anniversary, psychologist Tim Kasser, PhD, writes a poem for his wife instead of buying her things she doesn’t want or need. “It’s zero consumption and it’s a direct expression of our love.” His suggestion: When you’re about to make a purchase, take the time to consider if it’s necessary and consistent with your values.

 

Start Asking Questions: Challenging our own assumptions (most of which are embedded with judgments, fears and negative beliefs) is a powerful way to begin experiencing more of the happiness that’s there for the taking. For two examples of highly effective inquiry-based approaches, explore Byron Katie’s The Work method in “Coming to Terms” (October 2004) and Marilee Adams’s Choice Map in “Lines of Inquiry” (December 2004).

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How to Cultivate Happiness

happiness

Cultivating Happiness

Five Tips to Get More Satisfaction and Joy Out of Life

 

We all want to be happy. The right to pursue happiness is even written into our country’s bill of rights. But how does one do that? Is it even possible to become a happier person? And if so, what’s the best way to go about it? Researchers in the field of positive psychology have been studying these questions and the answers are encouraging. Turns out you can genuinely increase your happiness and overall satisfaction with life—and it doesn’t require a winning lottery ticket or some other drastic change of circumstances. What it takes is an inner change of perspective and attitude. And that’s truly good news, because it’s something that anyone can do.

 

What won’t make you happy

 

Do you, like many people, have a mental list of things you think you need in order to be truly happy? There are many externals our society teaches us to chase: success, wealth, fame, power, good looks, romantic love. But are they really the key to happiness?

 

The research says no, at least when it comes to long-term happiness. A prestigious award, a big raise, an exciting new relationship, a fancy new car, losing weight. These things can make us feel great at first, but the thrill doesn’t last very long. Human beings are quick to adapt to new circumstances—a quality that has helped us survive and thrive. But it also means that the good things that initially make us happier soon become our new normal and we return to our old happiness baseline.

 

Myths and facts about happiness

 

There are a lot of myths out there about what will make you happy. So before we embark on a tour of the strategies that do work for boosting happiness, let’s dispense with the things that don’t.

 

Myth: Money will make you happy.

 

Fact: It’s stressful when you’re worried about money. In order to be happy, you do need enough of it to cover your basic needs: things like food, shelter, and clothing. But once you have enough money to be comfortable, getting more money isn’t going to make much of a difference in how happy you are. For example, studies of lottery winners show that after a relatively short period of time, they are no more happy than they were before their win.

 

Myth: You need a relationship in order to be happy.

 

Fact: Being in a healthy, supportive love relationship does contribute to happiness, but it’s not true that you can’t be happy and fulfilled if you’re single. Indeed, singles who have meaningful friendships and pursuits are happier than people in mismatched romantic relationships. It’s also important to note that even a good marriage or romantic partnership doesn’t lead to a permanent, intense happiness boost. Expecting your partner to deliver your happily-ever-after may actually harm the relationship in the long-run. You—not your partner or your family members—are responsible for your own happiness.

 

Myth: Happiness declines with age.

 

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, people tend to get happier with age. Study after study confirms that seniors experience more positive emotions and fewer (and less intense) negative emotions than young people and middle-aged adults. As a whole, older adults are also more satisfied with their lives, less sensitive to stress, and more emotionally stable. Even with the losses that come with age, it is the happiest time of life for many people.

 

Myth: Some people are just happier than others and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

 

Fact: Genetics do play a role in happiness. Current research suggests that people are born with a certain happiness “set point.” But that only accounts for about half of our happiness level. Another 10% is due to life circumstances. That leaves 40% that is determined by your actions and choices. That’s a lot of control!

 

Tip 1: Train your brain to be more positive

 

Our brains are wired to notice and remember the things that are wrong. It’s a survival mechanism that helped keep our cave-dwelling ancestors safe in a world where there were many physical threats. But in today’s comparatively safe world, this biological predisposition to focus on the negative contributes to stress and unhappiness.

 

While we can’t change our nature, we can train our brains to be more positive. This doesn’t mean putting on a smiley face and whistling a happy tune no matter what’s going on. You don’t have to ignore reality or pretend things are wonderful even when they’re not. But just as dwelling on negative things fuels unhappiness (and plays a big role in depression and anxiety), choosing to notice, appreciate, and anticipate goodness is a powerful happiness booster.

 

Express gratitude

 

Teaching yourself to become more grateful can make a huge difference in your overall happiness. The research shows that gratitude helps you experience more positive emotions, decrease depression, feel better about yourself, improve your relationships, and strengthen your immune system. A recent study revealed that gratitude even makes you smarter about how you spend your money.

 

There are a number of simple exercises you can take advantage of to increase and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

 

Give sincere thanks to others. When someone goes above and beyond or does something to make your day easier, be quick to verbalize your thanks and appreciation. Not only will it make the person feel good, it will give you a happiness lift, too. It’s an instant reward to see how expressing gratitude makes a positive difference in someone else’s day. It makes you realize that we’re all connected and that what you do matters.

Keep a gratitude journal. It may sound cheesy, but writing down the good things that happened to you during the day really works. Research shows that keeping a gratitude journals is a powerful technique that instantly makes you feel happier, more connected to others, and genuinely appreciative.

Count your blessings. Make it a habit to regularly reflect on the things you have to be thankful for. Bring to mind all the good people, experiences, and things in your life, both now and in the past. Focus on the blessings both big and small, from the people who love you to the roof over your head and the food on your table. You will soon see it’s a pretty long list.

Write a letter of gratitude. Think of someone who did something that changed your life for the better who you never properly thanked. Write a thoughtful letter of gratitude expressing what the person did, how it affected you, and what it still means to you. Then deliver the letter. Positive psychology expert Martin Seligman recommends reading the letter in person for the most dramatic increase in happiness.

Find the positive in a negative event from your past. Even the most painful circumstances can teach us positive lessons. Reevaluate a negative event from your past with an eye for what you learned or how you became stronger, wiser, or more compassionate. When you can find meaning in even the bad things you’ve experienced, you will be happier and more grateful.

 

Tip 2: Nurture and enjoy your relationships

 

Relationships are one of the biggest sources of happiness in our lives. Studies that look at happy people bear this out. The happier the person, the more likely that he or she has a large, supportive circle of family and friends, a fulfilling marriage, and a thriving social life.

 

That’s why nurturing your relationships is one of the best emotional investments you can make. If you make an effort to cultivate and build your connections with others, you will soon reap the rewards of more positive emotions. And as you become happier, you will attract more people and higher-quality relationships, leading to even greater positivity and enjoyment. It’s the happiness gift that keeps on giving.

 

Make a conscious effort to stay connected. In our busy society, it’s easy to get caught up in our responsibilities and neglect our relationships. But losing touch with friends is one of the most common end-of-life regrets. Don’t let it happen to you. Make an effort to stay connected to the people who make your life brighter. Take the time to call, write, or see each other in person. You’ll be happier for it.

Invest in quality time with the people you care about. It’s not just the time spent with friends and family that matters; it’s how you spend it. Mindlessly vegging out together in front of the TV isn’t going to make you closer. People who are in happy relationships talk a lot. They share what’s going on in their lives and how they feel. Follow their example and carve out time to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

Offer sincere compliments. Think of the things you admire and appreciate about the other person and then tell them. This will not only make the other person happier, it will encourage him or her to be an even better friend or partner. As a practice of gratitude, it will also make you value the relationship more and feel happier.

Seek out happy people. Research shows that happiness is contagious. You can literally catch a good mood (you can also catch a bad mood, but thankfully, sadness is less contagious than happiness). So make an effort to seek out and spend time with happy people. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling the happiness, too.

Take delight in the good fortune of others. One of the things that truly separate healthy, fulfilling relationships from the rest are how the partners respond to each other’s good fortune and success. Do you show genuine enthusiasm and interest when your friend or family member experiences something good? Or do you ignore, criticize, or downplay the achievement, feel envious or threatened, or say a quick, “That’s great,” and then move on? If you’d like closer relationships, pay attention when the other person is excited. Ask questions, relive the experience with the other person, and express your excitement for him or her. Remember, happiness is contagious, so as you share the experience, their joy will become yours.

 

Tip 3: Live in the moment and savor life’s pleasures

 

Think about a time when you were depressed or anxious. Chances are, you were either dwelling on something negative from the past or worrying about something in the future. In contrast, when you focus on the present moment, you are much more likely to feel centered, happy, and at peace. You’re also much more likely to notice the good things that are happening, rather than letting them pass by unappreciated or unobserved. So how do you start to live more in the moment and savor the good things life has to offer?

 

Meditate

 

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique for learning to live in and enjoy the moment. And you don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to reap its benefits. No pan flutes, chanting, or yoga pants required.

 

Simply speaking, meditation is exercise for your brain. When practiced regularly, meditation appears to decrease activity in the areas of the brain associated with negative thoughts, anxiety, and depression. At the same time, it increases activity in the areas associated with joy, contentment, and peace. It also strengthens areas of the brain in charge of managing emotions and controlling attention. What’s more, being mindful makes you more fully engaged in the here-and-now and more aware and appreciate of good things.

 

Here are a few mindfulness exercises that can help you get started:

 

Body scan – Body scanning cultivates mindfulness by focusing your attention on various parts of your body. Like progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. However, instead of tensing and relaxing your muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad”.

Walking meditation – You don’t have to be seated or still to meditate. In walking meditation, mindfulness involves being focused on the physicality of each step — the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath while moving, and feeling the wind against your face.

Mindful eating – If you reach for food when you’re under stress or gulp your meals down in a rush, try eating mindfully. Sit down at the table and focus your full attention on the meal (no TV, newspapers, or eating on the run). Eat slowly, taking the time to fully enjoy and concentrate on each bite.

Notice and savor small pleasures

 

If you adopt a mindfulness meditation practice, you will automatically begin to notice and savor life’s pleasures more. But there are other things you can do to increase your awareness and enjoyment.

 

Adopt enjoyable daily rituals. Build moments of enjoyment into your day with pleasurable rituals. These can be very simple things like lingering over a cup of coffee in the morning, taking a short stroll in the sunshine during your lunch hour, or playing with your dog when you get home. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you enjoy and appreciate it.

Minimize multi-tasking. Savoring requires your full attention, which is impossible when you’re trying to do multiple things. For example, if you’re eating a delicious meal while distractedly surfing the Internet, you’re not going to get as much pleasure out of the food as you could have. Focus on one thing at a time in order to truly maximize your enjoyment.

Stop to smell the roses. It may be an old cliché, but it’s good advice. You’ll appreciate good things more if you stop whatever you’re doing for a moment to appreciate and luxuriate in them. It will enhance your pleasure, even if you can only spare a few seconds. And if you can share the moment with others, even better. Shared pleasure is powerful.

Replay happy memories. You don’t have to limit your savoring to things that are happening now. Remembering and reminiscing about happy memories and experiences from your past leads to more positive emotions in the present.

 

Tip 4: Focus on helping others and living with meaning

 

There is something truly fulfilling in helping others and feeling like your actions are making a difference for the better in the world. That’s why people who assist those in need and give back to others and their communities tend to be happier. In addition, they also tend to have higher self-esteem and general psychological well-being.

 

Here are some ways to live a more altruistic, meaningful life:

 

Volunteer. Happiness is just one of the many benefits of volunteering. You’ll get the most out of the experience by volunteering for an organization that you believe in and that allows you to contribute in a meaningful way.

 

Practice kindness. Look for ways to be more kind, compassionate, and giving in your daily life. This can be something as small as brightening a stranger’s day with a smile or going out of your way to do a favor for a friend.

 

Play to your strengths. The happiest people know what their unique strengths are and build their lives around activities that allow them to use those strengths for the greater good. There are many different kinds of strengths, including kindness, curiosity, honesty, creativity, love of learning, perseverance, loyalty, optimism, and humor.

 

Go for the flow. Research shows that flow, a state of complete immersion and engagement in an activity, is closely associated with happiness. Flow happens when you’re actively engaged in something that is intrinsically rewarding and challenging yet still attainable. Anything that completely captivates you and engages your full attention can be a flow activity.

 

 

Tip 5: Take better care of your health

 

You can be happy even when you’re suffering from illness or bad health, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the aspects of your health that are in your control. Exercise and sleep are particularly important when it comes to happiness.

 

Make exercise a regular habit

 

Exercise isn’t just good for the body. It also has a powerful effect on mental well-being. People who exercise regularly are happier across the board. Plus, they’re also less stressed, angry, anxious, and depressed.

 

It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you do, so long as you do it regularly. For best results, aim for an hour of exercise at least five days a week. If you find something you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. So don’t think you’re limited to going to the gym or strapping on jogging shoes. Find something that suits your lifestyle and preferences. It could be taking a dance class, shooting hoops, walking in nature, joining a community sports league, playing tennis, running with your dog, swimming laps at the pool, hiking, biking, or doing yoga in the park. If you’re having trouble thinking of activities you enjoy, think back to when you were a kid. What sports or games did you like to play?

 

Get the sleep you need

 

Getting quality sleep every night directly affects your happiness, vitality, and emotional stability during the day. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re much more susceptible to stress. It’s harder to be productive, think creatively, and make wise decisions. How much sleep do you need? According to sleep scientists, the average person needs at least 7.5 – 9 hours each night.

 

If you think you are having problems or have any questions please call us for help.

 

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