University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky details the things research shows the happiest people have in common.
Via The How of Happiness:
I guess the blog post could end here. You’ve got your answer. But did you just want trivia? Or do you actually want to get happier?
The internet has become a firehose of ideas we never implement, tricks we forget to use.
Reading a list of seven things is easy. Implementing them in your life can be hard.
But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get down to business.
Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. What’s that mean?
Lots of little good things make you happier than a handful of big things.
Research shows that going to church and exercising both bring people a disproportionate amount of happiness. Why?
They give us frequent, regular boosts.
Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says it’s really that simple: the things that make you happy, do them more often.
We have designated work hours. We schedule doctor appointments. Heck, we even schedule hair appointments.
We say happiness is the most important thing but fail to consistently include it in our calendars.
Research shows 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. You can change your happiness by up to 40% by what you choose to do every day.
And much of what you do, you do on autopilot. 40% of what you do every day isn’t the result of decisions, it’s due to habits.
See where I’m going with this?
Happy things need to be a habit. Part of your routine. Part of your schedule.
Stop waiting for random happy events, you need a “happiness subscription.”
So how do we take that list and make them things we actually do every day instead of more forgotten trivia? Let’s get started.
1) Wake Up And Say ARG!
Even scientific happiness advice is often corny. I’ll say that now so we can get it off the table…. But it works.
And this is why you might want to say ARG when you wake up. It’s an acronym that stands for:
Anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.
So think about what you’re looking forward to. Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule something.
Recollecting great moments has a related effect. Memories allow us to relive the good times and kill stress.
Via The How of Happiness:
And the combo often leads to optimism. Another powerful predictor of happiness.
So, corny as it may be, wake up and say ARG! And then do a quick bit of anticipation, recollection and gratitude.
(For more on optimism click here.)
All that’s fine and dandy. But what do you do once you’re out of bed?
2) Savor Your Morning Coffee
Take a moment and really enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate it. Corny? Maybe.
But other research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments – is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.
I imagine some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t drink coffee.” And please imagine me saying, “That’s not the point.”
It can be anything you do every morning.
And embedding savoring in our little daily rituals is powerful becausestudies show rituals matter.
Here’s Harvard professor Francesca Gino:
(For more on how savoring can make you happier click here.)
So what other habit can we build into our schedule that boosts joy? How about one that can make you as happy as sex does?
3) Sweat Your Way To Joy
When you study people to see what makes them happiest you get three answers: sex, socializing and exercise.
People who exercise are, across the board, mentally healthier: less depression, anger, stress, and distrust.
Don’t like exercise? Then you’re doing the wrong kind.
Running, lifting weights, playing any sport… Find something you enjoy that gets you moving.
(For more on how sweating can increase smiling — and make you smarter too — click here.)
Okay, time to head to work. What’s the best thing to do when you start the day? It’s not about you — but it will make you happier.
4) The Five Minute Favor
Who lives to a ripe old age? Not those who get the most help, ironically it’sthose who give the most help.
And a great way to do that without taking up too much time is Adam Rifkin’s “5 Minute Favor”:
So take five minutes to do something that is minor for you but would provide a big benefit to someone else.
It’s good karma — and science shows that, in some ways, karma is quite real.
Yes, some who do a lot for others get taken advantage of. But as Adam Grant of Wharton has shown, givers also succeed more:
(For more on the best way to get happier by being a giver, click here.)
Alright, you have to start work for the day. Ugh. But there are ways that work can make you happier too.
5) Life Is A Game, And So Is Work
Like the research shows, the happiest people have goals.
Many of us feel like work can be boring or annoying but the research shows many of us are actually happier at work than at home. Why?
Challenges. And we reach that state of “flow” only when a challenge presents itself. So how can work make us happier?
Three research-backed things to try:
- To the degree you can, do things you’re good at. We’re happier when we exercise our strengths.
- Make note of your progress. Nothing is more motivating that progress.
- Make sure to see the results of your work. This gives meaning to most any activity.
(For more on getting happier by setting goals click here.)
Enough work. You’ve got some free time. But what’s the happiest way to use your free time?
6) Friends Get Appointments Too
You have mandatory meetings in your schedule but not mandatory time with friends? Absurd.
One study says that as much as 70% of happiness comes from your relationships with other people.
Why does church make people so happy? Studies show it has nothing to do with religion — it’s about the socializing. It’s scheduled friend time.
And if you have the cash, pay for dinner with a friend. Money definitely can make you happier – when you spend it on other people.
(For more on how to have happy friendships click here.)
What’s the final thing happy people have in common? They cope with adversity. So what should we do when life gets tough?
7) Find Meaning In Hard Times
Research shows that a happy life and a meaningful life are not necessarily the same thing.
It’s hard to be happy when tragedy strikes. But who lives longer and fares better after problems? Those who find benefit in their struggles.
Via The How of Happiness:
In many cases, Nietzsche was right: what does not kill us can make us stronger.
So when you face adversity, always ask what you can learn from it.
(For more on how to make your life more meaningful — without terrible tragedy — click here.)
See that? I took the eight things happy people do and squeezed them into just seven habits. You can thank me later.
Now how do we tie all of these happiness boosters together?
If you want every day to be happier try including these seven things in your schedule:
- Wake Up And Say ARG!
- Savor Your Morning Coffee
- Sweat Your Way To Joy
- Do A Five Minute Favor
- Make Work A Game
- Friends Get Appointments Too
- Find Meaning In Hard Times
We’re all quick to say happiness is the most important thing… and then we schedule everything but the things that make us happiest. Huh?
So what’s going to make you happy today? Have you thought about it? Is it on your calendar?
Reading happiness information is useless trivia unless you use it and you won’t use it unless it’s part of your routine.
If happiness is the most important thing then make it the most important thing.
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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