Ask ten people what their definition of happiness is, and you’ll get ten different answers. A person’s version of happiness depends on their values, priorities, and goals. While the choices and activities that bring you happiness may differ from someone else’s, it’s generally agreed upon that happiness involves a better mood, less stress, and a feeling of personal enrichment.
It’s important to know that happiness is usually the result of another action, whether you’re aware of it or not, and it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The good news is that there are scientifically proven ways to increase your happiness, at least to some extent. Some are great for a short term boost, while others work towards the greater lifelong journey of personal fulfillment.
Given that happiness can be elusive, it’s no surprise that the equally elusive good night’s sleep can factor largely in your happiness. Studies have found that getting just one extra hour of restful and uninterrupted sleep a night can make you as happy as getting a huge salary raise. Many of us find it difficult to prioritize sleep, and that is usually due to a desire to be productive at all times. Divorcing yourself from this notion will not only help with sleep, but with overall self care and mindfulness that can also lead to greater happiness.
Reach Out To Your People
We’re all feeling the effects of isolation from our loved ones after the last year. Feeling connected to people around us is a huge contributor to happiness. Even if you aren’t a social butterfly, having a few select close friends or family members to share your life with can make a big difference. Research has shown that happiness is often a collective phenomenon, meant to be experienced with others.
Break A Sweat
You’ve probably gotten (and maybe rolled your eyes at) the advice that physical exercise can do wonders for your mental well being. While many people aren’t necessarily eager to get to the gym, the benefits of getting some form of exercise consistently are undeniable. Exercise gives us better sleep, reduced stress, and those endorphins that really give us a boost of happiness. If the thought of lifting weights is enough to put you off, try going for a quick walk outside, or trying a new sport that interests you.
Fake It Til You Make It
Positive thinking is a tricky phenomenon. Studies have shown that smiling and laughing can activate your happiness, even if you don’t feel like doing either. But fake smiles or laughs, like the ones sometimes asked of customer service workers, don’t work the same way. In order to get the benefits of smiling or laughing, you have to think of something that makes you happy. This could be an abstract concept, or actual memories of good times. In effect, the feedback loop of thinking happy thoughts can lead to overall greater happiness.
Help Someone Else
Personal fulfillment often comes at recognizing a greater cause than oneself. Rather than pursuing your own happiness, look for ways you can bring happiness to others and yours might just follow. Think of something you can offer to others, whether a special skill, your mentor-ship, or simply your time, and find an organization that needs help. Volunteering to help those in need has been shown by researchers to be one of the most reliable ways to increase well-being.
Live In The Moment
In this day and age, being mindful and living in the moment may seem like antiquated concepts, thanks to our constant ability to tune out and find entertainment on any number of screens. But studies show that meditation is a great tool for a greater awareness of and connection to your surroundings. Happiness isn’t about one single activity, but rather being happy in many situations. Remember that mindfulness meditation is a gradual process that requires practice, so try it out for a short period of time every day and see where it takes you.
Make A Plan
So often when we try to completely overhaul our routines, for instance eating healthier or exercising more, we bite off more than we can chew and give up before we really get started. Making manageable and achievable goals and planning your execution has been shown to lead to significantly greater happiness and personal satisfaction. Whether it’s unplugging from your phone for 30 minutes before bed or exercising every day for a week, never underestimate the power of checking something off of a list.