Happiness is a universal goal, but it can be elusive. For example: What makes one person happy may not make another person happy. And happiness is not always something that comes easily for everyone – it can take effort and intention to create a happy life. But it can be achieved.
Believe it or not, regardless of your version of true happiness, living a happier, more satisfied life is within your reach. Behavioural scientists around the world have spent a lot of time studying what makes us happy (and what doesn’t). And they’ve found that, in fact, making a few tweaks to your regular habits can help increase your happiness. Read on to discover experts’ tips on making small changes in your behaviour, surroundings and relationships that can help set you on course for a happier life. Just remember: everyone’s version of happiness is a little different, and so is their path to achieving it.
Conquer negative thinking
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but letting them take over can lead to unhappiness. Experts agree that when you have a negative thought, try to challenge it. Ask yourself if the thought is realistic and helpful. If it’s not, try to replace it with a more positive thought. Of course, this is easier said than done, and negative thinking happens to all of us. But if we recognize it and challenge that thinking, we are taking a big step toward a happier life.
Science tells us that our brains prefer to just go to whatever is familiar – it’s easier, quicker and requires less energy. So undoing negativity involves making positive concepts more familiar and accessible in the brain. One way to do this is to just have a “positive word of the day.” Or you might memorize a series of positive words each morning and ask yourself to recall them each night.
Remember to have self-compassion as you’re working to shift your negative thoughts. Go easy on yourself: we’re all negative sometimes, and that’s okay.
Generosity and helping others is a great way to boost your own and well-being. When you do something kind for someone else, it releases endorphins in your brain, which have mood-boosting effects. There are many ways to be generous, such as volunteering your time, donating to charity, or simply doing something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. It will help make you feel good about yourself and also makes the world a better place.
Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia, says being generous with others is an effective way to feel joy. “When we use our resources to benefit other people, we actually can end up being happier ourselves,” she says. In a global study, Dr. Dunn and her colleagues found that people who give to charity tend to be a lot happier on average than people who don’t. “In order to match the benefit to happiness of giving to charity,” Dr. Dunn says, “you would have to have about twice as much income.” This was true for participants in every income bracket.
Spend time with loved ones
Strong social connections are essential for happiness. Make time for the people you care about, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Even small interactions with loved ones can make a big difference in your mood.
Improving communication with your family, or chosen family, and all those around you is a must. In fact, studies have shown that people who are highly satisfied with their neighbourhood are 25 per cent more likely to be highly satisfied with their family life.
Take care of your physical health
Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and getting enough sleep are all important for physical and mental health. When you take care of your body, you’re more likely to feel good about yourself and your life. Indeed, scientific studies have been finding that happiness can make our hearts healthier, our immune systems stronger, and our lives longer.
Our mental well-being is also part of our overall health, and it actually impacts our physical health. Scientific studies have found that mindfulness is a key contributor in both reducing stress and increasing happiness. So, by working on ourselves mentally, we benefit physically.
Mindfulness has been defined as the practice of focusing your attention solely on the present moment, while shutting out everything else, including self-judgment. Mindfulness, whether it be through meditation or simply being present in the moment, has been proven to break negative thought patterns, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase focus. So mindfulness is a very good thing, any way you look at it.
Remember it’s easy to get caught up in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. But the only moment we truly have is the present. Try to be mindful of the present moment and appreciate the simple things in life.
Do something you enjoy every day
Make time for activities that you find pleasurable and relaxing. This could be anything from reading a book to taking a walk in nature to spending time with your hobbies. Taking some time for yourself each day can help you reduce stress and boost your happiness.
Remember, happiness is a journey, not a destination. There will be ups and downs along the way. But by following these tips, you can increase your overall happiness and well-being.
Need more? Here are some additional tips that that may help you be happier once you’ve integrated them into your life:
Set realistic goals: When you achieve your goals, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But if your goals are too unrealistic, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Set small, achievable goals for yourself, and celebrate your successes along the way.
Practise gratitude: Taking the time to appreciate the good things in your life – big or small – can help you feel happier and more content. Make a habit of thinking about the things you’re grateful for.
Remember happiness is a choice: You may not be able to control everything that happens to you in life, but you can control how you react to it. By following these tips, you can choose to be happy more often.