While happiness may seem elusive at times, you can in fact improve your odds of feeling happy, joyful and content. Indeed, consistently happy people tend to have habits that set them apart from their sad and stressed-out peers, such as letting go of grudges, treating people with kindness, dreaming big, not sweating the small stuff and much more. The following list includes “prescriptions” from psychologists that are known to boost your happiness level.
Make happiness your goal
The first step toward greater happiness is to choose it. You need to believe that happiness is possible, and that you deserve it. (Hint: You do. Everyone does!) Research shows that the mere INTENTION to become happier actually makes a big difference.
Identify that which makes you happy
If it’s been awhile since you’ve felt truly happy (that carefree joyous state you probably had as a child), you may have forgotten what it is that gets you there. Take time to reflect on what gives you joy (and not just the obvious, like your family, but also little things, hobbies and interests).
Make happiness a priority
If you have a free hour, do you spend it doing something fun? Or do you spend it catching up on housework, tackling an extra work project, or otherwise working? The latter is a “minor form of insanity,” according to happiness researcher Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph.D.
It certainly will not help you get happier. To break free of this trap, make a point to schedule your weeks around events (or ordinary activities) that make you feel happy and alive.
Savor pleasant moments
People who take the time to savor pleasant moments report higher levels of happiness, regardless of where the day takes them. If you don’t already do this, keeping a daily diary of pleasant moments and whether or not you truly savored them, might help.
You might be surprised at how much happiness is to be had in your everyday life. Try appreciating the scent of your coffee, relishing in the feeling of your soft bed or enjoying the sunrise before you start your day.
Ditch unnecessary and joyless distractions
There’s only so much time in a day, so be sure to protect your attention and time from unnecessary and unproductive distractions. This includes texts, tweets and emails, which take you away from the true pleasures in life. If necessary, turn off social media completely.
Think keeping tabs on your Facebook friends equates to happiness? Think again. Research suggests the more time people spend on Facebook, the more their moment-to-moment happiness declines and the less satisfied with life they become.
Let every thought be a positive thought
Simply thinking about something positive, and smiling as a result, can make you happier and more upbeat. (Simply fake smiling is actually linked to worsened mood.) A genuine smile includes the facial muscles around your eyes, and can actually prompt brain changes linked to improved mood.
Prioritize experiences over things
Research suggests experiences make us happier than possessions; the “newness” of possessions wears off, as does the joy they bring you, but experiences improve your sense of vitality and “being alive,” both during the experience and when you reflect back on it.
Have a back-up plan for bad days
When you’re having a bad day and your mood is sinking, have a plan in place to lift it back up. This could be calling a close friend, watching a comedy or going out for a jog — whatever works best for you.
Identify your sense of purpose
Happiness isn’t about pleasure alone; it’s also about having a sense of purpose. The term “eudaemonic well-being” originated with Aristotle, and describes the form of happiness that comes from activities that bring you a greater sense of purpose, life meaning or self-actualization. This could be your career, or it could be gleaned from volunteering or even taking a cooking class.
Socialize — Even with strangers
Having meaningful social relationships is important for happiness, but even people who engage in “social snacking” report greater happiness. Social snacking describes the little ways you connect with others, including strangers, on a daily basis.
In general, the more you mingle and chat with the people around you, the more cheerful and brighter your mood is likely to be. To learn more about the benefits of striking up casual conversations wherever you happen to be, see “How to Talk to Strangers.”
Taking time away from the daily grind is important for helping you recharge. And while even a weekend getaway can give you a boost, a longer trip is better to help you create meaningful memories. These memories can be tapped into later to help boost your happiness. Experts recommend a two-week vacation, ideally, even if it’s to a locale close to home.
Spend more time outdoors
Exposure to bright outdoor light is crucial for a positive mood, in part because regular exposure to sunlight will helps to enhance your mood and energy through the release of endorphins. Getting sun exposure outdoors will also help you optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as more chronic depression.
When people make a point to conduct three to five acts of kindness a week, something magical happens. They become happier. Simple kind acts — a compliment, letting someone ahead of you in line, paying for someone’s coffee — are contagious and tend to make all of those involved feel good.
By Dr. Mercola
Mercola, J. “Could Pain Be Contagious, Just Like Happiness?” Retrieved November 4, 2012, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/01/breakfast-mistakes.aspx