How To Feel Happy - Scientifically Proven Ways of Creating Lasting Happiness
How to Create Happiness
There are so many media messages flying around telling us what should make us happy: a new car, a fancy vacation, a powerful and important job. However, the actual key to creating long-lasting, real happiness might be much simpler. By retraining your thoughts, setting good priorities, and engaging in positive physical activity, you can create happiness for yourself, and you can do it without having a trust fund. What's more, you can apply these lessons to the world at large, creating happiness for others as well as for yourself.
Creating Happiness by Thinking Positively
Don't beat yourself up for feeling unhappy.Scientists believe that happiness is to a certain extent determined by genetics. Some people are just born to be happier and more optimistic than others. If your happiness set point is a bit lower than other people you know, recognize that you aren't doing anything wrong.
Tell yourself that you can create more happiness.But even if you have a genetic predisposition toward unhappiness, you can still increase your happiness levels by avoiding negative thoughts and cultivating positive ones. It takes some work, but it can be done.Be optimistic and hopeful about your plan to create more happiness in your life.
Cultivate gratitude.Expressing your thanks for good things in your life will allow you to appreciate your life more and feel more happiness.Whether you are thankful for something large or small, expressing your gratitude will show you just how lucky you are.
Practice forgiveness.One of the greatest harms to happiness is holding on to painful memories and emotions.Even if people have hurt you badly, try to forgive them: not just so that they feel better, but so that you can let go of pain that is disrupting your path to creating more happiness. Think about how painful experiences allow you to grow and mature, and come to terms with your past.
Express positive emotions verbally.While we are all tempted to vent about our negative emotions, talking about our positive emotions might be even more important to creating long-lasting happiness.When you feel happy, tell someone or write it down in a journal. When you are excited, pleased, or proud, feel free to tell the world. This will help retrain your brain to focus on positive thoughts and feelings.
Meditate every day.Meditating for 20 minutes or more a day can make you kinder, more relaxed, and can train your brain to be happier.You can meditate on your own or as part of a group. Take some time to find a relaxing place, quiet your mind, and let go of negative thoughts and energy. You will not only be happier in the short term but will also build a pathway for future happiness and peace.
Creating Happiness by Setting Worthwhile Priorities
Surround yourself with family and friends.You are more likely to be happy if you spend lots of time with the people you care about the most. Don't isolate yourself.Social support is the most important key to happiness--more important than money, age, race, or gender.
- Eating a meal with people you care about can be particularly important. Invite an old friend over for dinner or call up a relative to set up a lunch date.
- Show your loved ones that you care. If you find yourself slipping away from important relationships, find ways to demonstrate that your friends and family are important to you.Do them a favor, bring them some food, or just call them up to see how they are doing. Gestures like these can strengthen bonds and will make it more likely that your loved ones will be a constant presence in your life.
Identify and exercise your key strengths.People are happiest when they are deeply engaged in activities in which they excel. This is called "flow." Think hard about what your major strengths are, and gravitate toward ways for you to exercise those strengths every day.Sometimes these key strengths are part of a career; sometimes they are a hobby you might do for fun. But no matter what, make time every day to do what you are good at.
Focus on experiences, not on things.Acquiring a new object might make you happy for a moment, but creating lasting memories can bring you happiness for a lifetime. Make more time for experiences you really enjoy, and spend your resources pursuing new activities instead of new objects.Focusing too much on material objects will lead to "hedonic adaptation," which means you just get used to your new things and so need to keep buying more and more objects in order to feel the same rush. Resist that cycle by thinking about how you want to spend your time, not on how you want to spend your money.
Be thoughtful about how you plan your days.Don't expect happiness to just come to you. Schedule time for what brings you joy, and avoid activities that bring you down.Make sure you schedule time for exercise and leisure activities, your hobbies, and for your loved ones. Happiness is harder to attain when you are just cycling through work, television, and sleep.
Decide whether your job is making you happy.If your current job is making you feel stressed, rushed, or depressed, you might want to reconsider your career path.Ideally, your job should provide lots of "flow," where you can become absorbed in meaningful tasks at which you excel. If your job isn't providing this satisfaction, consider a career that will give you that "flow" feeling. Your days will fly by!
- Remember that money is not equivalent to happiness. While it is important to have your basic needs met such as food, housing, and health care, having a lot of wealth is not enough to make you happy. Don't stay in a miserable career just because it pays well.
Be busy, but not over-scheduled.The happiest people have a lot to do, but do not feel too stressed out about accomplishing their tasks. Find a happy balance in your schedule so that you are consistently productive but not overworked.This might mean that you schedule time in your day for meditation, a walk outdoors, or a coffee break to give you time to recharge. Don't try to do everything at once!
Pursue meaningful activities.Meaningful activities are those that help others and not just yourself. While meaningful activities might sometimes feel like a burden in the short term, they can also bring you great satisfaction in the long term. Volunteer for an organization you care about, donate your time and money to a good cause, or take the time to help out a friend in need.Even volunteering for just two hours each week can lead to greater happiness and a longer lifespan.
Creating Happiness by Making Physical Changes
Keep up a healthy lifestyle.Chronic illnesses and health conditions can lead to unhappiness. If possible, maintain healthy habits in order to keep your mood high, and see a doctor regularly in order to prevent chronic health conditions from worsening.
Maintain a healthy brain chemistry.Much of what makes people happy is situational, but there are also physical properties behind feelings of happiness: serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin all allow a body to feel joy and connection with others. Sometimes these chemicals can be disrupted or imbalanced, leading to depression. If none of your lifestyle changes is allowing you to create happiness, you might need to consult a doctor in order to receive the proper medication to regain your balance and your happiness.
Exercise every day.Physical activity leads to more positive feelings and can help combat negative ones.You don't have to be a star athlete to gain the positive effects: even light activity for just 20 minutes a day can be enough to elevate your mood and feel more hopeful about life.
- Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime. Your doctor will be able to guide you to the safest way to begin exercising and make sure that you avoid injury.
Make physical contact with someone.Emotional connections with other people are essential to happiness, but physical connections also help people stay happy and emotionally healthy. Hugging, kissing, having sex with a loving partner, or just getting a massage can all trigger happy feelings.
- If you are an adult in a romantic relationship, try to initiate a romantic evening with lots of positive touch. Make this physical relationship a priority, and make time for kissing, snuggling, and sexual relations.
- If you are not in a romantic relationship, see if you can get a hug from a close friend. If you live far away from all your loved ones, try to get positive touch in other ways: you can get your hair done, schedule a massage, or get a manicure or pedicure.
- If you are not comfortable with physical touch from other people, consider making friends with animals in need. Petting an animal can have many of the same benefits as hugging another person.Consider cat sitting or dogsitting, or even volunteering at a shelter.
Smile.Even if you're not feeling happy, acting as if you are happy can help your feelings catch up to your facial expressions. While the effects might not be long-lasting, they can provide a short-term boost to your happiness levels.Smiling has also been shown to relieve stress.
Get a good night's sleep.Sleeping an extra hour each night is more important than money in terms of building long-lasting happiness.Other key ingredients to sleeping well include setting up bedtime rituals (usually without screens such as computers or televisions), having a cool, dark place to sleep, avoiding too much caffeine, and minimizing stress.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.The more fruit and vegetables you eat, the happier you will feel over the long term.Eating at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day is the ideal number, but any increase in your fruit and vegetable intake will help you feel healthier . . . and happier.
Spend time outside, especially on sunny days.Even just 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your mood, and the more "natural" the environment is, the better.Try to schedule a walk or a jog in spaces that are green and open.
- If you can't get outside, try imagining yourself in a peaceful, outdoor environment. You can get many of the same benefits as you would from actually being outside.
- Make sure that you are maintaining your health when outdoors on sunny days. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to minimize sunburn. And be sure that you stay hydrated when the weather is warm.
Creating Happiness for Others
Make yourself happy by making others happy.In addition to pursuing your own happiness, you can also seek to bring joy to others. Not only will the world benefit from your helping hands, but you will too.People who act selflessly tend to be happier and more satisfied in the long term than people who act primarily for their own gain.
Spend your money on others.Rather than spending your money solely on yourself, consider spending it on others through gifts or charitable donations. People who spend money on gifts tend to be happier than people who purchase objects for themselves.Moreover, your loved ones will feel grateful and touched that you thought of them when you picked out their perfect present.Charitable donations can increase happiness in others by allowing them to access necessary medical care, poverty relief, or education.
Work in a job that helps others.If you feel miserable at work and at home, consider changing your career to one that more directly creates a positive impact on others. For example, you might work as a firefighter, teacher, social worker, or nonprofit manager. A helpful job will make you happier as well as those whom you are helping.
Volunteer at an organization whose cause you care about.Volunteers are necessary for the success of nonprofits that help to combat hunger, poverty, illness, and oppression. Indeed, volunteers in the United States alone provide over 0 billion worth of economic value to their chosen organizations.
Perform a random act of kindness.Random acts of kindness have the potential to make someone's day. Perhaps more importantly, they can inspire kindness in others.Kindness can quite literally be contagious.Why not increase the world's joy by:
- Smiling at a stranger.
- Buying a coffee for the person standing behind you in line.
- Helping a stranger bag his or her groceries.
- Handing out treats to your coworkers.
- Combine several methods in order to create happiness most effectively. For example, begin meditating daily while also maintaining a gratitude journal and sleeping more each night.
- Be patient. Happiness isn't just about how you feel in the moment: it is also about how you maintain a meaningful life in the long term. You may still experience momentary sadness, even if you have all the ingredients to an overall happy life: be patient with yourself during the sad times, and forgive yourself for any mistakes you make.
- Ignore media messages about what makes us happy. It can be hard to differentiate between what will actually bring us long-lasting joy and what will bring fleeting--but ultimately unsatisfying--pleasure. Remember that happiness cannot be bought, and that you are not in a happiness competition! Just live your life in a way that brings meaning to yourself and others.
- Feel free to talk about your quest for happiness with others. Reach out to friends, loved ones, and experts who might be able to provide support to you as you work on creating happiness. (And then write down how grateful you are when they do support you!)
- Any major physical changes to your diet, your exercise regime, or to your medications should be discussed with a doctor beforehand. These changes can be very helpful but might also have side effects or other consequences that only a medical professional can evaluate.
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