How to be Happy

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Edited by Nurie

So happiness – isn’t that the thing that all of us strive to find and keep? Nobody is happy all of the time, but some people are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies on what makes people happy reveal that it doesn’t have much to do with material goods or high achievement; it seems to whittle down to your outlook on life, and the quality of your relationships with the people around you.

Steps:

1. Be optimistic. In the 1970s, researchers followed people who’d won the lottery and found that a year after they’d hit the jackpot, they were no happier than the people who didn’t. They called it hedonic adaptation, which suggests that we each have a baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the effect on our happiness is only temporary and we tend to rebound to our baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than others, and that can be attributed in part to genetics, but it’s also largely influenced by how you think.[1] So while the remainder of this article will help boost your happiness, only improving your attitude towards life will increase your happiness permanently.

2. Follow your gut. In one study, two groups of people were asked to pick out a poster to take home. One group was asked to analyze their decision carefully, weighing the pros and cons, and the other group was told to listen to their gut. Two weeks later, the group that followed their gut was happier with their posters than the group that analyzed their decisions.[2] Now, some of our decisions are more crucial than picking out posters, but by the time you’re poring over your choice, the options you’re weighing are probably very similar, and the difference will only temporarily affect your happiness. So next time you have a decision to make, and you’re down to two or three options, just pick the one that feels right, and go with it. Never regret the decisions you make though. Just live by the 3 C’s of life: choices chances, and changes. You need to make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.

3. Make enough money to meet your basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing. In the US, that magic number is $40,000 a year. Any money you make beyond that will not necessarily make you happier. Remember the lottery winners mentioned earlier? Oodles of money didn’t make them any happier. Once you make enough money to support your basic needs, your happiness is not significantly affected by how much money you make, but by your level of optimism

4. Stay close to friends and family: Or move to where other members are- so you can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this because we think increases in salary will make us happier, but the fact is that our relationships with our friends and family have a far greater impact on our happiness than our jobs do. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you’d need a salary increase of over $100,000 USD to compensate for the loss of happiness you’d have from moving away from your friends and family.[4] But if your relationships with your family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and you are bent on moving, choose a location where you’ll be making about the same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people feel more financially secure (and happier) when they’re on similar financial footing as the people around them, regardless of what that footing is.

5. Find happiness in the job you have now: Many people expect the right job or the right career to dramatically change their level of happiness, but happiness research makes it clear that your level of optimism and the quality of your relationships eclipse the satisfaction you gain from your job.[6] If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job, and if you have good relationships with people, you won’t depend on your job to give your life a greater sense of meaning. You’ll find it in your interactions with the people you care about. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire towards a job that will make you happier; it means you should understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small in comparison to your outlook on life and your relationships with people.

6. Smile: Science suggests that when you smile, whether you feel happy or not, your mood will be elevated. [7] [8] So smile all the time! In addition, having enough money to pay the bills allows you to focus your energies on more productive aspects of your life, such a the pursuit of happiness as opposed to keeping the ‘wolves from the door’.

7. Forgive: In a study of college students, it was found that an attitude of forgiveness contributed to better cardiovascular health. You could say that forgiveness literally heals your heart. While it is unknown how forgiveness directly affects your heart, the study suggests that it may lower the perception of stress

8. Make friends who share your interests or faith: In a 2010 study by Harvard researchers published in the journal American Sociological Review, it was discovered that people who went to church regularly reported greater life satisfaction than those who didn’t. The critical factor was the quality of friendships made in church. People who went to church and didn’t have any close friends there were no happier than people who never went to church. When the researchers compared people who had the same number of close friends, the ones who had close friends from church were more satisfied with their lives.It’s thought that the forming of friendships based on mutual interests and beliefs (and meeting consistently based on that mutual bond) is what makes the difference, so if church itself is not your thing, consider finding something else you’re deeply passionate about and making friends who you can connect with regularly based on that.

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