Everyone wants to be happy.
We’ve all experienced it at different points in our lives. And the feeling is so good that it’s probably the one thing everyone can agree they want to have in life.
Plus, happiness makes us healthier, lets us live longer, and be more productive.
So how can you be happier? In life, love, relationships and even work.
We’ve dug into tons of research studies to help you find the answer.
Table of Contents
- Being Happy with Yourself
- Happiness at Home
- Being Happier in Life
- Happier Relationships
- Happy in Love & Marriage
- How to be Happier at Work
- In Your Goals
- Happiness & Health
- Nutrients that Help You Be Happier
119 Proven Ways to Be Happier
How to Be Happier with Yourself
1. Learn to Let Go of Your Fears
Fear not only causes stress and anxiety, it often prevents us from doing things that we’ve always wanted to. Whether it’s fear of failure, being rejected or humiliated, our insecurities keep us from being happy.
What’s interesting about this primal emotion is that our fear of the unknown makes us feel worse than knowing that the outcome isn’t a good one.
Science offers evidence that our minds tend to go on overdrive when we’re uncertain of something. It makes us imagine all sorts of scenarios causing us stress. As such, not knowing the result of something worries us more than when we know the result is bad.
Our Fears Affect Our Lives
Being afraid of something or someone affects our lives, relationships and how we behave.
A study by Spanish psychologists found that fear of losing one’s job affects not only how the individuals performed at work and how committed they were to their jobs, it also caused them to be less satisfied with their personal and family lives.
The study, which followed over 300 employees in various fields, also noticed that blue collar workers were most affected by job uncertainty compared to white collar and professionals.
Fear also extends into our relationships, as we sometimes settle for someone for fear of being alone.
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the 2013 study discovered that settling for a lesser relationship is something many men and women do due to fear of ending up alone.
Also, and a good portion (37%) of young and middle aged individuals (18 to 59 years of age) had some fear of being alone, or being left without any companion.
2. Think Positive
Positive thinking helps you feel optimistic about the future and yourself.
It has also been shown to make you happier.
Being an optimist likewise helps you live longer. It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 50% according to a study by Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Considering that the American Heart Association lists these conditions as the leading cause of death accounting for over 17 million each year, it’s definitely worth trying to be more positive.
Shawn Achor, one of the leading researchers on happiness, mentions in a TED talk that knowing about all the external forces in the world that cause you stress, success, affect your economic well-being and relationships will only predict 10% of your long term happiness.
The bigger chunk of 90% depends on how your mind processes and perceives the world.
In short, it’s all about attitude.
Numerous studies also point out the benefits of being optimistic, including its ability to increase your resiliency, undo lingering negative emotions, let you think with an open mind and bring about improved well-being.
3. Take Good Care of Yourself
Being healthy is essential for being happy.
As a volunteer in our local hospital, I occasionally do rounds in the chemotherapy and dialysis sections. Rarely, do I see a smile or someone happy there.
It’s unfortunate, but I can’t blame them. I’ve seen the toll illness takes on our bodies and minds.
Scientific evidence likewise offers the same conclusion.
Research by the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows that in nearly 10,000 survey respondents over a 3 year period, those who had better health and didn’t have long term conditions were happier than those who didn’t.
Health also trumps the effects of income on happiness according to a study presented in the journal Health Economics. Good health was considered vital for a positive life and satisfaction.
When it came to which health conditions were most problematic, the data suggested anxiety and pain affects us more than one-time physical problems. In part, because we find a way to adjust to the one-time problems.
4. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
For many of us, we are our own worst critics.
We expect a lot from ourselves. And when we fall short of expectations we take it hard on ourselves.
Give yourself a break.
Remember, you’re human. And we all make mistakes.
More importantly, learn from our shortcomings and get back up and try again.
Self-criticism not only makes us feel bad about ourselves, it also increases our levels of stress. For some this can lead to depression or worse.
According to a research piece printed in the academic journal Suicide and Life – Threatening Behavior, being self-critical was associated with suicidal behavior.
Analysis of data gathered from interviewing 64 individuals who had attempted suicide revealed that those who were critical about themselves exhibited more motivation to escape whatever stressor they were experiencing. In this case by trying to kill themselves. These individuals also went to greater lengths to do so.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology meanwhile, notes that practicing self-compassion, which is showing yourself some kindness and understanding during times of failure or inadequacy, helps reduce the effects of self-criticism and depression.
5. Don’t Dwell on the Past
Quoting Master Oogway from the first Kung Fu Panda film, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. ”
Don’t let your past define you.
Your past is just that, make your experiences in the present count.
We like to dwell on what we could have or should have been or done, as well as missed opportunities. But unless you have a time machine, doing so not only brings you down but also adds to stress, as you feel more of your inadequacies.
Research presented in the journal Emotion shows that dwelling is linked to unhappiness. It also notes that individuals who are more sensitive when things don’t go their way are more likely to dwell.
Dwelling had lingering negative effects on upcoming important tasks as well.
It was shown to interfere with the participants’ thinking and mindset. This affected both work and performance. Doing so also made them unhappy compared to their peers.
6. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others who are more successful often motivates us to work harder. It also can help you strive towards your goal.
However, making such comparisons also has its dark side. It can lead to jealousy, unhappiness and not being content with what you have.
This is one reason why Facebook has been scientifically shown to make people unhappy. Seeing and comparing yourself with what others have or are doing can make you feel inferior with your life or what you have accomplished.
Other studies likewise show that comparing oneself with others leads of envy, reduced self-esteem and confidence. At times, even depression.
Plus, it doesn’t really help improve your current status.
One interesting research by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor from the University of California at Riverside, reveals the difference between how happy and unhappy people view themselves in comparison to their peers.
- The experiment found that in unhappy people, self-confidence gets an increased boost upon learning that others did worse than they did, even if they didn’t do well themselves.
- In contrast, happy people were more concerned about how well they did, and less so that others did worse.
7. Practice Altruism
Altruism is defined as the selfless concern for the well-being of others.
Doing good out of the kindness of our hearts without expecting anything in return, albeit rare and easier said than done, is something anyone can practice, to help them achieve happiness.
Compilation of prior research data suggests that being altruistic not only promotes happiness but also helps improve both mental and physical well-being.
As long as you don’t go overboard with it, such that it overwhelms you or prevents you from going about your life, being emotionally compassionate is shown to be beneficial to health and longevity.
Referred to as the “helper’s high”, scientists also believe that when we give to others altruistically, our bodies release endorphins which boost our mood and make us feel better about ourselves.
8. Find Meaning in Life
Try finding your true purpose in life. It will make you happier.
UCLA researchers discovered that happiness that’s rooted in purpose is not only healthier but also promotes better well-being, compared to the joy brought upon by pleasure-seeking.
The research compared 2 forms of “happiness”:
- One rooted with a deep sense of meaning, or eudaimonic happiness.
- And, another rooted in pleasure-seeking and self-gratification, which is hedonic in nature.
To test their hypothesis, the study recruited 80 individuals and gave them questionnaires to fill out, then took blood samples to analyze.
The data compiled indicated that those who were more prone to hedonic types of well-being exhibited more inflammation as well as lower levels of antibody and antiviral genes. This makes them more vulnerable to stress and anxiety.
Eudaimonic well-being meanwhile, was associated with happiness as well as good health.
The results of the study also confirms that the converse isn’t true. A happy life, may not be a meaningful one.
Happy Life vs. Meaningful Life
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains the difference between the two.
Surveying close to 400 individuals, researchers found that while most people associate being happy with having a meaningful life, there were differences between the two.
- Feeling happy was related to having less problems and a pleasant, easy life. It was also related to having good health and feeling well. Happiness was primarily focused on the present, the here and now.
- Having meaning on the other hand, combined past, present and future. It also didn’t necessarily mean having a comfortable life. A purposeful life also meant possibly lower levels of happiness, due to stress, anxiety and worrying.
As such striving for a happy, meaningful life is something to go for, instead of the happy but meaningless, or meaningful but unhappy life.
9. Be Generous
Generosity is the act of giving freely and unselfishly to others.
More importantly, it is giving things that are helpful to others.
This may be in the form of your time, money or things. Unlike altruism however, one can be generous to serve their own intentions.
That said, being generous makes us feel better about ourselves. It has also been shown to combat depression as well as reduce stress levels.
Even in very young children we can already see the effects of generosity. In an experiment involving toddlers who were given treats to give away, researchers discovered that the children were happy when they gave treats away.
More interestingly, the toddlers were happier when giving treats away at their own expense, as opposed to just giving without losing any of their own treats.
10. Reduce Your Stress Level
Stress is part of human nature and something we need in order to survive emergency situations.
However, most of us today suffer from the wrong type of stress, chronic stress.
This is when it’s constant and lasts for a long period of time.
It begins from the time we get up and have the kids ready for school in the morning. And lasts through the deadlines at work. Then, having to deal with all the responsibilities and bills when we get home.
Chronic stress not only robs us of happiness, it has been linked to very serious, life threatening problems like heart disease and stroke.
It also can cause depression, sleep disturbances and anxiety.
In following 75 married couples over a 6 month period, psychologists at the University of Illinois learned that stress varies in its forms. They found that:
- Stress was highly associated with health issues, including the flu, headaches, and backaches.
- Stress also affected mood, but often only lasting for a day. At least until the next stressful situation.
- Individuals who had low self-esteem and unsupportive social relationships were more vulnerable to stress and its effects.
Whatever bring you stress, being able to identify them and modify your response helps you become a happier person.
If you’re interested in stress management tips, here are over 100 ways to reduce stress today.
11. Don’t Chase Happiness
As with most things in life, the more you want it, the more it eludes you.
The same seems to be true with happiness.
The more you chase after it, the more likely you aren’t going to achieve it.
Research by psychologists from Yale University found that pursuing happiness brings increased expectations. The problem however arises, if these expectations aren’t reached. We end up unhappy.
It isn’t just falling short of expectations that can cause you to be unhappy.
The irony of the pursuit of happiness is that it can result in the opposite.
12. Stop Being a Perfectionist
While there wasn’t anything wrong with trying to get that perfect score of 100 back in school, taking that same mentality in life may leave you stressed or burned out.
Trying to be perfect has some virtues in that it makes us set goals and work hard to achieve them.
However, you may end up setting a bar too high, or not meeting your expectations.
Plus, if you do happen to achieve perfection in a specific task, what then?
A 2011 study sought to find the relationship between self-critical perfectionism, stress levels and depression in patients who have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
During the 14 day trial, perfectionism was reported to result in higher levels of stress and increased sensitivity to stress. This in turn led to increased levels of depression.
13. Take Time Out to Pamper Yourself
When working or doing something stressful, take some time out every so often to pamper yourself.
This can be anything you like, including watching a short video, playing video games, or relaxing on your favorite chair.
A study by the U.K.’s University of Warwick found that employees who took 10 minutes to relax and eat snacks or watch a funny video were happier than those who continued working during that time. The group that took a break also exhibited improved mood which resulted in better productivity.
14. Practice Gratitude
Being grateful has been scientifically shown to promote happiness and well-being.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that counting our blessings compared to thinking about our burdens, results in more positive feelings and improved sense of well-being.
Using 3 experiments where participants adopted attitudes of gratitude or one where they focused on life’s hassles, researchers observed that those who consciously focused on their blessing benefited emotionally.
In addition, other research show that gratitude also offers the extra benefits. It protects us from negative thoughts, depression, stress and anxiety.
One’s attitude not only affects how people perceive and react to you in terms of social support, it also changes our minds’ perception of how others treat us. As a result, we experience lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
The good news about being grateful is that its effects aren’t just temporary. They’re there for the long term.
A 4 week experiment involving 67 participants noticed that incorporating gratitude and visualizing our best possible selves (BPS) allowed the subjects not only to increase their positive mood states but also maintain these positive levels.
So how do you start being more grateful?
Try a gratitude journal. Write something you’re grateful for each day.
It takes around 21 days to form a new habit. So if you start now, by this time next month you’ll be on your way.
15. Embrace Multiple Emotions
Mixed emotions, or feeling more than one emotion at a given moment, has been shown to have health benefits.
Strange as it may sound, having mixed emotions, for example feeling sad because of something bad happening in life, yet feeling happy that there’s still something you can do about it to try and fix or improve it, works in the short and long term.
Jonathan Adler, a psychologist from Franklin W Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts followed 47 patients going through psychotherapy. Over a 12 week span, what Adler and his team discovered was that experiencing happy emotions along with the sad helps the patients in their mental well-being.
Expanding on this research, follow ups made in 5 year intervals totaling a 10 year period, observed that accepting mixed emotions was associated with good health.
Research printed in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology back in 1990 reveals that a Duchenne smile, which is a full smile involving the facial muscles around the eyes and lifting of the sides of our lips, resulted in a positive mood.
The study showed that this type of genuine smile produced changes in our brain’s activity, giving us that feeling of enjoyment.
In contrast, having a frown or scowl in your face does the opposite.
One extra benefit of smiling is that it makes you more attractive to other people. Most of us instinctively already know this, since it’s always easier to approach someone who’s smiling than frowning.
As proof, scientific evidence shows that not only is the happier face easier to choose and be drawn to, but people find it more attractive than one that isn’t.
17. Fake it Till You Make it
Don’t feel like smiling?
Then fake it.
Research presented in a 2012 issue of Psychological Science states that smiling brings about a number of psychological changes that help lift our moods.
The good news is, even faking a smile makes you feel better.
The study observed that a smile helps slow down our heart rate after stressful situations. It also raises our endorphins, which blunts pain, gives us a “natural high” and produces pleasurable feelings.
To delve a bit further, the study looked at how different types of smiles, including social smiling, using chopsticks to create a smile, and having someone give participants instructions on forcing a smile, affected mood.
Results revealed that the act of smiling itself, even faked or forced, was enough to evoke the positive mood. It worked even if it wasn’t based on real emotion.
So in this particular case, faking it gets the job done.
The research did note though, that a genuine smile, yielded more positive effects including lower stress levels.
18. Practice Love
In one of the longest, most comprehensive studies ever done, the Grant Study was created to find out what the factors were to healthy aging.
Covering a span of 75 years, Harvard Medical School researchers tracked 268 undergraduates from that same university beginning in 1938. Every 2 years the participants were given questionnaires that inquired about their physical and mental health, marital life, career enjoyment and retirement experience.
Findings from the study was published into a book. And in essence, the study concluded that “Love is really all that matters for humans to be happy”.
Simply put, happiness is love and that loving relationships is what’s essential to have a happy, fulfilling life.
And without it, even if you had great health, money and success, you aren’t going to be happy.
19. Build Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is how a person feels about themselves.
Science tells us that how you perceive yourself has a lot to do with how you’re affected by stress, your sensitivity and immunity to it as well as illness. It also predicts how you interact with other people.
A healthy self-esteem is associated with happiness and well-being. Meanwhile, low self-esteem is linked to negative feelings and more stress.
Research also suggests that your self-esteem affects how you eat as well as whether or not you try to be healthy.
While a lot of things can lower self-esteem, feeling good about yourself makes you happier.
It prevents you from feeling or putting yourself down even during times of adversity. It also prevents you from feeling bad when people criticize you.
20. Choose to Be Happy
Just like always trying to see the world from a glass half full perspective eventually helps you grow into an optimist, choosing to be happy also helps you grow into a happier person.
Research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology offers 2 studies where participants actively tried to feel happier.
The results show that taking steps to improve their happiness, in this case listening to music, allowed the participants to increase their happiness levels.
Do note that there’s a difference between chasing happiness, which has been shown to be ineffective, and choosing happiness. In the latter, changing one’s attitude and perception makes us more open to it.
The important factors involved is our intention and decision to consciously choose a mindset and behavior that leads to being happy, instead of chasing after it.
Forgiving isn’t always easy.
But when you do find it in your heart to do so, you’ll be much happier.
In psychotherapy, forgiveness allows us to heal.
The process involves letting go of any resentment to the offender and replacing that with empathy and mindful awareness. Research suggests that doing so fosters a more peaceful feeling and improved overall well-being.
Interestingly, the converse is also true.
A study by researchers in China notes that happy people, compared to unhappy individuals and also those who were sad, were more likely to forgive.
The study did go to extremes to prove its point, using murder as a point of reference. It found that unhappy individuals where unlikely to forgive murders whereas happy people were more willing to do so.
The takeaway: Don’t hold grudges. Learn to let go and forgive those who’ve wronged you. It lets you move on with your life and not carry that burden with you.
22. Take Risks
Research reveals that taking risks makes you happier.
A German study observed that individuals who take more risks are more satisfied with their lives.
The study, which interviewed over 20,000 individuals about their risk taking nature, also observed that:
- Women were less risk takers than men.
- Younger people took more risks. This declined with age.
- Taller people were more likely to take risks compared to shorter individuals.
Interestingly, MRI studies done on risk-takers found that individuals who like to take risks have fewer dopamine inhibiting receptors in their brains compared to non risk-takers.
The lack of these regulatory receptors meant that they had higher levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that makes us focus on rewards and go after them. This made risk takers more motivated to get that thrill.
23. Quit a Bad Habit
We all have bad habits. And for the most part, we’re pretty much aware of them.
Picking a habit that isn’t good for you and trying to quit has been shown to help make us happier.
In part, it’s knowing that doing so is good for us. Plus, there’s that sense of achievement that comes with it too.
According to a study, quitting smoking, or even just the trying to do so made participants feel happier. Following a group of 236 male and female smokers attempting to kick the habit, findings reported that participants who never quit were the unhappiest of the bunch.
Meanwhile, those who were able to quit and stayed that way, were not only the happiest when the trial started but stayed that way throughout.
24. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness, which is the practice of focusing on the present moment without placing any judgement, has been proven to help relieve stress and enhance our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.
Additionally, being mindful also helps make you a happier person.
The practice of mindfulness helps regulate our emotions and lets us focus our attention in the current moment. This takes away thoughts that involve negative self-evaluation that can trigger our emotions and moods.
In contrast, letting your mind wander produces the opposite effect.
Wandering minds have been associated with unhappiness.
A 2010 study presented by Harvard researchers reveals that on average, 47% of the time we’re awake, our minds are thinking of something else other than what we’re doing at that very moment. The only exception was during sex.
Their findings also reported that those who weren’t paying attention to what they were doing, be it daydreaming or letting their minds wander, were also less happy.
25. Control Your Negative Thoughts
Henry Ford once said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
In this now famous line, Ford tells us how powerful one’s mind is. If you believe you can’t do something you probably won’t be able to, since you won’t put enough effort into it.
Negative thoughts prevent us from going into something with the right attitude. Also, going over and over about the same negative feelings isn’t productive, even possibly leading to sadness or depression.
One strange, but effective way of dealing with negative thinking is to write them down on a piece of paper then throwing that paper away. Silly as it may sound, it works.
A study participated by high school students in Spain reported that students who wrote down the negative thoughts they had about their body image felt better just a few minutes later, compared to those who kept what they wrote.
Even stranger, Ohio State University researchers say you can get the same effect by typing these thoughts down in your computer, then dragging the document to the trash bin on your machine.
According to researchers, while treating thoughts like material objects isn’t seen as a normal thing to do, being able to do so gives you power over them and provides a stronger than expected effect on their influence over us.
26. Don’t Eat By Yourself
While you sometimes find yourself eating alone, try not to make a habit of it.
Studies point out the correlation between those who eat alone and unhappiness. In contrast, eating with others, because of the social interaction involved, promoted happiness.
Analyzing data compiled over 8 years, The Australian National University’s Research School of Population Health found that individuals who regularly ate alone, men or women, were more likely to be unhappy.
Of the 39,820 participants tracked, 11% ate more than half their meals by themselves. The study did note that the description of the person who was more likely to eat alone was male, unmarried, older in age and with low income.
Another problem that often arises when you eat alone is that you may end up making unhealthy options. We often don’t overeat or eat too much junk food when eating with others because we feel embarrassed. That all goes away when you’re eating by yourself.
How to Be Happier At Home
27. Get More Sleep
According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours sleep a night. This figure falls short of the recommended 7 to 8 hours per night of rest recommended for adults.
As a result, most of us can benefit from getting more sleep.
Research by the American Psychological Association points out that sleeping more helps us not only reverse the health effects of lack of sleep but also keep us safer from accidents.
It notes that sleep deprivation results in physiological deficits including impaired decision making, poor memory and attention lapses. It also lowers our immune system, making us prone to accidents and increases our risk of diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
Additionally, being sleep deprived affects our emotions. This explains why we get cranky on 5 or 6 hours of rest the night before.
In a 2 week study performed by Kent State University’s psychology department, researchers observed that getting good sleep the night before make participants happier the following day. Lack of sleep meanwhile, resulted in sadness.
Getting any extra time for more sleep, even if it’s a nap, helps with mood and behavior. But for best results, modifying your sleep habits to get good quality shuteye at night works best.
28. Get a Pet
Whether it’s a dog, cat or bird, pets help humans be happier.
According to Miami University psychologists, pets help improve our well-being by offering physical and psychological support, especially during stressful times.
Using 3 studies, the researchers learned that people who owned pets had better self-esteem. They were more conscientious and exercised more.
Pets also fulfilled social companionship while reducing the stress of being socially rejected. All in all, these fostered a feeling of well-being for pet owners.
For added benefits, try choosing a pet you can cuddle with.
One reason why dogs are such great companions is that you can cuddle with them. Cuddling with someone you love like your pet dog, increases oxytocin, a hormone that generates happy feelings and bonding with others.
Japanese researchers observed that interacting with one’s dog helps increase oxytocin levels. In fact, they discovered that simply gazing into your dog’s eyes was enough to produce the same effect.
29. Get Away from the City
Many of us live in the city for convenience.
You spend less time commuting to work and have easier access to just about anything. It is however, more hectic, more polluted and congested.
In a 2014 survey of 1,600 people, the Atlantic Media/Siemens State of the City Poll found that those living in the suburbs were happiest. Meanwhile, people living in the city were the least happy.
The poll, which was intended to gauge the quality of life based on different factors, found that those living in the urban city environment had the lowest rate of happiness at 75%. This, compared to 78% of rural dwellers, and 84% of suburb residents.
30. Listen to Music
Listing to music is a great way to relax and destress. Plus, it helps make you happier.
Numerous research show music’s effect on our mood and how that listening to tunes helps lift it.
A more recent 2013 study found that we can enhance this feeling by actively thinking about positive feelings and emotions while listening to music.
Comparing 2 scenarios, researchers observed that the group that was instructed to actively try to feel happier while listening to music exhibited the highest levels of positive mood.
In a related matter, research on 144 individuals suggest that the types of music you listen to evokes different emotions. Experimenting with 4 genres, participants listened to 15 minutes of grunge rock, classical, New Age and designer tunes.
While New Age and classical music produced mixed results, designer music, which is made to produce specific effects on the listener, increased mental clarity, vigor, relaxation and the feeling of caring. Grunge rock on the other hand, promoted sadness, tension, hostility and fatigue.
Then there’s sad music, which is one of the most popular forms around.
Ironically, listening to sad songs give us an emotional release. In effect inducing a positive emotion. According to a survey participated by 722 individuals, findings conclude that sad songs:
- Offer empathy, giving us a relatable emotion.
- Are cathartic.
- Let us drift into imagination.
- Lets us get away from our real-life problems.
31. Don’t Sit Around All Day
According to a 2008 study presented in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the average American spends nearly 8 hours a day sitting down.
If you get 8 hours a sleep nightly, that means around 50% of your waking time is spent on your butt.
While more comfortable than standing or doing something active, a 2010 study done by the American Cancer Society following over 120,000 participants found that inactive women who sat for more than 6 hours per day had a 94% more chance of dying during the 13 year study duration, than those who sat less than 3 hours a day.
Men meanwhile, increased their risk by 48% by being inactive and sitting over 6 hours daily compared to those who didn’t.
Sitting is also associated with depression.
A Finnish study observed that in over 600 men, those who spend 5 hours or more of their daily leisure time sitting around not only had more body fat, but also presented more depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction levels. The opposite was true for those who spent 2 hours or less sitting down.
32. Make Your Bed Right After You Get Up
Strange but true. Those who make their beds after they get up in the morning are happier.
Surveying 68,000 individuals on whether they made their beds or not, Hunch.com discovered that majority of people (59%) did not while only 27% did. The rest had someone else do it.
Where it becomes interesting is that:
- 71% of those who make their own beds were happy, while
- 62% of those who didn’t make their beds considered themselves unhappy.
The benefits didn’t end there.
- Bed-makers were also more likely to own a home, worked out regularly, liked their jobs and felt well rested.
- Non bed-makers meanwhile, rented an apartment, hated their jobs, didn’t go to the gym and woke up tired.
The conclusion was bed makers were happier and more successful than their non-bed-making counterparts.
33. Add Some Flowers Around You
Flowers liven up any room.
They’re bright, colorful and quickly lighten up your mood. Research performed by a Rutgers University psychology team found that:
- Upon receiving flowers, participants expressed excited and genuine smiles, with feelings of gratitude and delight.
- The effects were also long lasting as their positive mood allowed them to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and agitation.
- Those who received flowers also showed better life satisfaction.
- The presence of flowers likewise improved social interaction and promoted closer connections with friends and family members.
This confirms the positive emotional effects of having flowers around one’s surroundings observed by an earlier study by Dr. Nancy Etcoff from Massachusetts General Hospital. Titled “Home Ecology of Flowers Study”, the team learned that:
- Flowers around the home made people kinder and more compassionate.
- Adding flowers in the room you spent your mornings also helped ward away the blues.
- There was more happiness and enthusiasm exhibited in surroundings where flowers were present.
Their effects also extend to the workplace.
Adding indoor plants has been shown to improve productivity as well as lift employee mood levels.
Research printed in the journal Environment Behavior notes that the number of plants in the workplace increased its perceived attractiveness, the workers’ level of comfort, mood and productivity levels.
34. Make Sure to Have Good Lighting
Just as color can affect how we feel, the presence or lack of light can likewise affect our moods.
Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands found that using certain types of lighting, it is possible to change and improve one’s mood.
The study was participated by elderly individuals who were subjected to 2 different types of movies, one that evoked anxiety, and another sadness.
Both movies successfully produced negative moods among the subjects, though with different levels of arousal. The anxious movie produced a high arousal negative mood state, whereas the sad movie a low arousal negative mood state.
After the movies, groups were divided into rooms with different types of lighting.
Results revealed that compared to a neutral lighting,
- A cozy lit ambience (low arousing, pleasant) was better at reducing the effects of the anxious movie.
- A high arousing, pleasantly lit ambience meanwhile, was likewise better than a neutrally lit environment in enhancing the psychological arousal from the sad movie.
35. Choose Cheerful Colors for Your Rooms
Colors have a profound effect on our emotions.
The right color surroundings can help lift your mood or put a smile into your face. The wrong ones on the other hand, can quickly make you sad.
In a color experiment performed by French researchers, backgrounds of green and pink colors each promoted happy faces and positive emotions among the trial’s participants.
Conversely, a gray colored background evoked sad facial expressions.
The effects also work the other way around as one’s mood also affects which colors you select.
According to a research piece published in the journal BMC Medical Research Methodology, happy people are more likely to go with positive colors when describing their mood. Meanwhile, unhappy individuals go for the gloomier shades.
The study recruited 105 healthy individuals, 110 anxious people and 108 depressed adults to see which colors they chose to represent their moods.
When the results were tallied, the data found that 20% of the healthy individuals selected a particular shade of bright yellow, whereas 30% and 50% of the anxiety and depression groups, respectively, selected some shade of gray.
To see which colors enhance what emotions, check out this guide.
36. Get Rid of Clutter
We’re all probably guilty of having clutter at some degree or another. It’s easy to leave stuff lying around.
But science tells us that doing so actually increases stress levels and leads to irritability.
A 2012 UCLA study found that many homes suffer from too many things, to the point that their garages and driveways were stuffed with extra belongings.
Also, cleaning up or putting the items in place led to elevated stress hormones for mothers.
According to Princeton University researchers, having a lot of clutter in the office or your desk not only makes you more irritable, but less able to focus. Cluttered workspaces, ultimately makes you less productive, not to mention dampens your mood.
37. Avoid Living in High Altitude
Living in high altitude has been associated with higher levels depression and suicide rates.
Studying data taken from 1979 to 1998, Dr. Barry Brenner, program director of the department of emergency medicine at the University Hospital Case Medical Center in Cleveland, found that once you get to 2,000 to 3,000 feet, suicide rates rise.
A 2015 study by University of Utah researchers also confirm the phenomenon. It points out the high rates of depression and suicide in the intermountain west region of the United States. This region includes states like Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Nevada.
One explanation offered by scientists is that high altitude thins the air which results in inadequate oxygen being delivered to the body’s cells and tissues.
This results in mood disturbances in some individuals especially those who are less stable emotionally.
Ways to Be Happier In Life
38. Start the Day in a Good Mood
How you start the day has a profound effect on your mood and behavior for the rest of it, according to a study printed in the Academy of Management Journal.
The study tracked telephone customer service representatives from the beginning of the workday when they clocked in. What researchers learned was the moods of the employees upon the time they punched in carried on through the day.
Early morning mood influenced how they reacted to customers as well as how they treated colleagues and managers.
According to one of the lead researchers, “Starting off at work wearing rose-colored glasses – or gray glasses – shapes the way we perceive events the rest of the day.”
The good news however, is that moods can change, with the odds favoring towards a bad mood mellowing down and becoming positive 40% of the time. Meanwhile, there’s a smaller chance of a good mood turning bad (17%).
39. Go Outside
Try spending 20 to 30 minutes outside every day just for the sake of it.
Science tells us that spending time outdoors is a quick way to boost positive feelings.
Using a series of experiments, a research piece published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that going outdoors and also spending time in nature offers mood enhancing effects, gives you more energy and vitality.
The study used different instances including just going outdoors, taking a walk outside and looking at photographic scenery to see how each affected behavior and mood.
If you really want to have a good day, try spending it outdoors, on a warm, sunny day, near the water.
A study performed by the University of Sussex and London School of Economics discovered that this environment created the highest level of happiness among most of the 22,000 participants.
While just being outdoors and also engaging in sports or recreational activities were likewise linked to happiness and higher sense of well-being, the combination of sea, sun and sand topped the list.
One more reason to hit the beach whenever you can.
40. Go Green
One quick way to lift your mood is spend time in green spaces.
Any area with nature like the park or patches of green spaces that have been allocated for plants and trees will help you be happier.
In a study performed by urban designers, environmental psychologists and health experts, a 25 minute walk through green space zones, which are areas protected from development, resulted in a reduction of frustration and arousal.
The study used mobile Electroencephalogram (EEG) recorders to track participants’ brain patterns as they walked through 3 different urban zones:
- an urban shopping street,
- path through green space and
- a street in a busy commercial district.
Compared to the other zones, results showed mood enhancing benefits when the subjects were in the green zones.
41. Add Some Humor into Your Life
Having a sense of humor and not taking things too seriously helps us be more resilient to negative situations. It also helps us cope during stressful times.
Being able to see the funny side of things also makes us happier overall.
- Studies that have shown that having a sense of humor helps bring about relaxation.
- Research also suggests that individuals who have a sense of humor also cope better with stressful situations, putting a positive twist to these instances. Doing so allowed them to be in a better mood compared to those who didn’t.
Building up a sweat while working out has some profound effects on the body.
It not only helps keep our muscles, bones and joints healthy but affects our brains as well.
During exercise, our brains release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that make us happier.
As an added bonus, you’ll feel better about yourself and your body as exercise helps shed off the unwanted weight and tones your muscles.
A study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada discovered that being physically active is closely related to one’s happiness.
Using data from Canada’s National Population Health Survey, researchers learned that respondents who were happy were more likely to be physically active.
Just as importantly, individuals who were active before then became inactive increase their likelihood of being unhappy within 2 years time. On the other hand, those who were inactive before then became active, improve their likelihood of being happier.
43. Take a Walk
If you don’t have the time to get to the gym, how about just stepping outside.
Walking is something everyone can do. Plus, it brings with it a host of benefits including weight loss, reduced blood pressure and lifting your mood.
In patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast, head and neck cancer, following an at-home walking program provided improved levels of happiness.
While walking indoors does work, another study reveals that walking with a group, or walking in a natural environment improved the restorative and mood enhancing effects.
Just like me and everyone else, you probably can’t live without one or more of your digital devices.
We’ve all become so attached and dependent on our cellphones that it’s become very difficult to put it away even for just 15 minutes.
Science however, tells us that being “plugged in” all the time is not only harmful to our health but also contributes to our unhappiness.
Kent State University researchers, in surveying over 500 students, found that how frequently you used your mobile phone was associated with how satisfied you were with life.
Those who used their cellphones a lot experienced reduced happiness, higher anxiety levels and lower grades compared to less frequent cellphone users.
45. Avoid Having Too Many Choices
Just as having only a few choices leaves us unsatisfied, having too many options make us unhappy.
While we often like to have “as many things to choose from”, science tells us that this situation makes us miserable. Too many choices often leaves us paralyzed and unable to pick anything.
This problem isn’t new.
A study as far back as 1995 by Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar found that while people are drawn to a larger variety of options, they often are only able to make decisions when a more manageable number of selections is offered.
In the experiment, Iyengar and her team switched up the number of jams offered in the grocery every few hours. So every few hours customer either saw 6 flavors offered or 24 flavors.
What the team observed was the assortment of 24 jams attracted more customers (60%), while only 40% stopped to check out the array of 6 jams.
However, only 3% of the customers bought something when 2 dozen jars were presented, compared to 30% when just 6 were offered.
Not Everyone is Affected
Incidentally, the number of choices available doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
Stanford University social psychologist Hazel Markus, in her study, learned that freedom of choice isn’t important for everyone.
Non-westerners and working class westerners didn’t really care too much about the abundance of options, unlike those who were university educated.
The latter group however, while appreciative of having more options available, became debilitated and unable to choose, with some even experiencing depression, when there was too much variety offered.
46. Do Some Meditation
Meditation has long been used as a way to clear one’s mind and calm oneself. It also helps improve our focus.
Thanks to advances in brain imaging technology over the recent years, scientists have discovered that taking time out to meditate, even just for a few minutes a day, has profound effects on our brains.
Studying brain scans of 16 volunteers, experts from the Massachusetts General Hospital found that an 8 week mindfulness meditation program increased gray matter density in regions of the brain that were associated with emotion regulation, memory, learning, perspective and self-referential processing.
In addition to becoming smarter and being able to control emotions better, meditation can make you happier.
In the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, healthy adult volunteers who went through short term meditation training reported reduction in negative moods and stress levels.
Spending 15 to 20 minutes each day to sit in a quiet place to meditate is a good way not only to get healthier but happier too.
47. Find Something Exciting If You’re Young; Peaceful If You’re Older
Research reveals that our perception of happiness changes as we age.
When we’re younger, exciting experiences make us happy. As we age, our happiness shifts towards peacefulness and the more ordinary events.
Reviewing 8 previous studies on the subject, researchers concluded that as we age, the choice of experience that makes us happy also changes. We enjoy the extraordinary ones during our younger years, but later prefer ordinary experiences as we get older.
Similar finders were observed in a related study. This time by examining emotions that were documented on 12 million personal blogs along with surveys.
This explains why seek out more exciting things like sky diving or traveling to unknown places during our youth and become “happily boring,” as my kids would call it, as we get older.
48. Plan a Trip
Take some time out and plan a trip or vacation. Doing so is scientifically proven to improve happiness.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the budget for it, because you don’t have to go on the trip to reap the benefits.
According to a research piece published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, pre-trip planning evokes feelings of happiness. The happy feeling, which lasts for 8 weeks, is a result of the anticipation of the vacation.
The study recruited over 1,500 participants in the Netherlands, with nearly 1,000 of them actually going on vacation.
What the researchers discovered was that people were happiest before the trip when anticipation was high. From there, the level of happiness went down.
Part of the explanation for this phenomenon is how our brains behave when we anticipate something good. Other studies point to the increase in endorphins which accounts for that boost in happy emotions.
49. Give to Charity
Donating to charitable organizations is one way you can help yourself too. In helping others we make ourselves happier.
You’ve probably experienced that good feeling inside that last time you gave some money for a worthy cause, or sent a box of clothes or food to help the less fortunate.
To see if there’s a scientific explanation to this feeling, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, performed brain imaging studies on 19 individuals who either donated or didn’t donate to charity.
In participants who donated to charity, the regions of the brain associated with pleasure (ie. sex or eating delicious food), was just as active when donating money to charity as it was when receiving money.
We’re just as happy giving to charitable causes as we are getting money ourselves.
50. Do Some Volunteer Work
If your budget is tight or you don’t have much to spare in terms of cash, how about giving your time. Taking time out to volunteer and help others works just as well.
Numerous studies have associated volunteering with increased levels of happiness.
Gathering data from 40 previous papers on the topic, researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. learned that volunteering improves mental health. It was likewise linked to better health and a 20% reduction of risk of death. Volunteers also were more satisfied with their lives, had lower levels of depression and increased well-being.
It is believed that the body releases serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, all “feel good” hormones, when we provide selfless service to others.
As an added bonus, volunteering gives you a chance to put your own life in perspective.
It takes you out of your worrying and see what other people are going through. This often leads to an appreciation of what you do have instead of stressing about what you don’t.
51. Pick Up a New Hobby
Consider taking up a new hobby.
Often thought of as something to pass time, hobbies are a chance for us to try something different, at times develop expertise or meet new people.
More importantly, engaging in leisurely activities like quilting, coin collecting or bird watching are great ways to improve your overall mood.
Research printed in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine reveals that individuals who had hobbies were 18% happier while they were engaged in the activities. They also exhibited a 34% reduction in stress levels. Additionally, researchers observed lower heart rates in these individuals as well.
The good news is it doesn’t even matter if you aren’t any good at it. As long as you enjoy doing that particular activity.
52. Savor Your Experiences, Not Your Belongings
It’s cool to have material things because we need a lot of them to get by in life. But more important than the things you have or buy are your memories and experiences.
Cherishing your life’s experiences and remembering the good times has been shown to evoke feelings of happiness.
In a 2014 publication of the journal Neuron, scientists observed that people were willing to give up tangible rewards in the form of money, to enjoy remembering positive past experiences.
Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the researchers observed increased activity in regions of the brain that are linked to positive emotion when participants recalled positive experiences.
A related study from the University of Southampton in the U.K. noted that nostalgia, that feeling of longing for the past, helps reduce anxiety about the future and makes us feel more optimistic.
Not all memories however, are created equal.
While, savoring experiences and remembering positive moments in the past makes us happier, the opposite is true when you try to down regulate positive emotions.
Research suggests that dampening, a behavior where some people deal with positive situations by trying to feel bad about them, is linked to worse mood.
53. Learn Something New
For some reason, the older we get, the less inclined we are to try and learn something new.
I’m not sure why it is, but I’ve noticed that in myself, my parents and many other people.
While staying in our comfort zone may feel good, going out and learning something new lets us become happier in the long run.
In addition to the possibility of attaining a promotion, getting a raise or just being more independent, research shows that this sense of accomplishment and achievement lead to increased happiness and well-being.
The study, performed by psychologists at San Francisco State University, found that participants who learned something felt happier and more satisfied when they looked back at the experience, even if during the time they were learning it caused them added stress.
In addition to the new skill you get, increased competency brings with it self-confidence and resilience.
54. Grow Old
Because as we get older we get happier. It just happens naturally.
While scientists aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies show that humans naturally become happier as we grow older.
After passing middle age, research suggests that our brains lean towards positive memories. It has also been shown that we figure out which activities make us happy. So we often choose them instead of others activities.
While this is true in most cases, there are a few factors that can affect this, namely health and what you have.
In the journal Aging & Mental Health, a published piece notes that in 320 elderly adults studied, health as well as their socioeconomic status play a big role in affecting one’s satisfaction and well-being in life.
Those who had poorer health and less favorable socioeconomic standing weren’t as happy.
55. Practice Yoga
The benefits of yoga are numerous. It’s not just stretching like a pretzel or sweating in a high temperature room.
Study after study continue to confirm the mental, emotional and physical benefits of yoga.
When it comes to lifting our moods and making us happier, yoga has been shown to be more effective than walking.
Researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine observed that practicing yoga thrice a week for 1 hour each session resulted in better mood and anxiety improvements, compared to similar duration and frequency of walking.
The 12 week trial also showed how yoga practice is able to increase Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) levels in our brains. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means its job is to reduce the activity of neurons. As such, GABA helps calm us down and acts to regulate stress and anxiety.
A similar study, this time pitting swimming with yoga, found that in men, yoga offered more benefit when it came to improving one’s mood. The two activities had the same effect on women.
Whether it’s going to a studio to practice or doing it at home, yoga is a worthwhile exercise for everyone to try. It’s also easy way to stay in shape while traveling.
56. Smell Some Scents
How about picking up some essential oils or scents to help boost your mood?
While not for everyone, choosing the right fragrance to fill the room helps influence your emotions.
Using a combination of tests, including EMG, heart rate and blood pressure, to measure the relaxing effects of different fragrances, researchers concluded that the aromas brought about muscle tension release and stress relief.
However, various scents offer different effects.
- Lavender for example works well for relaxation and aids in sleep.
- Cinnamon and peppermint meanwhile, sharpen your mind and concentration.
- Fresh cut grass and vanilla are mood boosters.
- Pine helps you destress, while
- Jasmine works well for depression
57. Stop Using Facebook
Facebook is the most popular social network site in the world for good reason. It allows you to keep in touch with friends and make new acquaintances even if they live on the other side of the globe.
Social networking for all the good it offers, has a dark side.
Ethan Kross, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, and his team note in their study that people who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to feel isolated, lonely and dissatisfied.
The results are somewhat ironic considering that social networks were designed to foster social connection. Instead, they do the opposite in terms of well-being.
This study isn’t alone, as there have been multiple reports detailing how using Facebook made people unhappy. Conversely, taking a break from the social network site not only increased happiness but also improved their social lives.
Among the factors seen by researchers that brings about unhappiness is the jealously felt when comparing with others.
In a study performed by Canadian researchers, analysis of posts and information on Facebook is found to offer a lot of ambiguity especially when it comes to relationships. This led to increased jealousy.
58. Ditch Warm Showers for Cold Ones
If you’re a fan of warm showers, you may want to switch to cold ones for its health benefits.
A study conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine discovered that taking cold showers help reduce depression. Exposure to cold promotes the increase of neurotransmitters in our brains that helps improve mood.
In addition to boosting happiness levels, cold showers have also been scientifically shown to improve circulation and respiration. It likewise reduces muscle inflammation, fatigue and helps you lose weight.
59. Take Part in Cultural Activities
Add some culture in your life. Science shows it will boost happiness.
While the exact explanations isn’t totally clear, it seems that participating in outdoor gatherings, singing, dancing or even just looking at an art exhibit will help your mood.
Among the simplest ways to do so is visit a museum.
Studies suggest that not only can you learn a lot from walking the halls of a museum, it also improves overall well-being, reduces anxiety and loneliness, and helps regulate stress levels.
Also, a research project called the Mappiness Project, which aims to map out the happiness through the use on an iPhone app, found that 4 of the top 6 happiness inducing activities among its 45,000 users at the time were art related. The only other 2 that weren’t were sex and exercise.
The 4 were:
- Dance, theater or concert
- singing or performing
- arts & crafts hobbies
- going to the museum, library or exhibitions
Do note that men and women favor different cultural activities though.
According to a Norwegian study, men got more benefits from passive activities like watching concerts or theater, and visiting art exhibits and museums.
Women, on the other hand, benefited more from activities where they participated in, like dance, singing, club meetings and outdoor gathering.
60. Enjoy a Good Laugh
When you’re down or feeling blue, just find something to laugh about. It can be something as simple as a joke or reading a comic strip.
Including a good laugh into your daily routine helps improve your mood and boost feelings of happiness.
A study found that when comparing laughing to smiling or howling to see its effect on mood, only laughing and smiling were able to improve mood. Between the 2 though, smiling produced a bigger positive effect compared to smiling.
Laughter therapy was likewise effective in helping improve the mood states and self-esteem of cancer patients. Korean researchers grouped 33 of 62 patients to receive three 1 hour laughter therapy sessions and compared this to other participants who didn’t receive laughter therapy.
Results showed that self-esteem and mood both improved significantly in the laughter group.
So go ahead, enjoy a good laugh on a daily basis.
61. Embrace Your Creative Side
Various forms of creative activities including art and music have been shown to produce healing effects.
Studies show that listening to music or playing an instrument, knitting, dancing, singing, painting or just writing brings about health benefits that range from stress relief to relaxation as well as restoring our immune system’s functions.
Even if you aren’t creative, it doesn’t matter.
It’s for the fun of it. Plus, there’s no one there to judge you whether it’s your drawing, singing or writing.
62. Hope You’re Genetically Lucky
While a lot of the things on our list are within our control and things we can modify or fit into our lives, there are some things that are out of our control, because we’re born with them. In that sense, you either have it or you don’t.
In this specific case, you preferably don’t.
A few years back scientists discovered a variation of one of our genes that can make it harder for someone to be happy. The MAOA (Monoamine oxidase A) gene plays a role in breaking down neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
However, a variation of the gene, the MAOA-L, which is a low activity form of the MAOA, has been linked to higher propensity for aggression and violence. For this reason it has been labeled as the “warrior gene”.
According to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers observed that many of the Finnish criminals convicted of violent crimes had the MAOA-L gene.
However, further research suggests that not everyone who has this gene is prone to violence. There needs to be a trigger, often found in provocation or early abuse.
Research by Brown University scientists reveal that when provoked, those who have the MAOA-L gene are more likely to behave in an aggressive way.
63. Practice Religion or Faith
Faith, religion and spirituality have long been tied to mental well-being.
People often turn to faith as it gives them something bigger than themselves to help them overcome whatever life’s troubles are.
Research suggests that having a religion isn’t enough though. You do need to practice your faith for it to be effective.
Swiss psychologists note that in studying over 20,500 participants, those who were religious exhibited higher levels of happiness and were more satisfied with their lives.
These individuals were also more forgiving, kinder, more hopeful, and practiced love and gratitude. Those who did not practice their religion however, didn’t differ from individuals who didn’t have any religion.
Religion also helps those suffering from chronic illness with healing. A German study likewise states that prayer also helps them to transform their experience to something positive.
64. Try New Things
While getting over your fear or anxiety of trying something you’re not sure of can be frightening, science offers evidence that new experiences and adventures make us become happier.
In analyzing over 500 diaries and 30,000 event memories, Winston-Salem University psychologist Rich Walker discovered that people who engaged in different types of experiences were more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones compared to those who had less experience variation.
Plus, trying out new things and experiences opens us up to learning and growing as a person. Who knows, you may turn out to really like whatever it is you decide to try.
But what if you aren’t the curious or adventurous type?
Carnegie Mellon scientists observed that there are a few characteristics that influence the willingness to explore. These include:
- Availability (removing obstacles, being responsive and open),
- non-interference (not doing anything to jeopardize the curiosity or activity) and
- encouragement (accept and take on the challenge)
These are some characteristics you can try to work on to make yourself experience different things.
Nope. That’s not a typo.
Botox, which has become very popular over recent years for its ability to make us look younger, isn’t only effective on facial muscles but also on our emotions.
Dutch research reveals that botox improves cognition, and boosts mood. In addition, it promotes pro-social behavior. Also, it acts in a way to block traumatic memories.
Cardiff University psychologists likewise note that the paralysis of the face’s “frown” muscles results in less feedback for negative emotions. As a result, patients who were injected with botox experienced reduced negative mood states.
How to Be Happier In Relationships
66. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
In the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware documents the most common life regrets of people in their death beds.
In it, she mentions that one of the top regrets is not staying in touch with family members and friends.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, spending extra quality time with the people closest to you helps you be happy.
George Valliant, who oversaw the Harvard Grant Study, also came to the conclusion that the “warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction’”.
The study, which ran over a 75 year period mentions the value of our relationships with parents and how this affects our happiness in life.
The study also reveals that having a good relationship with siblings is essential, especially for men. It cited that 93% of men who had close relationships with a sister or brother when they were younger thrived when they were at 65 years old.
Another long term study, labeled The Longevity Project, discovered that our relationships, as well as how we help other people are important factors if you want to live a long, happy life.
67. Lend Others a Hand
Counterintuitive as it may seem, helping others makes you happier.
Using a series of studies, researchers learned that the act of helping benefits not only the recipient of the assistance but also the helper.
Published in a 2010 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the experiment used 4 studies to test various scenarios to see how helping someone affects the 2 parties involved.
Evidence also shows that helping others at work provides the same effect.
A large-scale study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison involving over 10,000 participants found that people considered helping others in their work as important. They also said that doing so made them happier in their lives 30 years later.
Considering that work life is often competitive even among co-workers to land the higher level job, this tells us something about human nature.
68. Stay Away From Negative People… And Hang Out With Happy People
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker
Ever notice that you pick up mannerisms of the people you spend time with?
This is why we do things and to a certain point, behave like our parents. Much as we don’t want to.
As the late Jim Rohn put it, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So if you spend time with happy people, it rubs off.
Spend time with negative individuals, you’ll soon find yourself being negative as well.
A Harvard study that followed over 4,700 individuals over more than 2 decades observed that being around someone who’s happy increases the chance of those around them being happy. Happiness also spreads up to 3 degrees of separation.
While not as contagious as happiness, negative people can also influence your mood and behavior. This makes it important to prune these people out of your life. Or, at least stay away from them as much as possible.
What’s scary is that our senses can pick up emotions.
A study presented by Dutch researchers reveals that negative emotions like fear, anger and disgust can be transferred via odor. Our noses are sensitive enough to pick up these chemicals.
Picking up the odors from these chemicals causes us to behave in a similar manner.
The study saw that participants who smelled the “fear sweat” also exhibited fearful facial expressions. Those who were exposed to “disgust sweat“ odor also changed their perceptions.
By choosing who you spend time with, you will be able to pick up positive mannerisms and be happier.
69. Say “Thank You” When Someone Does Something for You
As simple as it may sound, the art of saying “thank you” is becoming a lost art.
You hear it less and less.
This small sign of gratitude not only makes the person, a server or security guard for example, feel good, it also makes you happier.
A 2010 study presented in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that expressing your thanks, be it via email or personally, makes the other party feel valued.
It also enticed them to be more helpful the next time you connected with them.
Using a series of 4 experiments, the researchers observed varying behaviors. In one of the experiments, thanking people who corresponded with the participant saw a 100% increase in the correspondents’ willingness to help the next time the participant asked for assistance.
70. Build Meaningful Relationships
Having a big groups of friends often gives us a social circle to fall back on. It also gives us that a feeling of belonging.
However, evidence suggests that strong social relationships is what we should be striving for. Instead of quantity, go for quality. Of course, go for both if you can.
Meaningful relationships, not only romantic ones, but all types of relationships, make us happier. It also improves overall life satisfaction.
What constitutes a close relationship? Here are a few things:
- Feeling of caring for one another.
- Someone who’s there to help you in bad time or when you’re in trouble.
- Someone you understand and understands you.
- A person you enjoy spending time with and have fun with.
- A person who helps you grown and learn.
- Someone who offers you security.
From the list, it’s easy to see that meaningful relationships require time and effort, as well as nurturing. These include relationships with family members, close friends, best friend, partner, loved one or spouse.
71. Live Near Your Friends
Keep your friends close. That way you can talk with them and spend time with them.
Plus, we all know how long distance relationships can pull people apart.
By keeping friends geographically near you, you’re able to nurture your relationships much better.
Findings from the long term Framingham Heart Study reveals that friends and neighbors who live near us offer the greatest effect on happiness.
Following over 4,700 participants over a 20 year span, it found that people who are surrounded by many happy individuals are more likely to become happy themselves.
Having a friend who lives within a mile from you that’s happy increased your odds by 25% of becoming happy as well.
Happy brothers or sisters who live within a mile from you also increase your chances by 14%. Your next door neighbor’s happiness ups the possibility of you becoming happy by 34%.
72. Have at Least 10 Good Friends
A survey of more than 1,700 individuals found that people who have 10 good friends or more were happier than those who had less.
Conducted by Nottingham University, data collected suggest that having less than 6 friends made you more likely to be unhappy than happy. Meanwhile, those who had between 6 and 10 friends could swing either way.
The findings show that friendship is a key predictor of happiness. Whether the friends you have come from childhood, work or just recently acquired, it didn’t matter.
The study also suggests that the more friends, the more likely you are to be happy.
It did mention however, the potential danger of having too many friends. Doing so may result in not having enough time to nurture all the relationships. In which case, you’d end with many friends you weren’t close with.
These less meaningful relationships didn’t really provide as much value as good friendships.
73. Engage in Meaningful Conversations
There’s nothing wrong with small talk. In fact, it’s often fun.
But if you’re looking to get to know someone, build a more meaningful relationship and make yourself happier, skip the chit chat.
Instead, spend more time having meaningful conversations.
A study by the University of Arizona reveals that more substantive conversations led to feelings of satisfaction. Following 80 individuals and their conversations over a 4 day period, researchers found that spending less time with small talk and engaging in more meaningful conversations resulted in higher levels of well-being.
It findings also show that those who spend more time talking to other people rather than being by themselves were also happier.
The observations bring us back to the point that human beings are social creatures. And a happy life is intrinsically linked to spending time with others instead of solitude.
74. Talk About the Things that are Bothering You
Talking about something that’s bothering you lets it off your chest. This helps relieve the tension from within.
In a review of 11 studies covering more than 1,500 patients, talk therapy was found to be just as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.
Apparently, it isn’t just the things that are troubling you that you can talk to others about.
Research also suggests that talking about positive things like achievements and memorable moments likewise boost our mood.
The study did 5 small experiments to see how sharing positive news in various ways affected happiness.
In all the trials, sharing good experiences boosted satisfaction and happiness levels. However, the effects hit their highest point when the listener provided an active-constructive response.
This tells us that the person you share to is just as important as the sharing itself.
In addition, it’s not always easy to open up to someone, much less to someone who you aren’t close to or who won’t be able to give you the response you need.
75. Be a Part of a Community
Whether it’s a club, a group or an organization, belonging to a community helps improve our overall well-being and happiness.
The study, performed by the University of Queensland, found that depressed individuals who joined one group saw their risk of relapse drop by 24%. If they joined 3 groups, the risk fell even further by 63%.
Related research also point out that people who had few friends were less able to manage their emotions compared to peers who were part of communities or groups.
Why is being a part of a group important?
- It gives us a sense of belonging.
- It provides us with a sense of identity.
- The community helps you and offers support when you’re in need.
- Humans are social beings. As such it’s in our nature to want to be with others.
76. Spend More Time with Others
Between getting caught up in work, looking after the kids or some other family responsibility, there’s often little to no time for ourselves.
Even when life gets busy, try taking a time out for some social time. You’ll be happier for it.
Research presented by the University of Virginia suggests that engaging in social interaction makes us happier.
It also points out that depending on your cultural background, you’ll find happiness in different types of social partners.
So don’t worry that you sometimes feel more comfortable with some people and not others. That’s just how it is.
Friends not only keep us connected, they keep us grounded and give us support when we need it.
77. Make Sure You Have Social Support
“We all have moments when we need the help of another human being. The only difference between you and him is that today, he’s the one asking.”
Dr. Neal Hudson (Code Black TV Show)
No man or woman is an island.
Whoever you are, at some point in your life you’ll need someone’s help or support.
Having a few people to turn to when the chips are down makes life a lot easier, not to mention less stressful.
Scientific evidence suggest that having good social relationships, and people you can turn to for support and help are big factors in longevity and happiness.
Analysis of data gathered from 148 studies found that people who have stronger social relationships increase their likelihood of survival by 50%.
Also, findings by Canadian researchers reveal that compared to married mothers, single mothers had higher rates of depression because they experience less social support.
Single moms also had higher stress levels, less social involvement and contact with friends and family. All of which contributed to the bigger likelihood of depressed moods.
78. Be Involved in Your Community
Getting involved in the activities and happenings in your neighborhood and community not only gives you that sense of belonging to a social group but also increases happiness.
According to a study on livable cities, researchers from the University of South Carolina note that being connected to their neighborhoods and cities, as well as having good city services and help, make an urban environment a happy one for residents.
The study analyzed information gathered from 5,000 residents living in 5 different major cities. It took into consideration the factors, both direct and indirect, which affected the perception of residents about the city they live in.
79. Share Your Happiness with Others
A 2008 Harvard Medical School study discovered that happiness is contagious.
In the long term experiment, researchers found that when a person within a certain social network is happy, their emotion spreads as far as 3 degrees.
This means that being happy affects not only your friends, but also your friends’ friends and your friends’ friends’ friends.
As a bonus, its effects lasts up to 12 months.
Fortunately, opposite doesn’t hold true. Sadness doesn’t have that same contagious effect.
The results make it essential that you choose the right set of friends as well as people to live with.
Data gathered shows that a happy person has a 34% chance of spreading that feeling to their neighbors. And siblings living within a mile of the happy individual has a 14% of “catching it”.
This gives us all the more reason to be in a good mood. Or, if you’re feeling blue, find someone in your network of friends who’s happy. Soon enough, it will spread to you.
80. Join a Religion or Spiritual Group
During those tough and trying times, having something bigger than us to believe in gives us strength.
Faith, religion and spirituality all offer this.
Joining a church, religious group of spiritual community helps even more as it offers social support.
Following over 20,000 participants, Swiss researchers observed that individuals who belonged to a religion and actively participated in it were happier and more satisfied with their lives compared to those who didn’t practice any religion.
Interestingly, having a religion but not practicing it, doesn’t do you any good.
The findings show that non-practicing individuals were in the same boat as those who didn’t have any religion.
A related study also learned that church can act as a protective barrier to mood problems.
Following nearly 800 older individuals over an 8 year period, University of Arizona researchers found that church attendance was negatively associated with mood problems.
Findings also discovered that being married reduced depressive moods whereas becoming “nonmarried” is linked to an increase in depressed moods.
Happiness in Love and Marriage
81. Find Romance
Love is something that we all seek.
And being in a relationship has been shown to make us happier than those who aren’t in one, according to a 2005 Cornell University study.
It doesn’t stop there through. Where your relationship is at also affects the level of happiness.
Researchers found that married couples, whether happily or not, were at the top in terms of sense of well-being.
They were followed by couples who lived together, then those in a steady relationship and finally individuals in casual relationships. Those without partners ranked last.
The other aspect to happiness with regards to relationships is the level of commitment. The more committed the couple was, the happier they were.
A related study also confirms the importance of relationships to happiness.
Using a sample of 222 undergraduate students and grouping them from the consistently very happy to the very unhappy, researchers discovered that the happiest group had strong romantic relationships, were highly social and had other social relationships as well. The unhappiest group had opposite characteristics.
82. Have Sex
Sex is not only pleasurable but also makes us feel great.
It gets better…
According to research having regular sex brings us happiness. And that doing so brings enjoyment and improved mood. Interestingly though, increasing the frequency you have sex doesn’t result in an increased level of happiness.
The researchers hypothesize that part of the reason why upping the number of times you have sex doesn’t add to happiness is that it lessens that feeling of wanting due to the frequency.
In another study that included 3,800 participants, researchers delved deeper into the relationship between sex and happiness.
Their findings suggest that more sex, better quality sex, frequency of orgasm and satisfaction with your main partner makes us happier. Additionally, maximum happiness is achieved with only one partner.
The reasons for achieving happiness between men and women differ though:
- With men, it’s all about the frequency along with the physical aspects involved with it. Not surprising!
- With women, happiness comes from the affection received and given from/to their main sexual partner.
Our Sexual Response
On the physiological side of things, our sexual response cycle produces a number of effects on the body and mind that affects our happiness.
It starts when we get excited…
- Here serotonin is released and we get that feeling or arousal. Our autonomic nervous system starts to get into action releasing adrenaline. This causes our heart to beat faster and blood rushes into our genitals. Our experiences get intensified, sexual desire increases, and dopamine is secreted.
- Then, our blood pressure rises, we also experience muscle tension along with the faster heartbeat. Norepinephrine is also released during stimulation making certain areas of our bodies more sensitive.
- Orgasm is then achieve and tension is released. We experience pleasure.
- At this time oxytocin, the hormone that gives us that feeling of bonding and trust, is released. This makes us feel close with our partner.
- Finally, there’s resolution. Arousal goes down, swelling and contractions gradually go away.
83. Hug Someone
Oxytocin is one of the hormones that makes us feel happy.
Produced during sex, it makes us have that feeling of socially bonding with others and increases our trust in others.
Aside from getting in the sack with someone, hugging also makes the body produce this hormone. It’s the reason we feel better when we hug someone.
Oxytocin also helps reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. This makes it effective in lowering stress and anxiety levels, aside from making us feel better.
Research conducted by the University of Zurich in Switzerland reveals that oxytocin helps reduce stress levels by providing the feeling of social support which protects us from the negative effects of stress, especially chronic stress.
If you aren’t a fan of hugging people, then try pets instead. Hugging your dog or interacting with your pet causes the body to produce oxytocin as well.
Analysis of 69 prior studies on human and animal interactions shows that interacting with animals causes the body to release more oxytocin, resulting in mood enhancement, stress reduction and decreses in anxiety and fear. It also makes us more interpersonal and social.
84. Make Sure Your Partner is Happy
When he was still around, I remember my grandpa mentioning the line “happy wife, happy life”.
For him, it was the secret to his long lasting marriage to my grandma. They got married at 20 and stayed that way till they passed in when they were both in their mid 90’s.
Research suggests that my grandpa was on to something…
A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family notes that a big part of a making a marriage happy resided with the husband. Husbands with good health experienced less martial conflict than their less healthy counterparts.
Also, husbands who exhibited higher levels of positivity had happier unions as well.
In a related study, University of California Berkeley researchers discovered that the wife’s happiness is key to the husband’s well-being.
Using data gathered from a 13 year study, findings suggest that the wife’s ability to calm down during conflict plays an important role in a happy union.
Wives have the power to resolve arguments or disagreements.
And, how well the wife is able to calm her negative feelings during these instances determines how much stress and anger is sustained by the marriage.
Either way, husband and wife both have a role to play for making a marriage work.
85. Get married… or Get a Partner
According to a study by UCLA, data suggests that marriage is linked to longer life.
Conversely, never having been married was the biggest predictor of premature death.
This correlation also affected men more than women.
The findings were based on data gathered and analyzed using a combination of the 1989 US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 1997 US National Death Index.
At this point you’re probably thinking, don’t “50% of marriages end in divorce”?
After all that’s the statistic we all believe to be true.
How Many Marriages End in Divorce?
Apparently, that figure isn’t accurate. At least not for a while now.
The reason? Statistics on marriage and divorce isn’t being compiled anymore.
It used to be compiled by National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). But due to budgetary concerns, it stopped collecting that data before the year 2000. This makes estimating the figures a bit more difficult.
Compiling data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we estimate that the percentage of divorce comes out to about 33% to 38%. Our estimate isn’t totally accurate because the CDC’s data does exclude numbers from California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, and Minnesota.
However, the trend does look like divorce rate is going down, with only 813,862 divorce and annulments in 2014 compared to over 940,000 in 2000. Also noticeable is that fewer Americans are getting married.
University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers for his part, estimates that only about 1/3 of marriages after 2000 will end in divorce, at least by the way the trend is going.
Also, based on the last data collected years back, only 11% of college educated couples who married in the early 2000s got divorced by their 7th anniversary.
If you’re like many modern couples who aren’t thinking of marriage, how about your partner?
Another option to marriage is settling down with your best friend. This seems to work even better according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. It found that settling down with your best friend produced twice the well-being of marriage.
86. Think Before Having Kids
Having children is something every parent wants to experience. And while having kids is something we often seen as a happy life event, science tells us otherwise.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal Demography, having kids is worse than divorce, death of a partner or unemployment.
The study followed over 2,000 German couples who had their first child. The soon-to-be parents were very happy while anticipating their first-born and their happiness increased going forward.
Things changed after the baby was born though, with only 30% of the participating couples remaining in their happy state.
Among the issues that caused the unhappiness were the mother’s health concerns, complications during pregnancy and the “work” involved in taking care of the child, including sleep deprivation and breastfeeding.
Previous studies have also pointed out that the cost of rearing children through college, the reduced quality of marriage life and difficulties involved with parenthood, all contribute to the loss of happiness for parents.
On a good note however, Mikko Myrskylä, one of the lead researchers of the study, notes that data suggests older parents, those between the ages of 35 to 49, or those with well-educated backgrounds tend to be happiest after child birth. This group was also able to maintain a good level of happiness as parents.
On the other hand, young parents, ages 23 to 34, and those less educated were found to likely have downward happiness trajectories after the child was born.
87. Play Matchmaker
If you like setting people up, then you’ll be glad to know that doing so makes you happier.
While we often associate matchmaking with romantic relationships, this type of matchmaking applies to any way you can connect people. This includes platonic relationships or introducing work colleagues to one another.
Using a series of 4 small experiments, research conducted by Duke University’s business school found that connecting people increases happiness in the matchmaker. Also, the more unlikely the match, the more rewarding it felt.
This meant that matching two individuals who had the same interest in books for example wasn’t as fulfilling as matching someone who liked sports with one who was a bookworm.
Ways to Be Happy At Work and in Your Finances
88. Quit Multitasking
Multitasking is the ability to switch between more than one task at any given time. While it’s a good skill to have, try to avoid it when you can.
Scientific evidence suggests that doing many things at once may look more efficient on the surface. However, it really isn’t.
University of Michigan researchers found that switching back and forth between tasks actually makes you spend more time completing the entire work, compared to doing them one at a time. More importantly, it reduces accuracy and efficient, up to 50% in some situations.
Part of the reason for the inaccuracy and inefficiency is that going back and forth between different tasks makes it more difficult for the brain to focus and keep track of the important details.
In addition, making the brain work harder results in increased level of stress, as seen in an experiment done by U.K. researchers. Twenty healthy subjects exhibited higher levels of stress, shown by increased blood pressure and heart rate when they were asked to multitask. Also, the more the workload increased, the higher the stress levels went.
When you can avoid multitasking, especially in important tasks where added pressure and the need to be accurate is important, do so. Your brain will thank you for it and you’ll be happier as well.
89. Don’t Work Too Much
Let’s face it, most of us work long hours. Probably more than we should.
But often, it’s the only way to get things done.
Unfortunately, long hours sitting in the office often means less work-life balance. Not to mention sitting on your butt all day brings with it a host of potential health issues.
Studies have shown that long working hours increases the risk of heart disease as well as stroke.
In a review and meta-analysis of previous work on the subject, researchers were able to compile data from 25 studies covering over 603,000 participants.
What they found was working 55 or more hours a week increases your risk of stroke by 33% compared to those who logged 35 to 40 hours per week. Regular long hours at the office also upped your heart disease risk by 13%.
Along with the health problems, long hours increase stress levels and also reduce family and recreation time. This often leads to unhappy employees.
Working Shorter Hours
Sweden, which recently adopted a shorter 6 hour workday schedule looks like it’s on the right track. At least as far as workers and employee feedback go.
Work efficiency is up while turnover has dropped.
Employees and business owners seem to agree that the shorter hours allow them to stay focused better. It also allows them to have more free time to recharge for the next day.
The idea is actually a revival of some trials done in the 1990s and early 2000s where certain sectors and companies moved to reduce work hours. Among them were car maker Toyota (Sweden) which over 10 years ago cut the length of their workers’ shifts and stuck to shorter hours ever since, because it increased profits.
90. Live Closer to Where You Work
A short commute makes us happier than having a big house far from work. At least that’s what scientific data tells us.
Commuting to work can be a real hassle. And statistics prove that.
According to the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, commuters have lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness, plus higher levels of anxiety.
It also states that each minute spent during commute makes you feel worse up to a certain point. With the worse being trips those between 1 hour and 1.5 hours long. In general though, anything lasting over 30 minutes had a negative impact on personal well-being.
Surprisingly though, after the 3 hour mark, the negative effects disappear.
Other studies suggest that commutes that last 20 minutes or less are ideal for happiness. Making it more sensible to live nearer to where you work even if it means a smaller place in the city as opposed to a bigger home outside the city.
91. Bring Your Pet with You to Work
If the company you work for allows it, bring your pet to work with you.
Science shows that having pets at work not only reduced stress levels but also make the environment more positive.
A study by Eastern Kentucky University’s psychology department surveyed 193 workers across 31 firms which allowed pets in the workplace.
Data compiled suggest the presence of pets lowered employee stress levels and improved their health as well.
92. Make Money… at Least Enough of It
Many people will tell you that money can’t buy happiness.
Research however, shows it can… at least to a point.
More importantly, it prevents you from becoming miserable.
Not making enough money is a surefire way to being unhappy. It often leads you to becoming always stressed and worried about how to pay for the bills or the kids’ schooling.
Princeton University researchers found that money improves our emotional well-being. And making more of it makes us happier. However, the gains stop once you get to around an income of $75,000 per year.
The study was published back in 2010. So with inflation and other factors, it’s probably up a bit now.
That said, a 2013 study by the University of Michigan seems to disagree.
Using data gathered from Gallup and other sources, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, noted that there’s no income level where the drop-off in happiness occurs. In fact, they state that wealthier people are more satisfied with their lives.
Whichever you believe, the bottom line is, make enough money to make you happy.
93. Save Money…
However much money you make, the one essential thing everyone must do is save.
I’ve heard way too many sad tales of people with good incomes ending up with no retirement savings.
Fortunately, I’ve also heard a lot of people who had small incomes that retired well.
While it’s great to be rich, that isn’t really the goal. The goal is financial independence. Being able to set your own terms, do whatever you want, when you want to.
Saving money is probably more important than making money, at least when it comes to happiness.
According to a survey of over 4,000 couples, Kansas State University researchers learned that fights about money is the biggest cause of divorce. So even if money isn’t something that makes you happy, know that it can quickly make you very unhappy (if you don’t have enough of it).
Another survey by Ally Bank found that knowing that they saved money made people happy. Eighty four percent of the survey participants said that having money stashed away safely improves their sense of well-being more than eating healthy, exercise or having a job they enjoyed.
Also, the more the participants had in savings, the happier they were.
Unfortunately, having savings isn’t true for most Americans.
According to recent statistics, the average account balance is only about $4,000 or so in savings.
And despite a relatively good median household income of $53,657, and $81,025 for married couples (as of 2014), nearly 40 million households live paycheck to paycheck, meaning they spend everything they make.
94. Spend Your Money… Go Shopping
After you’ve set aside a percentage of your monthly income, it’s time to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard for.
Of course you can go shopping. That works great! And it’s fun too.
Scientific evidence suggests that going shopping, or retail therapy, makes us happier and gets rid of the blues.
The study reveals that shopping therapy has a lasting effect on mood, with 82% of participants feeling totally happy after their shopping spree.
One warning though, when you go buying stuff when you’re sad, you’ll want to keep your emotions under control since there’s a bigger chance of impulse buying. This leads to getting too many things you don’t really need.
The good news is there’s no buyer’s remorse or guilt after, even with the unplanned purchases.
So what did the subjects end up buying?
- 26% got clothes,
- 20% food, while
- 17% electronics.
Another 17% purchased accessories like shoes and jewelry, while 7% went for household items.
In total, the average bill came up to $59. This compared to spending around $115 to celebrate an achievement.
95. But… A Better Way is to Spend it on Others
Sure, shopping’s great. And buying something for yourself is rewarding.
But there’s something you can do with your extra cash that will make you even happier…
Spend it on others.
According to work done by researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia, spending money on others brings us happiness.
Coined as prosocial spending, the study run a few experiments to reach its conclusion.
One test surveyed 632 Americans, gathering data on how much they made, what they spent on bills and how much they spend on themselves as well as what portion they allocate for gifts to other people. Finally the participants were also asked to rate how happy they were.
Findings revealed that how much the individuals spent on themselves wasn’t relevant to their level of happiness. Instead, those who spent on other people reported themselves as happier.
The study also conducted two others tests, one on how employees spend their bonuses, and another where participants were given $5 or $20 to spend on themselves or others.
Both produced similar conclusions. The amount they received was less relevant to happiness. But those who chose to give money to others ended up happier when it was over.
So who do you spend it on?
Anyone will do. But…
A related study by the same authors points out that spending money on people you have close ties to brings more happiness than spending it on people who aren’t as close to you.
Helping those you have frequent contact with, more emotionally connected to and share a more intimate or meaningful bond yielded a more significant benefit to the giver in terms of positive feeling and well-being.
96. … You Can Also Spend on Experiences Instead of Things
When it comes to spending money, the first thing we think of is buying something.
Evidence suggests that instead of plunking down cash on material items, try spending it on experiences.
Doing so is likely to bring you more happiness.
Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found, through a series of studies, that money spent on experience brought about better overall sense of well-being afterwards.
However, because experiences are harder to quantify, we often end up buying things instead because it’s easier to justify money spent. After making their purchases however, participants realized that spending on experiences was better use of their money.
This makes taking a family vacation or taking the kids to watch the ball game beats out buying a new pair of shoes.
An earlier study by Cornell University psychologists confirms this feeling.
Thomas Gilovich, the lead author of the study explains that while buying things makes up happy in the short to immediate term, its novelty wears off as we adapt to it. Thus, after a while, it doesn’t bring us much joy anymore.
Experiences meanwhile, strengthen over time and become memorable as time passes. Also, as our thinking changes. And over time, our minds reinterpret these memories giving us better perspective. This adds to their richness.
97. A Job You Don’t Like Makes You Unhappy
There, I said it.
We all think it, and majority of us have lived it.
Apart from sleeping, our jobs take up the biggest chunk of our time. More importantly, our work is an important part of what defines who we are.
Unfortunately, according to a recent survey by New York-based research firm Conference Board, around 52% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs.
This is a big shift from our parents and grandparents, where 30 years ago, 61% of people said they were happy with their work.
Research also shows that people who enjoy their work are not only happier overall but they’re also more productive at work. Meanwhile being unhappy at work, working unconventional or too long hours has been linked to heart disease.
So what makes us happy at work?
The University of Kent compiled data in the U.K., listing some factors that affect work happiness. These included:
- Having autonomy at work
- Financial freedom
- Work that’s challenging
- Access to green spaces and outdoors
- Living near work
- Not too many deadlines or too long hours
- Opportunity to learn new skills
- Lets you help others
98. Lack of Control at Work Makes You Unhappy
Meanwhile, if you’re unhappy, it may be because of your boss or the company itself. And not the work per se.
French researchers found the overbearing managers and organizations who don’t value their employees or their contributions are among the top reasons that employees are dissatisfied with their jobs.
Following over 1,100 workers in small, medium and large institutions, researchers compiled data which showed that supervisors who gave workers autonomy and tended to their needs resulted in happier and more satisfied employees.
Similar research, this time from the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark, discovered that it’s not the heavy workload that causes depression in employees.
Instead, it’s having no control at work.
The study recruited 4,500 public employees from different industries and gathered data using questionnaires. Results revealed that not being treated fairly by your supervisor or management turned out to be the biggest factor that affects workers’ moods.
With Your Goals
99. Set Goals for Yourself
Setting specific, concrete goals for yourself leads to happiness. This is according to a 2014 study printed in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Specific goals, instead of broad abstract ones make it more possible to achieve your expectations. It also takes away the unrealistic expectations that some general goals bring with them.
Also, scientific evidence suggests setting smaller, more concrete goals within the bigger goal, and progressing towards accomplishing the main goal makes you happier as well.
Working towards a goal gives you “small wins” which not only gets rid of those feelings of uncertainty but also induces positive feelings.
This means setting a goal like I’ll spend 2 hours working out each week is better than saying I’ll start getting in shape.
100. Stop Sitting Around and Just Go Do It
Nike was on to something when it came up with the motto “Just do it.”
Aside from being a brilliant slogan, it applies to many aspects of life.
Science agrees with it too when it comes to being happy.
Research published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies states that mastering a skill brings happiness in the long run. Though in the short term it can be stressful.
It explains that one reason many people don’t take action or follow through with their goals is because of the initial difficulties.
The study wanted to see whether spending time on activities provided fulfillment in the end. Results found that if you’re able to see things through, greater happiness awaits thanks to the fulfillment later on.
This reminds us about enduring short-term discomfort for long term gains and satisfaction.
According to University of California-Riverside psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, striving and working towards something makes us happier, especially if it’s something personally significant.
This can be anything from raising children to taking part in a fund drive to help others.
According to Lyubomirsky, doing so gives us:
- Sense of purpose and control
- Increases our self-esteem and confidence
- Helps cope with problems
- Provides meaning and structure
- Let’s us engage with others
- Allows us to develop our planning skills
101. Stop Procrastinating
Along with perfectionism, research reveals that procrastination is a source of depression among college students.
Part of human nature makes us value things that are in the imminent future more than those that are a few months or years away.
This concept of temporal discounting, where we reduce the reward value of something because it is further out in the future, causes us to push back things till the last minute.
Our present bias, makes it more rewarding to chat on the phone or go on social media instead of studying for a test or doing a project, at least until the test date or deadline becomes very imminent. Then, reviewing or doing the project becomes the focus. But with very little time left, we end up cramming.
The problem with doing fun and rewarding things, like those mentioned above, is that every time we do so, we get a boost of dopamine. This hormone makes us want to keep doing that pleasurable behavior.
As a result, you’ll keep playing games or surfing the web and leave the future reward untouched until it becomes imminent. Only then do we cram everything in an all-nighter.
Levels of Procrastination
When it comes to procrastinating, science shows us there are levels as well.
In a Swedish study involving 710 participants, researchers were able to divide the procrastinators to mild, average, well-adjusted, severe and primarily depressed. So there’s a severity to it too.
One good way of doing away with these tendencies it to try the Pomodoro technique.
This method applies a 25 minute chunk of focused work followed by 5 minutes of break (reward). This gives you a reward where you can do anything between each of the 25 minute work periods.
Being Happy and Healthy
102. Eat a Healthy Well-Balanced Diet
The value of a well-balanced diet comes in the form of nutrients. This lets you get the nutrition our bodies need so we can think, behave and do things efficiently.
A study printed in the British Journal of Health Psychology points out that in a 13 day study that tracked the eating habits of 405 young adults via food diaries, those who ate more fruits and vegetables were happier, had more energy and were more satisfied with their lives.
If fruits and veggies are good, how much should we eat?
The answer is provided by a 2012 research paper which came to the same conclusion as the study above. Fruits and vegetables improved overall well-being.
In addition, it states that happiness and mental health increase in proportion to the increase of number of serving of fruits and vegetables.
The study, which covered data from about 80,000 British individuals, discovered that well-being tops out at 7 portions of fruits and veggies a day.
Meanwhile, poor diet results in poor mental health in adolescents and children, according to a review of 12 previous studies on the subject.
103. Stop Consuming Refined Sugar
A lot of the foods and nutrients presented in our list below are things to include in your diet.
This one on the other hand falls under the “to avoid” category.
Refined sugar, is the white type of sugar, which has gone through processing.
It is present is a lot of different items we buy in the supermarket and is listed under different names.
Juices, soda, cereals and even health bars all contain them.
The Bad Side of Sugar
So why is sugar bad for our health?
In a word, it is addictive.
When we eat or drink food that contains sugar,
- it affects our cerebral cortex, which is the region of the brain that processes different tastes. This lets us know the sweet, salty and bitter.
- Sugar for its part then activates our brain’s reward system by causing it to produce more dopamine. Dopamine is what gives us the urge to want to take another bite or sip because it tastes so good.
- Because of the “wanting more sensation”, a vicious cycle of eating more sugar and getting that rewarding feeling occurs. This results it endless craving for it.
Too much sugar also impairs our brain’s function, affecting our learning ability and memory.
It likewise contributes to anxiety and depression. This is all on top of the metabolic problems it causes like obesity and high blood sugar.
There’s also evidence that points to its role in increasing our risk of cognitive degeneration and diseases like dementia.
According to a study by Columbia University, diets high in glycemic index, which is a measure of how foods affect our blood sugar, is associated with depression. Added sugar in its many forms increased the odds of depression.
Meanwhile, high consumption of fruits (non-juice), fiber, vegetables and lactose did the opposite, lowering the risk of depressive symptoms.
104. Stay Away from Processed Foods
Processed food is any type of food that has been modified from its natural form. It also covers items that have been smoked, cured, salted or fermented.
These include meats like sausages, hot dogs, bacon and many of those in the deli.
Microwave meals, canned and dried goods also fall into the list.
While not all processed foods are bad, most of them are, including those found in your local grocery store.
These foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, trans fat and artificial ingredients to make them store longer, taste better, add color or something else.
Researchers at Australia’s University of Melbourne found that people who ate diets high in processed foods were at higher risk of mood swings, anxiety and depression. Examining over 7,000 young adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14, those who ate low quality diets, including junk food, had a 79% higher risk of becoming depressed.
A similar conclusion was observed by a study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition when it came to fast food and commercially baked products.
So what should you do?
Ditch the fast food and junk food. Choose whole, natural foods instead. That way you’re sure of the nutrients you’re getting without any additives.
105. Avoid Trans Fat
Among the different types of fats around, trans fat is by far the worst. This is the one to avoid.
Trans fat, short for trans-fatty acid, is a naturally occurring fat in some meat and dairy products, albeit in small amounts.
Majority of the trans fat consumed however, comes from commercially prepared products.
What makes it so bad?
Trans fat is a product of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This process turns the oil from liquid to solid form at room temperature. The reason for doing this is to extend the shelf life of products.
Many processed foods use trans fat so they can store longer. Restaurants also like using this type of fat for frying so they don’t need to keep changing the vat of oil as often.
The problem is, this process also makes it unhealthy. Trans fat increases your bad cholesterol and decreases your good cholesterol levels. As a result, increasing your odds of heart disease.
Spanish researchers observed that consuming trans fatty acid upped your risk of depression, whereas healthier fat options including olive oil, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lowered the likelihood of becoming depressed.
And if you want to have good memory, ditch foods containing trans fat. Using data from the 1999-2005 UCSD Statin Study, analysis of over 1,000 subjects discovered that trans fat consumption affected young adults’ memory ability, producing worse recall.
106. Enjoy Some Tea
Tea may not be your drink of choice as Americans consume 3 times more coffee compared to tea.
But unlike coffee which brings with it stimulants, tea may be a better choice to improve your mood.
Loaded with antioxidants, tea also has the ability to fight depression. Theanine, which is a compound found in tea, helps the body relax and destress.
A review of previous research done on tea’s effects on mood and attention found that consuming various amounts of the beverage helps lower anxiety and stress levels.
It also yielded a relaxation effect in combination to being more alert.
107. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
If you drink alcohol, then limit the amount you consume.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended guideline is:
- 1 drink per day for women and
- up to 2 drink a day for men.
This amount (moderation), has been shown to be safe as well as offer a number of health benefits.
If however, you aren’t a drinker, then the American Heart Association recommends not starting even if there are benefits to be had from doing so. It argues that the potential risks of addiction and other negative effects outweigh the potential health benefits.
Aside from the reality of getting addicted to alcohol and the physical risks it poses under the influence, consumption has been directly linked to depression.
Research suggests that alcohol has a “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” characteristic to it. Drinking between 5 grams to 15 grams a day, which is about 1 standard drink (12 oz. beer or a 5 oz. glass of wine), helps lower depression risk.
However, going above drinking in moderation, more than 1 drink/day, or drinking in excess, increases your risk of depression.
108. Drink Enough Water
Scientific research tells us that water is the most important nutrient needed by the body. In fact, going without water is enough to kill us within a few days.
A review goes so far as to point out its role in preventing aging, thermoregulation, mental and physical performance as well as normal functioning of our vital organs including our kidneys and intestines.
It also plays an important role in regulating our moods.
According to a study that compared high volume water drinkers and those who drank fewer amounts of water per day, increasing consumption in individuals who drank 1.2 liters or less daily improved their moods.
Conversely, those who drank 2 to 4 liters of water a day, exhibited less positive emotions, calmness and contentedness when their fluid intake was reduced, showing the negative effects of lower water intake.
Now that we know staying hydrated and getting enough water is important. How much water should we drink?
Some say 8 glasses a day, others say more, or less.
As a guideline, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends
- 3.7 liters a day for men and
- 2.7 liters for women,
- with no upper limit.
In comparison 8 glasses comes up to 64 ounces which is equivalent to around 1.9 liters only, which is way short of the IOM guidelines.
Nutrients to Boost Your Mood
Folate (or vitamin B9), along with all the other B vitamins are water soluble. As such, they aren’t stored by the body and are flushed out when we urinate. This means they need to be replenished on a regular basis.
Often prescribed to expecting mothers, this vitamin is needed in the formation of blood cells, which helps prevent anemia. It is also important in cell growth and division as well protein metabolism.
Folate, which comes as folic acid in supplement form, helps prevent depression as well as regulates serotonin levels. Serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone”, affects our mood levels as well as behavior.
Research shows that low levels of folate has been seen in 15% to 38% of individuals who suffer from depressive disorders. A deficiency is also associated with poor antidepressant response.
As a result, a study suggests that supplementation with 800 micrograms of folate daily along with 1 mg of vitamin B12 helps improve depressive status.
110. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, which is often found in a tablet of vitamin B complex, is needed by the body for proper cardiovascular, muscular, digestive and nervous system function. Our brains also need it for proper development as well as production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all hormones that affect our mood and behavior.
In addition, vitamin B6 is used for melatonin production so we can sleep well.
Studies point to its contribution in conditions related to depression, seizures and Parkinson’s disease. In a study involving 140 individuals, Danish researchers found that low levels of vitamin B6 is linked to depression.
111. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps keep our nervous system healthy. Having sufficient levels of vitamin B12 through diet or supplements reduces our risk of neurodegenerative diseases as well as keep our cognitive functions in good shape.
Being deficient in this B vitamins makes us susceptible to a host is mental and psychological issues, including poor memory, dizziness, mood changes, anxiety and depression.
It’s function to keep our nerves healthy as well as regulate the signaling of our brain’s neurotransmitters account for this.
Because B12 is also needed for blood cell formation, the side effects of deficiency also affect us physically, including muscle weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and abnormal heart rhythm.
A study found that depressed patients with low levels of vitamin B12 benefited from a 3 month supplementation of the vitamin. After 3 months all the patients who were treated with B12 showed at least 20% improvements in their depression scores.
Mostly stored in our bones, magnesium is essential for the body’s overall functioning as it affects over 300 chemical reactions.
Among its many functions is its role in balancing our mood. This mineral helps relax our nervous system. It is also needed to produce serotonin. Lack of magnesium will likewise affect your sleeping pattern as melatonin regulation is disrupted without it.
Studies suggest that in people suffering from depression, supplementing with magnesium, between 125 to 300 mg, is able to produce recover in under 7 days.
One of the lesser known minerals, chromium is familiar to diabetics because of its role in helping regulate blood sugar levels.
Only needed in trace amounts, this essential mineral contributes in the production of serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
These hormones all play a role in regulating our moods and emotions.
Low serotonin has been linked to depression, while melatonin affects the regulation of our sleep-wake cycle.
The effects of chromium on these neurotransmitters makes it useful in treating and preventing depression. A trial involving 113 patients with depression found that participants who were given 600 mug daily of chromium picolinate exhibited reduction in their depression scores.
Iron is needed by the body to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen and nutrients from the heart and lungs to all the tissues and organs in our bodies. Not getting enough iron from your diet or supplements often results in mood changes, depression fatigue and inability to concentrate.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia.
When this happens the brain, as well as other organs don’t get sufficient amounts of oxygen which affects their operation.
As a result, hormone imbalances that cause levels of serotonin and dopamine among others to affect our mood.
In a study participated by 205 medical students, researchers observed that low levels of ferritin, which measures how much iron is stored by the body, is associated with depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in food sources such as fatty fish and certain plants. These healthy fats have been very popular in recent years because of the many health benefits they offer.
Among the benefits are their ability to protect the heart from cardiovascular disease and stroke by decreasing plaque in the artery walls, as well as lower cholesterol and fight inflammation.
Because the body doesn’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on its own, it’s necessary to get it through our diet or supplementation. Without enough of it, you could experience things like mood swings, depression, fatigue and low memory.
116. Or… Take Fish Oil
If you aren’t a fan of fish and find it difficult to get omega-3 from plant sources, fish oil may be an easier way to get a good amount of the fatty acid.
Studies show that 2 types of omega-3 fats, namely EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) help prevent depression, mood disorders and protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
An additional advantage of fish oil over eating fatty fish, is that you don’t have to worry about mercury, which is present is some omega-3 rich marine animals.
Do make sure to choose the right brand of fish oil. This way you’re sure that what you’re taking is free of impurities and offers the right potency and bioavailability.
Most of us have been familiar with calcium since we were kids. It’s important for strong bones and teeth.
What isn’t as common is that this mineral is also needed by our brain, muscles and nerves to function properly. When we don’t get enough calcium, we become moody and our anxiety levels go up.
Found in dairy and green vegetables, almost all the calcium in our bodies is stored in our teeth and bones (99%).
Calcium deficiency and its effects on mood, affect women more than men.
Korean researchers observed that in 105 middle aged women who qualified as depressed according to the Zung Self-rating Depression Scale, dietary calcium intake as inversely related to depression level.
Calcium is likewise involved in PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Calcium along with its partner vitamin D affect PMS mood fluctuations. Research reveals that calcium supplementation helps alleviate PMS symptoms.
118. Vitamin D
Probably the easiest vitamin to get because it doesn’t require eating, drinking or taking any tablets, vitamin D affects as many as 2,000 genes in our body.
Just a few minutes of sunlight exposure is enough to give us the daily recommended amount. Also unique with this vitamin is that it turns into a hormone once the body synthesizes it.
Among its best known functions is being paired with calcium to build bone. But it’s also needed to keep our immune system healthy as well as regulate cell growth.
Studies have shown that being deficient in vitamin D can cause depression. A 2013 review of various studies on vitamin D’s effects on depression published in The British Journal of Psychiatry found that individuals who suffered from depression had lower levels of vitamin D.
Researchers also observed that individuals who had lower levels were at higher risk of depression compared to those with high amounts of vitamin D in their systems.
Zinc is present in nearly all the cells in our body. It keeps our gut and immune system healthy. Zinc also plays role in the brain’s stress response system.
Not getting enough zinc through diet or supplementation can lead to depression, aggression, violent behavior and memory or learning difficulties.
Zinc is involved in mood regulation and preventing depression in part through its role in dopamine production. Its inflammation fighting properties also make it effective in treating depression.
A review of prior studies by the University of Toronto, using information available in medical databases, found that in a total of 1,643 patients with depression, low levels of zinc was linked to their depression.
Go On! Get Happy!
Hopefully the list above gives you a few ideas you can incorporate into your lifestyle.
While happiness can be elusive at times, making small changes in our day-to-day life can make a big difference in helping us change the way we think, behave or treat others.
And it the end, making us happier with ourselves and our lives.