Here are 6 well-known things that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.
I’ve read scientists have argued that your happiness is largely determined by genes and your state of health, including other factors (mostly outside of your control). Funny.
While this may be true to some tiny extent, your happiness is something you can create daily. I’m a firm believer that you are as happy as you decide to be. While there are many things that can make you happy, I’d like to look at six small things that can make an enormous difference in your life if you just let them. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, and you don’t need to be in “perfect” health or live the perfect lifestyle either. You just need to form the habit of becoming a happier person. And do you know what? Your life will change for the better. Try it, you might just like it. It would make me happy to know I’ve helped you achieve this aim.
“Wealth, taste and leisure can bring many things, but they do not bring happiness.” Winston Churchill
You can decide just how happy you want to be, regardless of your income and state of health. I believe that a large portion of happiness is in our power to change.
Over the years, I have seen many patients who were not exactly “well off” financially. In fact, many people I’ve seen had little money, yet they remained optimistic and happy with their lives. I’ve met plenty of others with vast riches who were not happy, anxious, and grumpy people. In fact, our wealthiest patient was a demanding and miserable guy. He had more money than he could ever spend in his lifetime, but I saw him smile very little.
One young patient who comes to mind, came to see me quite unhappy, tense and angry. She had no reason to be, you might think. After all, she and her husband had won a significant amount of money in a lottery, millions of dollars, it turned out.
The problem was that several friends and family wanted to share in her fortune, but her husband was unwilling to part much with their windfall. This brought much so her much unhappiness and misery into their lives that the couple now lived overseas. They had plenty of money, but had lost the love and support of friends and family, and this source of stress reflected in her poor state of health. Money does not make you happy. I have seen this with corporate clients, wealthy property owners and investors. Many people have this idea: “If I could win the lottery, then all of my problems would be over”. This sounds more like a fairy tale than reality, and it is. Have lots and lots of money can bring lots and lots of problems too.
While it is true that money can make your life easier and give you a lot more choices (stuff), it can bring about a lot of unforeseen problems and major stress as well. Having enough money to pay all my bills, and to afford a good lifestyle and have some left over for a rainy day is all I aim for.
Many people I have seen fall into this category. They are neither rich nor poor. I have found that many with moderate levels of income can feel “as rich” as the very wealthy can by appreciating the little things in life and adopting the five principles below, and in particular, to stop hankering for all those fancy toys that many rich people buy to create a temporary state of happiness. Like expensive cars, yachts, houses, motorbikes, gold chains, etc. It’s all a smoke screen. Things like a Rolex wristwatch can never make you as happy as those special moments with your grandchild. If your fancy watch or car makes you happier than your grandchild, I think you’ve got a problem. A problem with values.
Whilst great health certainly helps, it is not a prerequisite for happiness. Our clinic has seen many patients with various illnesses who remain happy despite their hardships. And what about the patients I have seen in perfect health yet are very unhappy? Again, it is your state of mind which governs your level of happiness. Being healthy makes you happy though. It eases any anxiety you may have about health.
Recent research by psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California suggests people actually can take charge of their own happiness and boost it through certain practices. In 2009, Dr. Lyubomirsky reviewed 51 studies that tested attempts to increase happiness through various ways to think positively, and found that these practices significantly enhanced health and well-being. Being healthy DOES increase your happiness factor though, but it is not always necessary, because there are many people who remain healthy and happy, despite their state of health. Personality has a lot to do with this as well. They published the results in the US Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Dr. Lyubomirsky: “How Do Simple Positive Activities Increase Well-Being?” (PDF)
“Decide to be happy today. Let no person or situation take that away. Hold on to your joy.” – Eric
Yes, in fact, many hormones do! There are several hormones which favourably affect your mood responses, including serotonin and cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol, in particular, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland, has a powerful effect on a person’s mood and becomes depleted under stress. This explains why that when a person lives with continual low grade stress (with depleting cortisol levels), it remains difficult to remain positive and optimistic when depression and anxiety increase. The solution is not to let yourself get into a compromised position by understanding stress and its effects on your body. You can read more about stress,and adrenal fatigue in some of my previous articles.
Few people would claim they wouldn’t prefer to be happier, and it is simple to understand why. Happiness is a fantastic emotional and mental experience, so we would want to increase its presence in our lives! The idea of happiness and how to increase it has given rise to a whole industry. There are many resources available to assist you in discovering your happy self, ranging from best-selling books and dozens of online courses. Here are 6 well-known things that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.
They asked participants of a study to write letters of gratitude to people who had helped them in some kind of way. The study found that these people reported a lasting increase in happiness over weeks and even months after implementing the habit. What’s even more surprising: sending the letter was unnecessary. Even when people wrote letters but never delivered them to the addressee, they still reported feeling better afterwards. When you think about it, you have a lot to be grateful for in your life. After all, it is an actual miracle that you are alive right now. Be grateful for every day, regardless of the weather, your income, or your family life.
Another practice that seems to help is optimistic thinking. They asked study participants to visualise an ideal future, for example, living with a loving and supportive partner, or finding a job that was fulfilling, and to describe the image in a journal entry. After doing this for a few weeks, these people too reported increased feelings of well-being. Interestingly, other studies have found a strong correlation between a powerful immune response with optimistic persons, compared to a poor immune response with pessimistic persons. The glass is half empty or full. Who are you?
You have a lot to be grateful for. People who practice writing three good things that have happened to them every week show significant boosts in happiness, studies have found. It seems the act of focusing on the positive helps people remember reasons to be glad. Focus on the good things happening in your life, forget about the bad things.
Forget your weaknesses. Another study asked people to identify their greatest strengths, and then to use these strengths in new ways. For example, someone who says they have a good sense of humour could try telling jokes to lighten up business meetings or cheer up sad friends. This habit, too, seems to heighten happiness. Everybody is strong in one thing. It is good to identify what you are great in and focus your attention on this. You will enjoy doing this and the time will fly. How can you feel sad doing the things you love?
It turns out that helping others also helps ourselves. People who donate time or money to charity, or who altruistically assist people in need, report real improvements in their own happiness. Do you smile at random strangers? Do you show courtesy on the road to your fellow motorists? Have you paid a visit to an elderly friend or relation in a retirement village who may not receive many visitors? Helping others daily is an act of kindness that gives to the person as much, if not more, as it gives to you.
This is important, that’s why I left it until the last. I aim for tiny bits happiness every day, for example: sitting on my front porch with a nice cup of tea admiring my hanging baskets in bloom, enjoying a late breakfast on a Sunday, curling up in front of the fire with a newspaper or in a warm bed with a book when it’s raining outside, a nice soak in the bathtub after adding lavender oil, the smell of jasmine or roses in springtime, playing with a game with a small child, etc. There are literally hundreds of small moments in your life which bring you joy and pleasure. Write you favourite moments, it may surprise you how many there are!
“I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.” – Voltaire