Perhaps only a few people know that the key to happiness lies in ourselves. Research shows that a person’s happiness is based 50% on genetics, 10% on circumstances and a whopping 40% on our “power to change”. Psychologists and researchers have been digging up hard data to answer a momentous question: What makes us happy? Drawing data from the emerging field of positive psychology, I outline several different methods to help you find your inner sunshine again.
See also: How to Buy Happiness
#1. Savor and enjoy small pleasures in life
Enjoying little pleasures that are not materialistic, like smelling a rose, enjoying a breathtaking view or the ordinary events and rituals of everyday life is likely to make you happier than enjoying infrequent large ones like buying sport cars, properties and so on.
Studies have shown that splitting up pleasant experiences into brief events - such as two 20-minute yoga sessions at different times instead of one 40-minute session – tends to give people more pleasure.
#2. Don’t compare yourself to others
Yes, we are living in a society where social comparison is the norm, but there’s actually nothing more damaging and arduous than being consumed by peer comparison. Comparing ourselves to others can severely damage our happiness and self-esteem. Also, middle-class people who aspire to financially outdo their neighbours could take on more debt to compete with the consumption of the wealthy. It is hence more beneficial to focus on your own personal achievements..
#3. Put money low on the list
The popular notion that money can’t buy happiness holds true. Simply accumulating money for the sake of having it does very little to enhance your mood. A study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics reveals that “having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in terms of life satisfaction”. For example, the value of social involvement could amount to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction while actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. People who value money highly are more prone to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
#4. Have meaningful goals
Striving for something significant and impactful, whether it’s volunteering for a cause that will change the world or mastering a skill, will make you far happier than having strong dreams or aspirations. There is nothing more motivating than having a sense of meaning as well as genuine enthusiasm and drive to achieve higher results. Interestingly, you don’t have to attain your goal to see the benefits to your happiness and mental well-being. The fact that you have set a meaningful goal and tried to accomplish it is the most rewarding experience as you learn from your failures.
#5. Take the initiative at work
Never underestimate the power of taking the initiative at work. When we make the most of our creativity at work, help others, make recommendations for improvements, or do extra tasks on the job, will likely increase our satisfaction, self-confidence, make us feel more valued and feel more in control. In addition to this, dedicating 100 hours a year (or two hours per week) to helping others, can significantly enrich our lives and help us remain more productive.
#6. Make friends, treasure family
In today’s highly commercialized and profit-making world driven by personal interests, it is more necessary than ever to develop mutual, close and supportive relationships with friends, business partners, colleagues and family. We don’t just need relationships with people we get on with; we need strong bonds with people with whom we can share mutual understanding and caring. Investing in superficial relationships that are not based on give-and-take and genuine interest will not contribute to your happiness.
#7. Smile – Even when you don’t feel like it
Pretending to be happy, makes you feel happy reveals a study about the effects of facial expressions and postures on emotional experience and memory. A simple act of smiling can tilt your emotions towards being happy, reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances and even increase our ability to think holistically.
#8. Say thank you like you mean it
Those who keep gratitude journals on a regular basis are more likely to show more optimism, improved well-being and are more likely to progress towards achieving their personal goals. In an experiment, 200 participants were asked to write “thank you” notes for a period of three weeks. Researchers found that letter-writers saw their happiness levels increasing. So jotting down things you are grateful for, could decrease depression and amplify your overall sense of joy.
Ancient philosophers used to emphasize that a healthy mind equals a healthy body. People who maintain a physically active lifestyle, demonstrate greater levels of enthusiasm and excitement than those who don’t. Exercising is not only an effective strategy to increase your brain power, sense of accomplishment, improve your body image and relax. It is also an optimal means to overcome depression.
#10. Surround yourself with warm colors
The next time you feel down, try to harness the power of a cheerful colour that radiates optimism. Yellow is said to add a bit of joyfulness and brightness to your mood so you’d better embrace it in every aspect of your life.
If for any reason you are unable to amp up your own good feelings, try to think of happiness as something you can control yourself and try to smile wider, enjoy every little thing that you experience in life and capitalise on true relationships with people that tend to give off positive energy and add special meaning to your life.
What other methods have you employed to make yourself happy again? We’d love to hear about your experiences!