Have you read The How of Happiness by University of California, Riverside Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky? No? Here are seven scientifically proven ways derived from Sonja’s research on how to be the happiest person on earth!
1. Practice gratitude once a week.
Expressing gratitude, or counting your blessings, does not just make you happy—it also improves your health. However, you need to be strategic about how you do it. In one of the author’s experiments they directed the participants to keep a gratitude journal and contemplate five things that made them feel grateful. They would start the exercise by saying “This week I’m grateful for…”
Half of the participants were instructed to do that once a week, while the rest of them did that three times a week for a total of six weeks.
Here’s what’s strange: Only the group that counted their blessings once a week achieved happiness results because of it.
Probably because the participants who did it three times a week found practicing gratitude to be a chore, while the others were looking forward to it. So once a week, make sure you count your blessings!
2. Make friends and invest in your relationships.
Happy people are renowned for their circle of friends, their relationship with their family, and their loving marriage
What is amazing about friendships and intimate relationships is that their happiness effect does not get reduced by hedonic adaptation. That means that you won’t get used to your loving marriage the way you get used to your new furniture.
So make time for your friends, express appreciation and make them feel good, be kind, and just have fun with them. You’ll be happier in doing so.
3. Become a stress resilience ninja.
Happiness is not just about feeling good all the time. Happy people also get to recover from bad situations and stress more quickly. They are the stress resilience ninjas!
Here’s an example: One study found that the life of breast cancer survivors had been altered for the better after the disease! Actually two-thirds of the women said so. These women talked about having a wake-up call that made re-prioritize their life for the better. They found the good in the bad.
If that’s an excellent coping strategy with cancer, then I bet it’ll do wonders for any type of stress that appears in your life. The next time something bad shows up, ask yourself what you can learn from it.
4. Take care of your body.
Did you know that aerobic exercise has the same benefits on depression as taking Zoloft? Well, in a 1999 study researchers divided a group of 50+ men and women who suffered from depression in three groups.
One group did supervised aerobic exercise three times a week, another group took Zoloft—an anti-depressant—while the third group did both.
The result? After four months all three groups were doing better with increased self-esteem and happiness. Even better, six months later, participants who had recovered from depression were less likely to relapse back to depression if they belonged in the exercise group compared to the ones who just took Zoloft.
So there you have it. Exercise works miracles in your happiness!
Don’t know how to get started it or how to find a routine that you actually like? Check out Exercise Bliss, a unique program that helps you make exercise a daily ritual, and you just might find what works for you.
5. Take care of your soul.
The numbers speak for themselves:
- 47% of people who report attending religious services several times a week describe themselves as “very happy”.
- Just 28% of people who attend less than once a month can claim the same.
It seems that the social support and the sense of identity that people get from belonging to the same religious group is unparalleled.
It is possible, however, that this happiness discrepancy has nothing to do with people’s relationship with the divine and everything to do with people’s relationships with each other, as people who attend religious services are proven to have larger social networks than those who don’t.
Still, religious people who believe that the divine is helping them are three times more likely to be alive six months after a serious cardiac surgery. One way or another, it seems that religious people definitely score some happiness points.
6. Commit to your (intrinsic) goals.
People who strive for something personally significant, like raising a family, learning a new skill, or even changing careers are happier. The author explains that pursuing goals provides with a sense of purpose and a feeling of control over our lives.
Not all goals are made equal, though: intrinsic goals make you happy, while extrinsic goals might not be as effective.
- Intrinsic goals are the ones meaningful to you, the ones that allow you to grow and be more. Examples: doing a hobby while on vacation, working on a skill because you want to become better, etc.
- Extrinsic goals are the ones that are a means to an end—you go on a diet to lose weight, you work hard to make more money, etc.
Research is crystal clear: Intrinsic goals are much more likely than extrinsic goals to give a sense of competence and autonomy, and hence, make you happier.
7. Enjoy life’s pleasures to the fullest!
Researchers have even come up with a word that describes enjoying life: savoring.
“Savoring: Thoughts or behaviors capable of generating, intensifying, and prolonging enjoyment”
When you take a walk and suddenly think about how beautiful everything around you is, you are savoring. When you listen to your wife and cannot help yourself but feel lucky for being with her; you are savoring.
The immediate benefit of savoring? You are more confident. You are actually enjoying every little or big pleasure life has to offer to the fullest. Now that’s a habit I want in my life!
But how do you make savoring a habit? By practicing mindfulness. Here’s what happened to me in my first two weeks after I got into a mindfulness experiment, and here’s how the experiment evolved one month later. Not bad huh?
There you have it. Seven ways to become the happiest person on earth. Which one will you choose to expand on?
Learn from the happy people: 10 Things Happy People Do DifferentlyFeatured photo credit: The happy boy runs on a green meadow via Shutterstock,Horia Varlan via Flickr