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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are

10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are
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We’re all familiar with the term “the pursuit of happiness.”

The question is:

How, exactly, do you pursue a happy life? Especially on a daily basis? What is happiness in the first place?

We all have those moments of sudden revelation when the world grows a little bit brighter, but how do you integrate those in your daily grind?

A good place to start is by defining what the term “happiness” means for you. There are many, and we’re talking many, different definitions of the word. It can come from actions, from what you think, from gratitude, and so on.

If you break it down scientifically, you might find some interesting revelations. For instance, did you know that married people are 10 percent happier than unmarried people? What about the fact that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees Fahrenheit?

Perhaps the simplest definition of them all is the fact that happiness, at its root, is a choice. It’s actionable.

It’s something we can pursue because we choose it.

This naturally implies that happiness is something that lies in our own power. It’s not something that happens to us. We must seize it, carpe diem style.

And that’s why we’re here, right? Let’s break down some key ways that we can actively pursue happiness, from following our passions to letting go of expectations and everything in between.

Here are 10 secrets to actively pursuing happiness in your life. They work for all ages, and you’ll find that some are outwardly focused while others are more about improving ourselves.

However, regardless of the specific “happiness hack” you opt to try, remember that all of these only work if you’re open to them working in the first place.

In other words, choose that happiness.

1. Use the Power of Community

The concept of community as it relates to happiness is as old as time. Humans have always found comfort in the company of others.

But the deep-down truth about communal happiness is that it’s not really about what we’re getting out of community; it’s about what we’re putting into it. Community is a concept that only works when the whole is taken into account, rather than each individual in isolation.

For example, one study of metropolitan areas in the U.S. during the recent economic crisis showed that areas with the most civilian-focused social capital tended to yield the highest rates of happiness. In other words, areas with the most functioning and connected communities were the most content during hard times. [1]

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What does this mean for our day-to-day happiness, though?

It means we need to share our pursuit of happiness with others. It’s critical that we find areas in our community where we can plug in and get involved.

Help in your church. Find a local food bank or animal shelter. Volunteer as a crossing guard at a school. Coach a sports team. There are so many ways to volunteer within the greater fabric of our societies.

However, you go about it, plugging into the world around you and helping wherever you can is one of the absolute most powerful ways to stoke the fires of happiness and contentment within a person.

2. Be Grateful

Before you skip ahead to the next hack, hear us out.

This isn’t a command. It’s encouragement.

The truth is, gratefulness is hard to come by without a little effort. And that shouldn’t be surprising. Isn’t it always that way with the things that matter?

But trust us, the fight for gratitude is well worth the effort.

Studies have shown a “robust association” between being gratefulness and a person’s well-being (e.g. their happiness). The simple act of having a grateful attitude can help combat nasty things like stress and depression, help us appreciate the relationships that we often don’t cherish enough, and even give little hidden gifts like a better sleep.[2]

So, how do we go about garnering gratitude?

One of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is to take time to write down things you’re grateful for.

Now, we’re not talking about a one-off list here. If you’re looking for real change, challenge yourself to sit down once a day and hand-write a list of three to five things that you’re grateful for. Handwriting is much more personal and can help us dwell a bit longer on each subject rather than simply typing them out.

Don’t worry if it’s hard to get started. When we’re struggling to be grateful, it can be hard to see all of the reasons we should be happy.

Chances are, though, once you get things rolling, you’ll be writing more than five things per day.

Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life to get you started.

3. Volunteer

It’s easy to roll our eyes when we hear about volunteering. After all, isn’t it just sucking away more of our valuable time?

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The answer is a resounding no.

Not only does volunteering fulfill that community calling that we already touched on, but it also opens doors for us to learn new skills. This is often quite as powerful motivation as a paycheck and can have much longer benefits to our lives and happiness, opening new doors and allowing us to network with other like-minded individuals.[3]

While we already discussed the importance of plugging into our communities, when it comes to volunteering, seriously consider where you try to join in the fun.

Try to find a nonprofit effort nearby that directly aligns with your own passions, giving you the chance to pour yourself into something that you genuinely care about.

If you can’t do that, look for something that will challenge you, helping round out your personality and skill set in the process.

4. Spend Time with Friends and Family

Never, ever underestimate the power of friends and family. These are the people that you can count on to be by your side through thick and thin, in the highs and the lows, in the sad moments and the happy ones.

A friend represents a relationship that is worthy of attention and which, if tended, can yield genuine happiness in our lives.

Family takes that same concept of friendship and cranks it up to eleven. The bond between family members is a powerful one. When strained or broken, it can be a huge cause of distress and depression in our lives.

Take the time to reach out to your loved ones in meaningful ways. It’s as simple as that.

You don’t need to buy them things or go above and beyond a normal, loving gesture. A simple hug, kiss, phone call, text, note, or other acknowledgment that you’re thinking of them can do wonders in bringing family and friends together, fostering the happiness that we all share in the process.

5. Unplug

We’ve talked quite a bit thus far about “plugging in,” but in this case, we’re looking at the opposite side of the equation.

Study after study shows that happiness isn’t something you can purchase or find online. In fact, our constant attention to our devices and our “online lifestyles” induces anything but happiness.[4]

On the contrary, it’s important that we take the time to turn off those devices, sign out of those social media accounts, and focus on the loved ones that are right in front of us.

If you’re anything like so many of us who struggle to balance tech in our lives, it might be a good idea to have a “rest” day when you don’t use any screens. You may even establish hours of the morning and night that you refuse to touch your devices.

That’s only half the battle, though. Once the tech is off, that’s precisely when you can start to make meaningful efforts to connect and bond with our friends and family, volunteer, and so on.

You may want to try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

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6. Let Go of Expectations

Whether we’re aware of it or not, a ridiculous number of our actions are done with set expectations in mind. If we put any amount of blood, sweat, or tears into something, we typically expect to see fairly specific results from the effort.

Detaching from these expectations without detaching from the person or event completely is a difficult process to master. But it’s not impossible.

In fact, some teach that the idea of “detachment” is often quite misunderstood. Rather than disconnecting or letting go, we must bring ourselves to love more completely. This can be done, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, by intentionally loving others by “looking and listening deeply so that we know what to do and what not to do to make others happy.”[5]

This intentional love is meant to find what others need, not what we want to give them.

So, the next time you go to help someone you love, don’t do so by giving them what you think they need (something that often comes with a hefty dose of set expectations). Look for the genuine needs of others and try to meet them.

The happiness that this produces is well worth the effort.

7. Play Like a Kid Again

It’s a fallacy that fun ends in our childhood. It’s true, however, that adults of all ages have a plethora of responsibilities, cares, and concerns that must be attended to.

But there’s a difference between taking care of our responsibilities and letting those responsibilities hamstring our ability to have fun.

The simple innocence of a child at play is magical. From matchbox cars and shadow puppets to dancing like you’ve never danced before, plain, unadulterated fun can be an incredible source of happiness right from our first years out of the womb through our teenage years.[6]

Challenge yourself to find one childlike activity to participate in. Try to release your inhibitions and get into it. Let yourself have fun.

Chances are, you’ll find yourself smiling in no time.

8. Make It a Game

Everyone and their mother knows that exercise is good for fending off depression, which naturally also makes it a good way to help promote happiness.

But, honestly, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get up off the couch and go for a walk.

One way that we can help turn the whole exercising and health part of our daily routines into something more attention-grabbing is to turn it into a game.

Did you know that, according to App Developer Economics 2016, there were a whopping 259,000 health and lifestyle apps available in that year — which were collectively downloaded over three billion times?[7]

So what? The point is there are a ton of different ways to track your progress, set yourself challenges, and see what others are doing to get moving.

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From a seven-minute workout app to a calorie or carb counter (and thousands of other options), pick an app today and start making a plan.

9. Never Stop Learning

Pursuing a hobby is an excellent option that enables us to pursue our passions and learn new things at the same time.

Some hobbies, like rock climbing, mountain biking, and yoga, can even deal with two birds with one stone, providing a learning experience and helping you get fit at the same time.[8]

Of course, there are countless other options as well, depending on your own personal interests.

Take some time right now to list off things that you like. Not hobbies themselves, mind you, but actual things that pique your interest — especially ones that you’ve never been able to pursue.

Now take that list and see what hobbies line up with your interests.

Once you’ve got a match, dive in and start challenging yourself to learn something new!

10. Seek Professional Help (Whenever Necessary)

Sometimes happiness really can be elusive, no matter what methods we apply.

If you’re genuinely finding it hard to shake your sluggish, unhappy mindset, you may be dealing with something more serious. There’s nothing unusual about this. It’s estimated that over one out of every four adults in the United States suffer from depression, not to mention other mental health struggles.[9]

If this is the case for you, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. It’s important to understand that this isn’t an admission of defeat, but rather a wise move aimed at finding true happiness in the long run.

Reaching out for professional help can be an important first step in finding true happiness.

Afraid to ask for help? Change your outlook to aim high!

Dive In Today

Remember, happiness is a choice.

It’s important that we don’t just skim over lists like these and move on without putting something into action.

If you’re ready to pursue happiness in your own life, do it now. Pick one or two elements off of the list and start to apply them today. As you master each thing, come back and find something else to apply.

Before you know it, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

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More About Leading a Happy Life

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Published on June 11, 2021

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It
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Well-being is a term often utilized in psychology literature to describe healthy individuals. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, or fulfillment. However, there is debate about what well-being really is and even how to spell it.[1] With so much confusion around the definition, individuals are often left to wonder what well-being is and how to achieve it.

This article will unlock the answers to three questions:

  • What is well-being?
  • How is it measured?
  • How is it improved?

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being includes a combination of feeling states and lifestyle factors. Feeling states associated with it may include happiness and contentment. Lifestyle factors may include feelings of fulfillment, achieving one’s potential, having some control in life, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Well-being is also associated with positive mental health.[2] In simpler terms, It is a construct used to describe many facets of life including psychological, physical, and social health. Synonyms for it include happiness, health, positive feelings, welfare, and wellness.[3]

It may also be defined as a state of balance or homeostasis. This balance is achieved by having enough resources to cope with life’s challenges.[4] Both challenges and resources may be prevalent in three areas: physical, psychological, and social.

When there is an abundance of challenges and inadequate resources, well-being is lost. However, humans are designed to work towards achieving a state of balance. Well-being is linked to interpersonal, professional, and personal success. It often results in greater productivity at work, increased learning and creativity, prosocial behavior, and fulfilling relationships.[5]

Why is well-being difficult to define? Likely because it encompasses a variety of life experiences and feeling states that may vary among individuals. To help individuals assess themselves, several measures have been created.

How Is Well-Being Measured?

Researchers need to agree on a standardized definition of well-being to accurately measure it. An adequate measure must therefore encompass every facet of well-being, including as a feeling state as well as a lifestyle. In other words, an effective measurement takes both life satisfaction and functioning into account.

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Well-being can be broken down further into two categories: objective and subjective.

Objective Well-Being

Objective well-being looks at standards of living. This is useful for research looking at cultures, countries, or groups of people. It includes measuring education, income, safety, and life expectancy.[6]

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United National Development Programme, and the Italian Statistics Bureau have identified six areas for study related to objective well-being:

  1. Health
  2. Job opportunities
  3. Socioeconomic development
  4. Politics
  5. Safety
  6. Environment

Subjective Well-Being

Subjective well-being includes an emotional and mental assessment of an individual’s life. Two prominent subjective measures are life satisfaction and happiness. Measuring subjective well-being is useful for predicting mental health patterns.[7] It is determined intrinsically by the individual. Regardless of how their life might be perceived by others on the outside, this measures how individuals feel on the inside.

Subjective well-being can be broken down further into two categories: hedonic and contentment. The hedonic component relates to feelings, emotions, and moods. The contentment component relates to thoughts and whether an individual feels their life has been fulfilling. Individuals often measure their thoughts and life fulfillment against social and cultural backgrounds.

In other words, it is important to consider the context in which an individual lives. Individuals may perceive their lives differently based on social and cultural expectations. Furthermore, individuals cannot be measured without taking their environment into consideration.

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development determined subjective well-being to be an important factor in assessing well-being. Because it is perceived by the individual, it is often assessed by self-report measures. In other words, individuals rate their own level of well-being through psychological tests.[8]

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There are five areas associated with subjective well-being:

  1. Genetic factors
  2. Basic and psychological needs
  3. Social environment
  4. Economics and income
  5. Political environment

How to Improve Well-Being

There are many ways that individuals can improve their sense of well-being. It is a complex construct with a variety of factors at play. Therefore, there is no one, perfect solution for it. Instead, the goal should be to engage in a holistic approach the incorporates a variety of factors.

The following methods are not comprehensive. What works well for one individual may not be the right approach for others. Instead, these approaches should be considered suggestions for improving well-being.

Individuals looking for a truly comprehensive assessment of well-being should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist, therapist, or medical doctor. These individuals may also provide resources, prescribe medication, or share tips for making lifestyle changes to assist in overall improvement.

1. Spend Time in Nature

There is evidence to support the claim that interactions with nature increase well-being. This includes an increase in positive emotions, happiness, and subjective well-being. Time spent in nature is also linked with an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as the ability to manage challenges in life.[9]

One study found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature each week was associated with greater health. In the study, it did not matter if that time was spent all at once or stretched out over the course of a week. Peak gains in well-being occurred between 200 and 300 minutes of nature time, weekly.[10]

2. Practice Gratitude

Individuals who experience gratitude as a trait experience increased well-being. Trait gratitude refers to the willingness to see the unearned value in one’s experience. State gratitude is a feeling that occurs after individuals experience an act of kindness and, therefore, feel motivated to reciprocate.

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One study assessed state gratitude, during Covid-19 in China. Individuals were instructed to journal while practicing gratitude for 14-days, which included a one-month follow-up. The study found that gratitude practiced in a natural setting during times of increased stress and anxiety resulted in increased positive feelings and increased life satisfaction. However, increased life satisfaction was not sustained after one month.[11]

As a result of the aforementioned study, there is evidence to support a daily practice of journaling and gratitude for increased well-being. Individuals should practice both trait and state gratitude, whenever possible. Over time, these practices will become a habit and lead to lasting improvement.

3. Develop Increased Awareness

Increased awareness is associated with improvements in positive subjective experience, increased self-regulation and goal-directed behavior, and successful interactions with others.

Increased awareness can be attained through meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is the ability to consciously notice an emotion, thought, or sensory experience. It is a skill that can be taught. Mindfulness-based meditation and psychotherapy are two ways in which meta-awareness is learned. Kindness and compassion meditations are both linked with improved well-being. Both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may help increase awareness.[12]

4. Achieve Work-Life Balance

An individual’s workplace has the potential to either help or harm them. Workplace factors that negatively impact well-being include:

  • Work-related pressure or demands
  • Lack of autonomy or flexibility
  • Poor coworker and supervisor relationships
  • Shift work
  • Longer workday length

Employers can directly improve their workers’ well-being by providing paid leave, opportunities for salary growth, support for individuals with disabilities or those returning after injury, and access to health care. Improvements in the work environment and job structure may also be helpful.[13]

Worker well-being is beneficial both for workers and their employers. It is associated with improvements in:

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  • Performance at work
  • Coping with stress and self-regulation
  • Satisfying relationships, prosocial communication, and cooperation
  • Immune system functioning
  • And physical and psychological health

Workplace well-being is also associated with a decrease in burnout, stress, and sleep-related issues.[14]

5. Seek Out Positive Relationships

Individuals with caring and positive connections often rank higher in well-being. On the flip side, poor social relationships can be more damaging than excessive drinking and smoking. Positive social relationships also help to protect against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Prosocial behaviors are important for forming social connections that lead to increased well-being. Appreciation and gratitude are both pro-social traits. For example, focusing on the positive qualities and actions of others. Empathy for others also contributes to higher levels of well-being. Lastly, generosity is also a strong predictor of life satisfaction.[15]

6. Stay Hopeful

Hope is a concept often related to spiritual and religious traditions. However, it entered the world of psychology around the 20th century. It is now an important construct in positive psychology. Hope can be defined broadly as the belief that things can get better, and that goals are achievable.

Hope is associated with an increase in:

  • Emotional adjustment
  • Positive feelings
  • Life satisfaction and quality of life
  • Social support
  • A sense of purpose

Takeaways

Well-being is a construct that is hard to define, yet widely cited in psychological literature. It is linked with feelings of happiness and contentment. It might also be described as a sense of purpose or satisfaction with life.

To accurately measure it, there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. In general, it has been separated into objective and subjective categories. Objective well-being considers social and cultural constructs. Subjective well-being refers to the individual’s felt sense and internal assessment of their own.

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There are several things that individuals can do to improve their well-being. However, no one thing will improve everything. Rather, this requires a holistic practice of mental and physical health. Nevertheless, individuals who spend time in nature, develop positive connections, practice gratitude, stay hopeful, and develop awareness have a greater chance of experiencing better well-being.

More Tips For Your Well-Being

Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

Reference

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