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What You Really Need to Be Happy

What You Really Need to Be Happy

Everyone strives to be happier, but the truth is some people are more successful than others at attaining happiness. Why? Most people think they know what they need to be happy. But the science of happiness reveals some surprising truths. Find out what research says about what you really need to find inner happiness below.

1. Put others first

When you choose to live selflessly and devote your time to making the world better for the people you love, your life gets better as a result. George Vaillant, an American psychiatrist and professor at the Harvard Medical School, is the director of one of the most revered longitudinal studies on happiness, the Grant Study. The study measured lifelong happiness of 237 Harvard students from 1939 to 1944.

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After completing the Grant Study, Vaillant was able to come to one conclusion: “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” When you think about it, you realize that this statement is true. You build strong relationships by doing things for others and not expecting anything in return. Don’t take your relationships for granted. Make other peoples’ lives happier, and your happiness will follow suit.

2. Spend your time wisely

Time is the most valuable thing you have in this world, so treat it as such. One research study suggests that balancing your free time is one of the key ways to being truly happy. According to the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, these are the most common regrets people have:

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  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The takeaway message here is clear: Focus your time and energy on things that serve to improve your life and the lives of those you love.

3. Choose thoughtful conversations over small talk

According to research, another thing you need to be happy is meaningful conversations rather than small talk. Researchers found that the happiest people spend less time alone and more time having thoughtful conversations than unhappier people. So even if you’re an introvert and you don’t like to spend time socializing, you may want to consider breaking out of your comfort zone to have some deeper conversations. This helps you uncover meaning in the things that are most important to you.

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4. Take care of your health

It is commonly known that exercise is good for you, but it may also be a key to happiness. A 2012 research study showed that people who exercise are generally happier than those who don’t. Exercise not only helps you look better, it helps you feel better too. If you want to substantially increase your odds of living a longer, happier life, then start exercising and eating the right foods today.

5. Be willing to delay gratification

There’s a big problem with society today. It has created a generation of people who think that if they don’t make their first million dollars by age 30, they’re failures. This new “entitlement generation” wants instant gratification in everything they do. And it’s not just young people who are the problem. People now live in a world of instant rewards. That’s why one of the most important things you need to realize is this: Some rewards take a heck of a lot longer than you plan, and sometimes you don’t get what you want. That’s life. Failure and suffering are necessary for growth. Be willing to put in weeks, months and years of work to get what you want. The rewards will be much sweeter in the end.

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6. Spend time outdoors

A team from the London School of Economics and Political Science polled 22,000 people and asked them to record their daily levels of happiness. The study revealed that participants reported they felt much happier outdoors in all-natural environments than they were in urban environments. They rated “being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon” as the perfect spot for happiness. Spending time outdoors helps you reduce stress, interact with others you love in a quiet, serene environment and get some exercise. All of these things are directly related to happiness.

7. Become an expert in something you love

If you still don’t know what you want to do with your life, here’s a good place to start: Identify the things that you absolutely love doing, then spend time becoming an expert at each of those things. The more you learn about the stuff you’re passionate about in life, the more opportunities and experiences unfold in your favor. Research shows that these experiences make us happier than having material possessions.

More by this author

Scott Christ

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Pure Food Company.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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