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Happiness Hack: 10 Ways To Be Happier, Backed By Science

Happiness Hack: 10 Ways To Be Happier, Backed By Science

Happiness is an elusive goal; everyone seems to want it, but if it were easy to attain, the whole world would be happy and we wouldn’t need to keep searching for it. It’s not easy to be happy most of the time, but there are some tips that we can apply to make us happier.

Here are ten scientific ways you can change your life to make your days just a bit more joyful:

1. Do More Physical Exercise

It is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions, and science has proven why exercise is very important in our life. A study cited in the book: “The Happiness Advantage” also confirmed the importance of exercise on our happiness level.

Basically, this study looks into three groups of depressed patients. These three groups of depressed patients are each treated with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. Here’s what they found:

“The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!”

This study shows that exercise has the biggest effect in reducing depression.

Here’s another study in the Journal of Health Psychology that also found that people who exercised are happier because they feel better about their bodies.

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All the evidence has shown that the benefits of exercise include a happy life, so what are you waiting for? Start exercising now. Start small and build a habit of routine exercising, so that you will be happier.

2. Get More Quality Sleep

We spend roughly one third of our lives sleeping, so you cannot underestimate the importance of sleep for the quality of our lifes. Here’s an interesting study in 2011 from BPS Research Digest that shows how sleep affects our happiness. The research found that people who take an afternoon nap are desensitized to negative emotions yet more responsive to positive ones.

This research shows that not only does sleep deprivation cause emotional problems, a sleep boost can bring emotional advantage. In other words, a good quality sleep does make people more positive and overally happier.

3. Put down your cellphone

A study by Kent State University surveyed more than 500 students and found that frequent cellphone use was associated with lower grades, higher anxiety, and reduced happiness.

“It’s likely that people spending more time on devices have less frequent contact with live social networks, and may be more vulnerable to social comparison that leaves them with a sense of emptiness,” says Ramani Durvasula, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. “And anxiety may be due to the ‘I don’t want to miss out on anything’ effect – seeing everyone else’s social calendar makes it difficult to stay present in their own lives.”

Even Aristotle extolled moderation in all things. Cell phone and technology is no exception. Excessive use of even the best technologies reduces our happiness in meaningful ways. So, put down your cellphone and your happiness level will surely improve.

4. Take More Social Time

Perhaps you have heard about it before, but one of the top five regrets of the dying people is not spending enough time or staying in touch with friends and family. Spending more time with the people we care about is very beneficial to improving our happiness and our overall quality of life.

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Dan Gilbert, a Professor of Psychology in Harvard University explains it very well:

“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”

Interestingly, not only that your social relationship can make you happier, it will also make you live a richer life. A study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics used a shadow pricing method and estimates that your relationships are worth around an additional $131,232 a year.

So, just call your cousin who lives in another city and catch up with them on the phone. That will actually make you happier.

5. Spend More Time Outdoors

Shawn Achor, who has lectured at Harvard University and Wharton School of Business, wrote in his book: ”The Happiness Advantage”, that spending as little as 20 minutes outside in a good weather not only boosts positive mood, but also broadens thinking and improves the working memory.

Another study from The London School of Economics and Political Science also supports this claim. It mentioned that being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, the participants of the study were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

If you wonder what’s the best temperature that maximizes our happiness, you will be amazed that a research by the American Meteorological Society found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C.

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6. Help others for two hours per week

You might be surprised to hear this, but spending money on other people (also called “prosocial spending”) boost happiness more than buying things for ourselves.

A 2012 Harvard study gave away some money to participants of the study. Half of them were asked to spend it on buying things for themselves, while the other half was asked to spend the money by buying things for others. Here’s what they found:

“Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future. Thus, by providing initial evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and well-being, these data offer one potential path to sustainable happiness: prosocial spending increases happiness which in turn encourages prosocial spending.”

No wonder most millionaires and billionaires are very active in philanthropy. Philanthropy has been proven to increase happiness.

Helping others does not always mean you need to spend money; you can also spend your time (for example via volunteering). Here’s a study in Zurich, Switzerland that supports the notion that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

So, how much time should you spend helping others? Buffer Blog has concluded that 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others, in order to enrich our lives and be happier

7. Meditate

You might have heard that meditation is very important. The truth is, yes, meditation helps you improve focus, clarity, attention span,  calmness, and, you guessed it right, your happiness.

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A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. This study concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

So, what are you waiting for? Start meditating now and you will live a happier life.

8. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is the act of being thankful for simple things in our life. Practicing gratitude has been proven to increase happiness. There’s a study from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that suggests that a conscious focus on blessings (in other words: practicing gratitude) have emotional and interpersonal benefits. So, be grateful of the every little thing in your life, because there are a lot more people that are not as fortunate as you.

9. Spend money on experience, not things

Everyone knows that money can’t buy happiness per se, but if you’re going to spend money in search of satisfaction, splurge on an experience, not an expensive toy. A study in Psychological Science found that those who tended to spend their money on doing, as opposed to having, were better off in the long run. This effect was chalked up to the perceived superiority of anticipating an experience (like a trip) to anticipating owning an object (like shoes).

10. Practice Your Spirituality Or Faith

Though religion alone isn’t a great predictor of happiness, a study published in Frontiers In Psychology found that those who actively practiced their faith were happier than both those who had a religion but didn’t practice, and those who were non-religious. This isn’t to say that you have to be religious to be happy, but if you DO have theological inclinations, you may want to make spirituality a habit.

An Additional note:

An epic Harvard study about happiness that was conducted for a time period of more than 75 years (it is called Harvard Grant Study) has concluded: “Love is really all that matters for humans to be happy”. Similarly, the 10 happiness hacks mentioned above in this article pretty much have a single common theme: “LOVE”. Love the Universe (God), love other humans, and most importantly love yourself.

As a health coach I personally think loving yourself is one of the most forgotten things in today’s society. Many people have been neglecting their own body, mainly by eating food that is deficient in key nutrition and not making exercise a habit.

I believe that we all want to have a healthy body, a “dream body”. Some of us might have tried to achieve it, but got no results. The key reason on why we failed is because we have been focusing on the wrong stuff all along. We didn’t focus enough on behavioral and psychological science. We all know that our life is shaped by our habits, and yet we are neglecting them.

Conclusion

You are fully in control of your own habits, your own body, and your own life. Use the information above as a guide to live a happier and more fulfilling life.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

More Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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