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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 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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