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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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