Come On, Get Happy
Being happy is not just a feeling, but a choice.
Gene and Julie have a list to help put you in a happy state of mind!
1. Raise your default happiness level.
Genes determine 50% of your reactions to life-changing circumstances – good or bad. That means your baseline happiness level tends to stay within a certain range. But you can rise above those tendencies, like a naturally chubby person trying to lose weight. Base your activities around your natural talents, gifts, likes and dislikes.
2. Make happy friends.
Moods are strongly influenced by social groups. People who surround themselves with happy friends, neighbors, relatives and spouses are more likely to be happy themselves, according to 2008 research based on a 20-year survey. If you want to reach your aspirations, surround yourself with people who look like the person you want to be.
3. Spend more time on relationships.
Experiences shared with others make us happiest. Individual achievements, such as work, school and hobbies, don’t provide the same satisfaction. When participants reported their most positive and intensely emotional experiences, connecting with others touched people’s lives the most. The study also found that unhappy events involving others, such as ending a relationship or losing a loved one, were remembered as some of the most negative experiences of people’s lives.
4. Be grateful.
Decades of research has demonstrated that feeling grateful and expressing gratitude also squash the blues. It turns out that the benefits are stronger for women. Write in a “gratitude journal” once a week and express those feelings to other people. Even if you never send it, writing a letter of gratitude is enough to boost your happiness, she says.
5. Be generous.
Giving to others – friends, family members or charity – brings more happiness than spending money on yourself, according to several 2008 studies by Harvard University and the University of British Columbia published in the journal Science. In fact, generosity may be as important to happiness as salary, say researchers. Brain-imaging studies have found that both shopping and donating to others increase levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine. But giving brings longer-lasting pleasure.
6. Focus on security, not money.
Worries about financial security can chip away at happiness. Women who worried about their future financial stability were less satisfied with their lives – even if they had high incomes. Many people have money worries, especially in uncertain financial times. But it’s possible to put feelings into perspective. Discuss your worries with supportive friends, who can help you see the situation more realistically, she advises.
7. Spend on experiences rather than objects.
Should you buy a new dress or take dancing lessons? The lessons will make you happier. Objects bring happiness when you use them, but not when you think about them. But you get enjoyment from anticipating an exciting experience and remember it long after it’s over.
8. Take some R&R.
Americans take fewer vacation days than people in many other countries, according to the World Tourism Association. We’re offered less time off from our jobs and don’t even use all the days we have, says a survey by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. Yet women who take vacations twice a year are less likely to be tense, depressed or tired than women who only take them once every two years, according to a 2005 study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.
9. Go back to nature.
If you’re looking for a shot of energy with your relaxation, take a walk in your local park, hike a wilderness trail or visit the ocean. Anything that takes you to a natural setting will elevate your mood, according to 2009 studies at the University of Rochester in New York. When you head for the wilderness, try not to get distracted by work or family problems. Even 20 minutes outside is sufficient. Just viewing nature photographs or visualizing a wilderness excursion can boost your happiness.
10. Try therapy.
Psychotherapy can make you happier even if you aren’t clinically depressed. In fact, the money spent on therapy gives you 32 times more of a mood lift than getting a pay raise for the same amount. A short course of cognitive-behavioral therapy – which teaches you to change negative thought patterns and self-defeating behaviors – could have lasting benefits.