Behavioural scientists have spent a lot of time studying ‘happiness’. They’ve discovered that being happy elevates our wellbeing, increases our life satisfaction and gives us better health and longevity.
But while happiness does “just happen” sometimes, each of us has the power to make choices that can bring us more (or less) happiness.
Here are 18 things you can do to be happier. Some of these things can be done right now. Others will need to be planned. But all of them are shown scientifically to impact on our happiness for better.
1. Take a break from social media
Studies consistently show that social media use has a negative effect on our happiness. While real-world social networks are great for our overall wellbeing, using social media platforms, such as Facebook, reduces physical health, mental health and life satisfaction.
Take a break from social media. After one week, you’ll find your happiness levels increase.
2. Spend time on your relationships
There may be no discovery more powerful than this – other people matter for our happiness. Spend time with someone you love today.
Charles Darwin was the first to pose the idea that the act of smiling intensifies our feelings of happiness. It really is that simple. Our emotions are reinforced by our facial expressions. So if you want to feel happy, smile.
4. Help someone
When we help people, we feel better about life, and about ourselves. The data shows the more we ‘do good’, the more we ‘feel good’.
5. Look for ways to feel gratitude
Empirical studies show us that gratitude may be one of the best wellbeing boosters there is. For two weeks, jot down three good things that happen each day. This simple exercise is scientifically shown to boost happiness and positivity.
6. Savour your memories
Nostalgia makes us feel happier and closer to the people around us. Take a few minutes every day and savour your memories, whether it’s a special hug with a loved one, your first kiss or an amazing holiday.
7. Be mindful
Becoming more mindful helps you make positive memories to savour. Tell yourself, ‘This is a moment worth remembering.’ Focusing on the here and now keeps you present in happy moments. That also means putting your camera away. Studies show that we forget what we photograph, while we remember what we remain present for.
8. Set goals
Goal setting is essential to happiness. In fact, dopamine (the feel-good chemical) release relies on goal setting and achievement. And having goals elevates our optimism because we anticipate good things. Set goals and work out how to achieve them.
9. Play with your kids
When you play with your children, oxytocin (often called the ‘love hormone’) is released in your brain. And it’s one of the fastest ways to forget your worries and remember how it feels to be carefree, and to laugh. So whenever you can, get down on the floor and play.
Exercise boosts wellbeing. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start small and slow, but aim to make it a habit. Studies show that people who engage in even a small amount of exercise have better mental health.
Studies show regular sleep schedules contribute to happiness, healthiness and calmness. Yet, we continually tire ourselves out. Go to bed early. Rise early. Get enough sleep.
12. Live your values
If you’re out of alignment you can’t be happy. Work out what you feel is right and live your life consistently with those values.
13. Make a budget
Budgeting boosts happiness. It helps you focus your spending on things that improve your quality of life. You may choose to spend less on a car or clothes (which bring a small amount of happiness), but more on holidays and hobbies (which bring a lifetime of happy memories).
If you have a partner, kiss each other more and longer. Studies show kissing lowers stress, and raises relationship satisfaction. And if it doesn’t make you feel better right away, do it again until it does!
16. Learn something new
People who are curious tend to be happier than people who are not. Learning something new can trigger our creativity and help us to find more things that make us happy.
17. Speak and think positively
You remember the saying, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything’? Well, there’s truth to it. Catch those negative thoughts and words and switch them to positives. This increases the serotonin in your brain, which creates a sense of wellbeing.
Hanging on to past hurts is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Letting go brings peace, reduces stress, strengthens relationships and makes us happier.
If you put even a few of these items into practice, I guarantee you’ll find that you’re happier and more satisfied with life. It’s a small amount of effort for a big reward.