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Article By: April Driver
Happiness has been a hot topic for several years now. The 2011 documentary, Happy directed by Roko Belic, toured the globe exploring what makes people happy. Many books have also been written about strategies and the science behind happiness, including The Happiness Advantage, The Happiness Project and The Art of Happiness.
Happiness can often seem illusive. It’s something we all wish for but don’t always view as attainable. However, the common point is that happiness isn’t something that magically happens in our lives. True happiness comes through intentionally practicing specific habits for a happier life.
Achievement, financial success and beauty don’t create happiness. In fact, research shows that happiness peaks at an income of $95,000 annually. The research also shows that the financial sweet spot is with people who make $75,000 per year. The good news is that no matter where you fall with annual income, you too can lead a happier life if you invest in habits that positively impact happiness.
1. Stop Comparing
Comparison is a happiness killer. This is because no matter how beautiful, successful, smart, athletic or wealthy you are, there’s always someone with more. Social media feeds into the habit of comparison. It’s easy to scroll through Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest and rank your life against what others share. But, most people share a polished and edited version of the best parts of their lives. It’s not a fair measure to compare your worst moments to other’s best moments.
If your satisfaction is tied to superiority over others, then you’ll never be happy. In fact, comparing yourself is a bad habit tied to insecurity. The fact that you’re comparing what you have to others means that you’re not actually happy. Stop comparing and focus on what matters to you and what you enjoy.
2. Follow Your Passion
We are often sold the lie that our career needs to be our passion. This simply isn’t true. Your job can just be a way to earn a living. You can let go of the pressure that your work should be a defining point of who you are. That kind of pressure will only make you unhappy. Instead, find and follow your passion even if it isn’t your job. Your passion may be baking, volunteering, sewing, fantasy football or a plethora of other things. Find hobbies and groups that make space for you to follow your passion.
I love to read and write, but I worked at a corporate job for years. It wasn’t until I started writing as a hobby and after years of unpaid writing, I found a path to paid writing work. Start pursuing your passion because you love it, and maybe one day you’ll find a way to make money with that pursuit. Even if you don’t, you’ll be happier for following your passion.
Simply put, most people don’t prioritize rest. We are always busy and stressed. Do you find yourself scrolling through your phone while you’re in bed? Put down the electronics and simply relax. Give your mind time to shut off. Take a walk, read a book, talk to a friend or take a nap. Make rest and relaxation a priority.
Relaxation is more than just resting your body. Practice relaxation tools like meditation, breathing exercises and clearing your mind of negative thoughts. Another way to relax is to reduce or cut out caffeine. By eliminating a stimulate from your diet, you can lower your anxiety and more easily rest.
4. Practice Gratitude
Practice gratitude to improve your mood and your happiness. A gratitude journal is a great tool to cultivate gratitude. But, even just taking the time each day to consider what you’re grateful for can help change your attitude. Also, when you take time to be grateful, you reduce the habit of comparison. All of this leads to increased happiness.
5. Read About Happiness
Thinking about and studying happiness is a great way to cultivate happiness. That means, just reading this article can help you be happier. Studying happiness shows intent to find more happiness. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is a great book to read to understand how to increase your personally happiness. However, any of the books listed above are great resources to learn more about happiness strategies.
6. Be Intentional
As with any healthy habit you want to establish, you must be intentional. If you want to lose 20 pounds, you have to eat healthy and exercise. The same is true with happiness. If you want to live a life infused with happiness, you must intentionally change bad behaviors and establish healthy habits.
One way to intentionally seek happiness is with a happiness audit. You can evaluate your life and determine what aspects are impacting your happiness. Make a list of the negative habits you find. These may include chronic lateness, overscheduling, not sleeping enough, overeating or even negative self-talk. Work to intentionally reduce the bad habits and create positive new habits.
Did you know that physically active people are happier? Exercise produces endorphins and reduces stress hormones. Research shows that regular exercise actually helps reduce anxiety and depression.7 If you want to be happier, get moving. Regular exercise leads to happier people. However, don’t tie exercise to body image. View exercise as a way to improve your health and establish a good habit. Don’t allow it to become another way to beat yourself up. The goal is to create more happiness.
8. Be Empathic and Kind
The golden rule isn’t just good for a moral life. Treating others how you want to be treated leads to happiness. When we practice empathy and kindness, connection and unity with others is established which then leads to more happiness. In other words, treating other people well is not only good for them, but it’s good for you too.
9. Build Quality Relationships
Research shows that if you want a happier life, you should focus on building quality relationships. Like with empathy and kindness, the healthy connections established through quality relationships encourage happiness. Take the time to invest in the people around you.
As you can see here, money doesn’t lead to happiness. Instead of spending all of your time and energy trying to achieve and strive, invest in rest, gratitude and quality relationships. Think about happiness and intentionally seek habits that lead to a more joyful life.