Nancy F. Clark, author of The Positive Journal
Starting out in rocket science and computer programming, if you would have told me then that there’s a science to happiness I would have laughed. And actually, that would have made me a little happier (see #7). Today there’s solid research on techniques that can increase your happiness and fulfilment in life.
I’m going to give you 9 easy techniques to do. If you’re really busy, try 5 of them. If you’re a competitive high achiever—and probably very busy—go ahead and try all 9 of them.
1) Use Your Happiness Autopilot
Researchers at Duke have found that more than 40% of your daily actions are autopilot habits that don’t use up your decision-making brain power. So, let’s tack a little add-on to one of those ingrained habits.
Here are 3 ideas.
When you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, think of 1 thing that makes you feel grateful.
Or when you wake up in the morning, glance at a photo that makes you feel happy.
Or at night, do what Christine Carter of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Centre says, “After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.”
What will you choose to add to your autopilot?
2) Good Enough Instead of Perfect
Place the motto “good enough is great” in your mind. You’ll be saving time and effort and you won’t be berating yourself since you planned to adhere to your new motto. You can tell yourself, “I know I could do more with more time and more effort but it’s not necessary.” Think of that 60-page report you produced when a 10-pager would have been good enough. Easing up on yourself will add to your happiness.
3) Do What You Love
Don’t say, “When I retire, I’ll do what I love.” Instead, plan on spending some time doing things you love, even if it’s as a hobby. Decide when you can devote a little time on a regular basis. Or, is a career change needed?
4) How To Choose Your Friends
Researchers at Harvard say choosing your friends wisely is one of the most important factors related to happiness. Do you have some friends who sap your energy when you’re around them? Perhaps they’re frequently complaining and reminding you of negative events? Zap these people from your new friend list and replace them with optimistic people who make you feel energized when you spend time with them. And besides spending time with them, spend money with them also (see #5).
5) Where Should You Spend Your Money?
Michael Norton, Harvard Professor and co-author of Happy Money, says purchasing material items like televisions, clothes, and coffee machines won’t make you happier overall. People are wired to become happier with social connections, so spending your money on experiences with friends will give you the biggest happiness boost. So, my advice is, “Spend your money on concert tickets or on a yoga retreat with a friend and enjoy the happiness surge.
6) Cultivate Flow
The author of Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, says when you find an activity that you enjoy, one that challenges you, and increases your skill, you’ll find yourself fully engaged in it. You’ll be in a flow state. This means you’ll be concentrating on the present and may even lose your sense of time. This feels good and contributes to your well-being and happiness.
7) Enjoy the Funny Side
When we crack a smile—a genuine eye crinkle that researchers call a “Duchenne smile”—our cardiovascular system calms. Laughing takes it one step further partly because it forces us to exhale. Simply exhaling lowers our heart rate and induces feelings of calm.
Smiling releases endorphins, which combat stress hormones. My advice is, “You should practice smiling right now, even if you feel foolish. You’re cancelling some of the stress cortisol and you’re increasing your happiness—a double bonus.”
8) Reframe Obstacles
No one gets through life without encountering obstacles. Each time one pops up, try to reframe it as a challenge that you can handle. If you need support, think of a time when you surmounted your fear and successfully took action. Be a problem solver. My advice is, “Say ‘How can I fix this?’ Questioning opens the creative parts of your brain and you may come up with more than one solution.”
9) Random Acts of Kindness
Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that practicing acts of kindness gives people a happiness boost. In addition, the recipient becomes happier and this even extends to people who merely observe the act. These acts don’t need to be anonymous, as her research shows. The observers often want to pay it forward.
So please add more acts of kindness to your week and help make the world a happier place.