Reviewed: Dr. Rachael Grantham Psy.D

When it comes to feelings, the feeling of Happiness seems to be the most sought after, yet for some it is the most difficult to achieve. We all want to find the key to happiness… happiness with our family, work, health, finances, relationships and future. While there is no exact recipe for happiness there are things that happy people do that un-happy people do not. Here are a few habits that can help you feel happier and more fulfilled on the reg.

 1) Less of you… gotta give to get.

Is it possible for a person to be completely selfless? Most people would probably say no, but what if we tried… according to a recent research publication titled Motives Matter: The Emotional Consequences of Recalled Self and Focused Pro-social Acts, selfless actions and thoughts are not only possible, but give a real sense of satisfaction and long lasting happiness.

Selflessness is doing good things for others without thinking about how you will profit or be rewarded. If you give help to others, but expect recognition or the favor to be returned you are actually not being selfless.

When we act only out of selfish motives we limit ourselves in relationships with others and therefor limit our return (i.e., happiness). With every action, we calculate how we might benefit, instead of focusing on how we can benefit others. This mind frame limits our ability to truly understand and connect with others. It’s very hard to see the hearts of others when you can’t see past the end of your own nose.

When we act with selfless motives we are helping to grow our understanding and appreciation for those around us. This allows us to receive joy from the accomplishments and happiness of others and it allows us to receive joy from serving others.

2) Be busy, but not rushed.

According to a recent article published in Scientific American people are happier when they are busy but not rushed. It is indeed a fact that most people actually hate being bored. They dread the idleness. Being busy makes you feel productive and important… or at least you’re trying to be. Usually that feeling of being busy will not leave you feeling overly tired and exhausted if you have planned your time accordingly. It’s ok to have a full schedule, just don’t over load yourself or procrastinate.

Being productive has many benefits that can lead to happiness. The key is to find the right balance. Modify your schedule in order to make it enjoyable and not overwhelming.

3) Have a few close relationships

“While friendships has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of” C.S. Lewis

It is the quality of our relationships that is important, not the quantity. In fact poor quality relationships can be a source of pain and stress and have a negative impact on our well-being. So taking steps to build and improve our closest relationships is very important, while allowing those relationships that may not be as strong to take a backseat. You can’t be best friends with everyone.

The nearest and dearest really matter. People who have strong relationships whether it be with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer. Focus on the relationships that inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

4) Be proactive and mindful in your relationships

Life is busy, our time is often filled with work and other responsibilities, and we don’t always have the time to give to those we love. Proactively planning time to spend with those close to you can help to strengthen those relationships dear to you and in turn improve your overall happiness. According to a recent study posted on NYTimes.com “the leading cause of persistent relationships is reciprocity, returning a friend’s call.” additionally, they said friends “til the end”… tend to touch base at least once every 15 days.

Nurturing those close relationships can be as simple as a phone call once a week, a quick coffee date, or combining your daily workout with a friends, whatever it may be, making your relationships a priority and proactively pursuing them can increase your overall happiness.

Being mindful about being present in the time you give to people is also important, so that, when you are with someone, you are truly with someone and not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. The connections we make with others are very important to our overall happiness, and devoting time, energy, and effort to developing and building relationships is one of the most valuable life skills.

5) Understand first, be understood second.

Everyone wants to feel understood. Having others see you as you want, and need, to be seen verifies your sense of self. It assures you that who you believe you are is understandable and justified. According to a journal published in The Social and Personality Psychological Compass, to feel truly understood is to feel validated and in turn results in the feeling of happiness.

According to Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, sometimes in order to be understood we must first seek to understand others. To understand another is to try and step out of yourself. If we seek to understand others first, we open up the opportunity to hear, learn and grow. By offering that gift to another, most of the time, it will be given back in return.

Feeling understood connects you to others, allowing you to feel welcome, it’s that safe place that provides a sense of acceptance which can usher in happiness.

6) Plan experiences

According to a recent article from the Journal of Consumer Research, studies have shown that buying an object a car, new pair of jeans, or the latest tech gadget can quickly lead to buyer’s remorse. On the other hand, investing in experiences such as a concert, a camping trip, or guitar lessons leads to greater happiness. Experiences create happy memories and our perceptions of them often get better over time.

One big reason for why experiences matter more to us than material objects is that they are inherently social. You usually have an experience with friends or family. That makes them so much more valuable. Experiences also commonly result in storytelling and conversation and fun memories. So get out and experience all the wonderful things life has to offer.

7) Give… time, money, love.

While possessing wealth and material goods doesn’t lead to happiness, giving them away actually does. According to a recent study published by the Journal of Happiness studies generosity is strongly associated with well-being.

So if you really want to increase your happiness, as long as your basic material needs are met, don’t try to accumulate large amounts of money in your bank account, and don’t treat yourself to material possessions you don’t really need. Give.

Be more generous with what you have. Increase the amount of money you donate to charitable organizations, give more of your time to volunteering, or spend more time helping other people, or behaving more kindly to those around you. A life full of generosity may not have you wearing the latest and greatest trends but it will certainly make you happier.

8) Attitude of gratitude.

Focus on the positive. Try to continually remind yourself about all the good things you have going for you in life. In a research paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they found that having an attitude of gratitude can improve your overall outlook on life. Research showed that by being consciously grateful for the blessings in your life, you will be happier. While if you focus on the negativity or problems in your life, you will find life to be a struggle. To build lasting happiness in your life, even during the times when the bad outweighs the good, remind yourself daily of all that you have to be grateful for…”Fake it till you make it”

While incredibly simple, when was the last time you really stopped to be grateful for the things in your life? In today’s society we take everything for granted, even the fact that life itself is a gift.

If you start to really take the time to be grateful for even the smallest things in your life, you will begin to see radical changes in your mental state and over-all feeling of happiness.

Still having a hard time? Try making a list of some of the meaningful blessings in your life and keep it somewhere visible. Tape it on your bathroom mirror or on your fridge. The reminder will help you take time to reflect on the good that is already in your life.

9) Prioritize your priorities.

Why is it that most of the time our personal priorities get pushed to the back burner? Parents always feel they are not giving enough to their children or friends feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day for that coffee date. Much needed and necessary self-care like working out and eating right becomes a bonus if it even happens at all. Why is it that somehow…someway, the things that we say are our priorities just never seem to get done.

In a recent book written by John Maxwell 5 steps to prioritize your priorities, it states that it is important to take the time to really think about your priorities considering not only what your priorities are, but how they factor into your decisions. Saying something is a priority is not the same as living like it’s a priority. You have to act intentionally to give each area of your life the needed attention. Simply stating “I don’t have time” is actually indicating “this isn’t a priority”. Time for priorities can be found, if they are prioritized appropriately. By giving your priorities the attention they deserve you will feel more fulfilled and thus resulting a greater feeling of happiness.

The word priority comes from the word prior, meaning before. A good way to make time for your priorities is to do them prior to doing other things. Try to get to your priorities early in the day. After a brief morning routine, dive right in. The earlier you accomplish what matters to you most, the better. By doing it early, you are guaranteed to have spent time on it. Otherwise, the busyness of life can distract you from what matters to you most.

10) Do what you’re good at.

Spend time doing something that you are good at. This does not mean you need to attempt to learn a new language or master karate, it simply means identify something you generally succeed at, and master that skill. It could be as simple as cooking your favorite meal, lifting weights at the gym or mastering a few new yoga poses.

Having trouble identifying something that you feel fits this for you? Think about which activities you find most rewarding, what you’re good at and often recognized for, what experiences you’d be unwilling to give up, and which ones you crave more time for.

According to research found in a recent study called Momentary Happiness: The Role of Psychological Need Satisfaction, by regularly engaging in activities that you can succeed in, regardless of how small or large, you will find more daily satisfaction, and therefore feel happier with your life.

You deserve happiness…now go get it.

Author: Ryan House, Doctoral Student Clinical Psychology

Reviewed: Dr. Rachael Grantham, Psy.D.

References

  • Bhattacharjee, A., & Mogilner, C. (2014). Happiness from ordinary and extraordinary experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(1), 1-17. doi:10.1086/674724
  • Boenigk, S., & Mayr, M. L. (2016). The happiness of giving: Evidence from the german socioeconomic panel that happier people are more generous.Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(5), 1825-1846. doi:10.1007/s10902-015-9672-2
  • Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377
  • Howell, R. T., Chenot, D., Hill, G., & Howell, C. J. (2011). Momentary happiness: The role of psychological need satisfaction.Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(1), 1-15. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9166-1
  • Reis, H. T., Lemay, E. P., & Finkenauer, C. (2017). Toward understanding understanding: The importance of feeling understood in relationships.Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(3), e12308. doi:10.1111/spc3.12308
  • Wiwad, D., & Aknin, L. B. (2017). Motives matter: The emotional consequences of recalled self- and other- focused prosocial acts.Motivation and Emotion, 41(6), 730-740. doi:10.1007/s11031-017-9638-2