I have been wanting to write this post for a while now… but I guess the holiday season is the perfect excuse since you are all out there “reevaluating your life” and thinking about next years’ goals and how you will exercise more, eat less, save money, and travel more. Well, first thing you must know about this post is that I didn’t find this info on my Cosmopolitan, nor did I read it on Facebook or Pinterest or the like… I found all of this on the webpage for the Greater Good Science Center based in UC Berkeley, and from the courseware from their Positive Psychology’s online course called The Science of Happiness (we can all learn a thing or two, right?) Legit-there is actual “science” backing this up!
First thing you must understand and be clear on- trying too hard to become a happier person will most likely deviate you from your path to happiness. Instead of focusing on being happy, you must focus on the things that make you happy (I know it sounds confusing, but hear me –or read me- out). First thing that may come to your mind when you think about what happiness looks like might be a life where you have all your family, loved ones, a job, a house, and health… but doesn’t that mean that if you have some sort of illness, you are single, you are not as rich as others that surround you, you cant afford a house just yet… you are automatically out of the “happy” list? Actually, roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities. Take that complainers and whiners!
People who consider themselves happy people actually live longer, are more creative, do better at work, make more money, are better leaders and negotiators, are more likely to get married, more resilient, healthier, etc. This is all actual research, which means they look for the effect of happiness on these things and not just the other way around.
You may feel like most of this information is common sense, but sometimes a reminder will make you mindful of what you need to work and focus on:
- People who sleep in a more regular, comfortable, non-interrupted way score higher on indices of happiness and well-being. I have also read this on leadership articles… we might thing that uber successful people don’t sleep much, but actually, they do not forgive their 7-8 hours of daily sleep, as this is the only way their bodies can perform at its peak and their minds can be alert.
- Single ladies: the older your get married, the happier your marriage tends to be (Mexican reference: para los que te dicen que te vas a quedar a vestir santos). You are not running out of time , you are just waiting for the right time!
- Humor characterizes a happy relationship: Couples that tell jokes, can laugh, have funny nicknames, engage in playful teasing, etc can more easily de-escalate a stressful situation and produce happiness. Also, small gestures that show appreciation (sending nice texts, just because emails, showing gratitude for dinner, etc) may reduce the likelihood of you breaking up.
- Having more variety in our emotions –positive or negative- can make us happier and healthier. Don’t just focus on feeling happy, grateful, amused, etc… if you feel angry, go ahead and give in to the feeling. Don’t try to fool yourself and supress your feelings, letting yourself take in positive and negative emotions is healthier and is linked to less depression, less medication use, better health, diet, and overall habits.
- The closest thing to a “key to happiness”? Warm, intimate relationships, practicing kindness and gratitude. People who spend more time with friends and loved ones, spend money on others rather than themselves, and keep gratitude journals tend to be happier (count your blessings, in paper!) . Kindness makes you happy, and happiness makes you kind. Happy people are more altruistic.
- Yes, the more money you earn the happier you are- until you reach $75,000.. then happiness plateaus. (addendum- this amount is a U.S. national average. For CA residents it is up to $95,000)
- Norway is the “happiest” country. It is also one of the richest and safest. The US is #10. Mexico is… (breath deeply)… #64 (According to the Legatum Prosperity Index)
- Having more of what makes you happy doesn’t really make you happier. You enjoy things more when you have them in smaller doses or over stretches of time – that chocolate will taste better if you eat it once in a while as opposed to daily! For those of you who are religious, lent has this effect – it will make you happier to give away something for some time in order to appreciate it more later. Savor the little things in life.
- Some studies suggest that there is a negative correlation between TV watching and happiness (more unhappy people watch TV) People who read the newspaper, attend religious events, and socialize with family members are happier than those who don’t.
There are so many interesting things about happiness that it would be impossible to include them all here.. but at least i hope this gets you started on a happy note for the new year and that you focus on the main things: being kinder, more compassionate, fostering relationships, counting your blessings, writing down things that go well for you on a daily basis, enjoying life’s little pleasures every once in a while, learning to forgive, and just being more mindful.
Do not wait for life’s events to be happier (such as having the job of your dreams, having a kid, etc)- people who think they will be happier when these events happen experience some disappointment when they realize they will just keep waiting for the next big event to be happy- do it now, focus on today, and the things that make you blissful.
Smile, happiness looks gorgeous on you!