Who does not want to be happier? In fact, the very goal of life seems to be the pursuit of happiness, well-being, and contentment. In this article, we will try to assimilate the collective wisdom of self-help gurus and happiness researchers to come up with a comprehensive list of ways that can make you a happier person.
The research on happiness defines happy individuals as people who experience frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and anger. Indeed, earlier research by Prof. Diener and his colleagues has shown that frequency of positive emotions as compared to negative emotions is a good indicator of life-satisfcation and happiness.
Research has shown that a happier person is more successful in the various aspects of life, such as marriage, work, altruism, community development, making money. Happier people are also healthier, smarter, and live longer. A great presentation on happines is The How, What, When, and Why of Happiness by Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky.
Research by Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside, has shown that intentional activity has about 40% impact on a person's happiness, while the rest is out of their own control with 50% being accounted to genetics and 10% to circumstances. And that 40% is just the part that you might actually want to focus on and ignore the parts that are not under your control.
In their research paper titled Letters of gratitude: Improving well-being through expressive writing in the Journal of Writing Research, Steven Toepfer and Kathleen Walker show that expressing gratefulness through written letters improved the well-being, happiness, and life-satisfaction of individuals as compared to controls who did not write. In fact, they have also shown that merely writing what you have done over the past 7 days or so negatively impacts happiness. On the other hand, writing about your best possible future self (optimism) and expressing gratitude signficantly boosts well-being.
Prof. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema of the Yale University defines rumination as the tendency to repetitively think about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one's negative experience. Her recent research has shown the strong correlation between rumination and subsequent depression. If you have had bad experiences, don't overthink about them and focus on the present and look forward to a great future. Expressive writing, or writing about your negative thoughts in a journal can likely reduce rumination as it adds structure to the otherwise chaotic thought process.
By being kind to others, we view them charitably and feel better off by comparison. We view ourselves as generous, competent, and in control. We also tend to develop more friends and increase the likelihood of getting helped if need be. Research has shown performing acts of kindness provides a significant boost in happiness. Moreover, the more diverse your acts of kindness are, or the more variety you have, the happier you are.
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