10 keys to happier living

Everybody wants more happiness in their lives but sometimes it can feel hard to achieve. And happiness is different for different people – what makes one person happy can be another person’s misery.

However, the good news is that research shows there are things you can do to help you live a happier life, according to the charity organisation Action for Happiness and scientific researchThey are:

 Image: 123rf

1. Do things for others

Helping others is not only good for those you help, but it also makes you feel good. Whether it’s a big act or something small, helping others or volunteering boosts happiness and connects you to people. Give it a go!

2. Connect with people

Talking, listening and spending time with other people helps you feel connected. Whether it’s spending quality time with family members, friends, workmates, sports groups or local clubs, building a network of positive and meaningful relationships with others supports your wellbeing and happiness. Studies find close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy.

3. Take care of your body

Being active, eating well and participating in regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. It improves your mood, boosts your energy and improves your sleep, which all help you feel happier.

4. Live life mindfully

Learning to be more mindful and aware of the present moment can help improve your sense of wellbeing. In our fast-paced lives, taking some time to slow down and be in the now and not worry about the past or future is beneficial. Meditation can help, it's calming and helps you focus your mind. Studies have shown regular meditation can actually rewire parts of the brain so you don’t feel as much stress and anxiety.

5. Keep learning new things

Learning new things helps you stay curious and engaged. You could learn a new language, take up a new sport or hobby or try something else you’ve never done before. It’s also a good way to meet new people and become involved in your community.

6. Have goals to look forward to

Having a goal gives you direction and something to look forward to. Make sure your goal is not only challenging, but also achievable. If your goal isn’t achievable it will only lead to disappointment, so make sure it’s realistic. Achieving your goal will bring a sense of confidence, accomplishment and satisfaction. Learn more about goal setting.

7. Find ways to bounce back

Life can be challenging sometimes, and stress, trauma and loss are a part of life. Being resilient or finding a way to bounce back has an impact on your wellbeing. The good news is that resilience can be learned, enabling you to find healthy ways to cope with life’s challenges.

8. Look for what’s good

Focusing on positive emotions and having a glass half-full (rather than empty) attitude helps you feel good in both the short term and long term. Research also shows that positive emotions broaden your perceptions (helping you to see more in life), respond more flexibly and in new ways, and be more creative.

Being thankful for the good things in your life has been shown to improve happiness. A good way to practise gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, which helps you focus on positive things. This involves, regularly writing down several things you’re grateful for. It can be people in your life or things that have happened – big or small, that you’re grateful for. It can also be for things that are often taken for granted, such as a roof over your head or food on the table.

9. Be comfortable with who you are

Criticising yourself all the time makes you feel unhappy. Accepting yourself for who you are – both the good and not so good – and being kind to yourself increases your enjoyment of life. It also helps you accept other people for who they are.

10. Be part of something bigger

Research also shows having a connection to something bigger than yourself, such as religion or spirituality, makes you happy and healthier.

Support

It’s normal to have slightly changing moods. However, if you experience long periods of sadness or depression, please contact your GP or healthcare professional as you may need medical help.

Support numbers:

Podcasts

Here are a series of podcasts on The Science of Happiness, a practical and inspiring new podcast from the Greater Good Science Centre.

  Resources

Episode 1: Three Good Things

Do you take the good things in life for granted? You’re not alone, and studies show it's very human. But here’s a way to find more joy…

Episode 2: Quieting Your Inner Critic

Are you too hard on yourself? Our Happiness Guinea Pig spent most of his life behind bars. Discover the research-tested practice that helped.

Episode 3: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

Can 36 questions help you fall in love—and stay in love? Best-selling author Kelly Corrigan tries a research-proven technique to feel.

Episode 4: Why Laughing is Good for You

What should you do when you thought you had it all—but find out you've had it all wrong? Discover how this episode's Happiness Guinea Pig.

Episode 5: Walk Outside with Inside Out’s Pete Docter

Do you dwell on the negative and let moments of joy just pass you by? Discover how the Academy Award-winning director of Inside Out got out.

For other podcasts of the same series, view The Science of Happiness.

References

  1. 10 keys to happier living Action for Happiness, US
  2. 10 days of happiness Action for Happiness, US
  3. Five ways to wellbeing Mental Health Foundation, NZ