Harvard Research Reveals 20 Habits
That Will Make You Happy, Guaranteed!
By Jing Jin
Have you ever wondered why some people seem happier than others? And why you’re not as happy as you’d like to be? Perhaps you’ve been telling yourself, “If I had that job, I’d be happy.” Or “If I was with that person, then I’d be happy.”
I can tell you that this formula doesn’t work. In fact, recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience show that this formula is actually backwards:
Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we’re happy, our brains are more motivated, engaged, creative, energetic, resilient and productive.
This means when we’re happy, we’re more likely to get what we want in life – whether it’s our dream job, our ideal mate, or any other wonderful thing we desire.
So how can you be happier?
Based on my own personal experience and the 20 happiness facts published by Harvard University, I’ve compiled the following 20 habits that will make you happy, guaranteed! http://www.harvardsmhl.org/20-happiness-facts/
- Be grateful. Slow down, look around you, and pay attention to the little details in your life – the delicate purple flower on the sidewalk, the beautiful sunset, the hot shower that washes away your long day, and the smile in your partner’s eyes…
When you have a grateful heart that is appreciative of life’s beautify, wonder and blessings, you’re automatically filled with happiness.
- Choose your friends wisely. According to Harvard, the most important external factors affecting individual happiness are human relationships. So if you want to be happy, choose to be around people who are optimistic, who appreciate you as you are, and who can make your life richer, bigger, more fun, and more meaningful.
- Cultivate compassion. When we try to step into other people’s shoes and understand a situation from another’s perspective, we’re more likely to handle the situation with compassion, objectivity and effectiveness. There will be less conflicts and more happiness.
- Keep learning. Learning keeps us young and dreams keep us alive. When we engage our brains and put them toward productive uses, we’re less likely to dwell on unhappy thoughts and much more likely to feel happy and fulfilled.
- Become a problem solver. Happy people are problem solvers. When they encounter a challenge in life, they don’t beat themselves up and fall into a depressive state. Instead, they face up to the challenge and channel their energies toward finding creative a solution.
By becoming a problem solver, you’ll build up your self-confidence and your ability to accomplish whatever it is you set your mind to – and whatever challenges life throws your way. The result? You’ll have more happiness in your life.
- Do what you love. Since we spend over one-third of our adult life working, loving what we do has a huge impact on our overall happiness. It’s one of life’s greatest blessings to find a line of work that we’re deeply passionate about and that utilizes our greatest gifts. If this is not possible at the moment, then try to find enjoyment and meaning in your current work, or cultivate a hobby that involves doing something you love.
- Live in the present. When you feel depressed, you’re living in the past. When you feel worried or anxious, you’re living in the future. But when you feel content, happy and peaceful, you’re living in the present.
- Laugh often. Laughter is the most powerful anecdote to anger or depression. Research has shown that the simple act of curving the corners of your mouth can increase your feeling of happiness. So don’t take life too seriously. Try to find humor and laughter in life’s everyday struggles.
- Practice forgiveness. Resentment and anger are forms of self-punishment. When you forgive, you’re actually practicing kindness to yourself. So learn to forgive those who have hurt you in the past. And most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s through our mistakes that we learn and grow to become a bigger and better person.
10. Say thanks often. Always be appreciative of the blessings in your life. And it’s equally important to express your appreciation to those who’ve made your life better in some way, big or small.
11. Create deeper connections. Our happiness multiplies when we connect and bond with another human being on a deeper level. And being fully present and listening are two of the most important skills to strengthening that bond and bringing happiness to ourselves, and to others.
12. Keep your agreement. Our self-esteem is built on the agreements we’ve made with ourselves. And high self-esteem has a direct correlation to happiness. So keep your agreements with others and with yourself. Do what you say you’re going to do.
13. Meditate. According to Harvard, people who take 8 sessions of mindfulness meditation training are, on average, 20% happier than a control group. Such training can lead to structural brain changes including increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
14. Focus on what you’re doing. When you put your mind, heart and soul into what you’re doing, you’re creating a happiness state – called the “flow.” When you’re living in the flow, you’re less likely to care about what others may think of you, and less bothered by things that are not that important. The result? More happiness, of course!
15. Be optimistic. For happy people, the glass is always half-full. If your tendency is to imagine the very worst-case scenario every time you face a challenge, then train yourself to reverse that tendency. Ask yourself what good can come out of the situation or what you can learn from it. Optimism surely fuels success and happiness.
16. Love unconditionally. No one is perfect. Accept yourself for all of your imperfections. And do so for others. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean that you need to spend all your time with them or help them figure out their problems. Unconditional love means accepting people as they are, and allowing them to find their own ways, at their own pace.
17. Don’t give up. Unfinished projects and repeated defeats inevitably dampen one’s self-esteem. If you’ve made up your mind to do something, see it through. Don’t give up until you succeed. Remember, failure is temporary but defeat is permanent. And defeat only occurs when you give up.
18. Do your best and then let go. Everyone has limitations, and things don’t always turn out to be what we’d like them to be – despite our efforts. So always give your best, and then let go. Let events run their course. When you’ve done your best, you’ll have no regrets.
19. Take care of yourself. A healthy body is the key to happiness. If you have poor health, it’s very difficult to be happy no matter how hard you try. So make sure you eat well, exercise and find time to rest. Take good care of your body, your mind and your spirit.
20. Give back. Doing good is one of the surest ways to feel good. According to Harvard, when people do good, their brains becomes active in the very same reward center that is stimulated when they experience other rewards. So it’s not a surprise that people who care more about others are happier than those who care less about others.
These happiness habits have proven to be true in my own life. During those periods when I focus on cultivating the habits listed above, I do feel happier and more fulfilled – like now.
Happiness is not an accident. It’s a conscious decision that takes conscious effort. You cannot seek happiness directly. When you do, happiness eludes you. Instead, focus on cultivating these 20 happiness habits, and you’ll experience great happiness in your life, guaranteed!
So what’s your experience? Is this true in your own life? How many of the happiness habits do you practice? And what habits would you like to cultivate next?
Jing Jin is passionate about holistic health and healing. She’s the founder of CycleHarmony.com, an online community that empowers women to honor their menstrual cycles, improve their reproductive and over health, and become the very best versions of themselves.