We all want to be happy. However, life is busy, hectic, and filled with challenges. Many of us are plagued with negative emotions. Still, happiness can be made or increased through the choices we make. Below are the top 10 practices in order to cultivate a happy life.
For most people, life consists of an accumulation of small moments. The practices described below will help you increase your overall wellbeing along with finding joy and contentment in a happy life.
Tip #1: Mindfulness = Happiness
In a comprehensive study, Harvard researchers profiled 2,250 participants at random intervals during the day to find out the activity they were engaged in, their feelings, and their thoughts. The responses revealed that half of the time, the participants were not paying attention to what they were doing. Those who daydream, and thus are not concentrating on the task at hand, were reported to be less happy.
Mindfulness, however, is the opposite of daydreaming. Mindful living is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose and in the present moment. A study from Cornell University found that practicing mindfulness for 10-20 minutes per day helps to keep negative emotions at bay and to focus on happier thoughts. If you’d like to learn more, check out How to Practice Mindfulness on our blog page.
Tip #2 – Get More Sleep
Considering how the lack of sleep can negatively affect our mood the following day, it makes sense that more sleep can increase our happiness. In fact, the University of Michigan found that getting just an extra hour of sleep every night will greatly improve your attitude.
An analysis of the lifestyles of happy adults found that they receive an average of 6 hours and 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep each night. In addition, Cornell University found that happy people tend to sleep better as well. So resolve to get more quality sleep, become happier, and sleep even better!
Tip #3 – Smile More
Want a happy life? Smile more! Numerous studies have claimed that smiling relieves stress and anxiety. When you smile, you activate the parts of your brain associated with well-being and happiness. Our moods are lifted reflexively and it gets other people to smile in response, too!
Tip #4 – Spend Time With Your Pet(s)
The American Psychological Association believes that social support provided by pets is comparable to that of a fellow family member. Researcher Allen McConnell of Miami University adds that pet owners tend to have greater self-esteem, are less depressed, less lonely – and even exercise more!
Tip #5 – Spend Time With People
Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that time with loved ones is beneficial to you, research proves it can make you happier right now, too. Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts.
As Harvard Psychologist and “happiness expert” Daniel Gilbert states it: “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends, and almost all other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”
Tip #6 – Make Memorable Vacations (And Plan for Them!)
Aside from strengthening social relationships, memorable moments (such as outings and family vacations) only become more memorable as time passes. According to a study from Cornell University, our minds naturally reinterpret our experiences retrospectively and holistically in a positive manner.
In addition, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research and Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the anticipation. So whenever you need a boost of happiness, think about a pleasant past vacation or remind yourself of the next vacation to come.
Tip #7 – Practice Gratitude
There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal to sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend. A study from the Journal of Happiness found that when participants wrote letters of gratitude that their happiness and life satisfaction increased while depressive symptoms decreased. Wow!
Tip #8 – Walk in Nature
A recent study found that spending 30 minutes or more a week in green spaces can help lower blood pressure and depression. If you want a happy life — what are you waiting for? Your green space could be anything from a neighborhood park, your own backyard, or a rooftop garden – anywhere you can appreciate some nature and fresh air.
Tip #9 – Exercise
Exercise isn’t just for your body. Regular exercise can help you reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness. You don’t have to start lifting weights. The activity can include taking a walk around the block, five minutes of stretching in the morning or signing up for a yoga class. Have you thought of picking up a once forgotten activity? Or starting a new activity, such as golf, bowling, or dancing?
Tip #10 – Create a Thought List
Instead of picking up your phone with time to spare and scrolling through social media, do something new that helps you take control of your thoughts. Create a “Thought List” by making a shortlist of happy memories or things you’re looking forward to on a small piece of paper or on your phone. When you find yourself with a few minutes to kill, break out the list. You can even use it when you’re just feeling down and need to change up your thoughts.