The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

Author Article

University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky details the things research shows the happiest people have in common.

Via The How of Happiness:

  1. They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  2. They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  3. They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
  4. They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  5. They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  6. They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  7. They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
  8. Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

I guess the blog post could end here. You’ve got your answer. But did you just want trivia? Or do you actually want to get happier?

The internet has become a firehose of ideas we never implement, tricks we forget to use.

Reading a list of things is easy. Implementing them in your life can be hard. 

But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get down to business.

“Happiness Subscriptions”

Here’s an interesting fact about happiness: frequency beats intensity. What’s that mean?

Lots of little good things make you happier than a handful of big things.

Research shows that going to church and exercising both bring people a disproportionate amount of happiness. Why?

They give us frequent, regular boosts.

Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker says it’s really that simple: the things that make you happy, do them more often.

We have designated work hours. We schedule doctor appointments. Heck, we even schedule hair appointments.

We say happiness is the most important thing but fail to consistently include it in our calendars.

Research shows 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. You can change your happiness by up to 40% by what you choose to do every day.

happiest-people

And much of what you do, you do on autopilot. 40% of what you do every day isn’t the result of decisions, it’s due to habits.

Via The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

See where I’m going with this?

Happy things need to be a habit. Part of your routine. Part of your schedule.

Stop waiting for random happy events, you need a “happiness subscription.”

So how do we take that list and make them things we actually do every day instead of more forgotten trivia? Let’s get started.

1) Wake Up And Say ARG!

Even scientific happiness advice is often corny. I’ll say that now so we can get it off the table … But it works.

And this is why you might want to say ARG when you wake up. It’s an acronym that stands for:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Recollection
  3. Gratitude

I’ve written about the importance of a morning ritual and how research shows your mood in the morning affects your entire day. So start right.

Anticipation is a powerful happiness booster. It’s 2 for the price of 1: You get the good thing and you get happy in anticipation of the good thing.

So think about what you’re looking forward to. Got nothing you’re looking forward to? Schedule something.

Recollecting great moments has a related effectMemories allow us to relive the good times and kill stress.

Via The How of Happiness:

People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and to experience intense emotions. In contrast, those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.

And gratitude is arguably the king of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

… the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

And the combo often leads to optimism. Another powerful predictor of happiness.

So, corny as it may be, wake up and say ARG! And then do a quick bit of anticipation, recollection and gratitude.

(For more on optimism click here.)

All that’s fine and dandy. But what do you do once you’re out of bed?

2) Savor Your Morning Coffee

Take a moment and really enjoy it. Smell it. Taste it. Appreciate it. Corny? Maybe.

But other research shows savoring — appreciating the good moments — is what separates the happiest people from the average Joe.

I imagine some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t drink coffee.” And please imagine me saying, “That’s not the point.”

It can be anything you do every morning.

And embedding savoring in our little daily rituals is powerful because studies show rituals matter.

Here’s Harvard professor Francesca Gino:

You can think about rituals that you yourself might engage in prior to consumption experiences. What they do, they make us a little bit more mindful about the consumption experience that we are about to have. Because of that, we end up savoring the food or whatever we are drinking more, we enjoy the experience more, and in fact, we’re also more willing to pay higher prices for whatever it is that we just consumed. Once again, rituals are beneficial in the sense that they create higher levels of enjoyment in the experience that we just had.

(For more on how savoring can make you happier click here.)

So what other habit can we build into our schedule that boosts joy? How about one that can make you as happy as sex does?

3) Sweat Your Way To Joy

When you study people to see what makes them happiest you get three answers: sex, socializing and exercise.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering.

People who exercise are, across the board, mentally healthier: less depression, anger, stress, and distrust.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

A massive Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families published in 2006 showed that exercisers are less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing. A Finnish study of 3,403 people in 1999 showed that those who exercise at least two to three times a week experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and “cynical distrust” than those who exercise less or not at all.

Don’t like exercise? Then you’re doing the wrong kind.

Running, lifting weights, playing any sport… Find something you enjoy that gets you moving.

(For more on how sweating can increase smiling — and make you smarter too — click here.)

Okay, time to head to work. What’s the best thing to do when you start the day? It’s not about you — but it will make you happier.

4) The Five Minute Favor

Who lives to a ripe old age? Not those who get the most help, ironically it’s those who give the most help.

Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

And a great way to do that without taking up too much time is Adam Rifkin’s “5 Minute Favor”:

Every day, do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of this thing you do should be that it makes a big difference to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or broadcast on social media.

So take five minutes to do something that is minor for you but would provide a big benefit to someone else.

It’s good karma — and science shows that, in some ways, karma is quite real.

Yes, some who do a lot for others get taken advantage of. But as Adam Grant of Wharton has shown, givers also succeed more:

Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are over-represented not only at the bottom, but also at the top of most success metrics.

(For more on the best way to get happier by being a giver, click here.)

Alright, you have to start work for the day. Ugh. But there are ways that work can make you happier too.

5) Life Is A Game, And So Is Work

Like the research shows, the happiest people have goals.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

In his studies, the psychologist Jonathan Freedman claimed that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves—both short-term and long-term—are happier. The University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized don’t just activate positive feelings—they also suppress negative emotions such as fear and depression.

Many of us feel like work can be boring or annoying but the research shows many of us are actually happier at work than at home. Why?

Challenges. And we reach that state of “flow” only when a challenge presents itself. So how can work make us happier?

Three research-backed things to try:

  1. To the degree you can, do things you’re good at. We’re happier when we exercise our strengths.
  2. Make note of your progress. Nothing is more motivating than progress.
  3. Make sure to see the results of your work. This gives meaning to most any activity.

(For more on getting happier by setting goals click here.)

Enough work. You’ve got some free time. But what’s the happiest way to use your free time?

6) Friends Get Appointments Too

You have mandatory meetings in your schedule but not mandatory time with friends? Absurd.

One study says that as much as 70% of happiness comes from your relationships with other people.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

Why does church make people so happy? Studies show it has nothing to do with religion — it’s about the socializing. It’s scheduled friend time.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

And if you have the cash, pay for dinner with a friend. Money definitely can make you happier — when you spend it on other people.

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves — even though there were no differences between the groups at the beginning of the day. And it turns out that the amount of money people found in their envelopes — $5 or $20 — had no effect on their happiness at the end of the day. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got.

Harvard professor and author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter SpendingMichael Norton explains in his TED talk.

Don’t have the cash for that? No problem. Take turns paying. Duke professor Dan Ariely says this brings more happiness than always paying half.

(For more on how to have happy friendships click here.)

What’s the final thing happy people have in common? They cope with adversity. So what should we do when life gets tough?

7) Find Meaning In Hard Times

Research shows that a happy life and a meaningful life are not necessarily the same thing.

It’s hard to be happy when tragedy strikes. But who lives longer and fares better after problems? Those who find benefit in their struggles.

Via The How of Happiness:

For example, in one study researchers interviewed men who had had heart attacks between the ages of thirty and sixty. Those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened—for example, believing that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life, or resolved to create less hectic schedules for themselves—were less likely to have recurrences and more likely to be healthy eight years later. In contrast, those who blamed their heart attacks on other people or on their own emotions (e.g., having been too stressed) were now in poorer health.

In many cases, Nietzsche was right: what does not kill us can make us stronger.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. In the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before… In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three— raped, tortured, and held captive for example— were stronger than those who had two.

So when you face adversity, always ask what you can learn from it.

(For more on how to make your life more meaningful — without terrible tragedy —  click here.)

See that? I took the eight things happy people do and squeezed them into just seven habits. You can thank me later.

Now how do we tie all of these happiness boosters together?

Sum up

If you want every day to be happier try including these seven things in your schedule:

  1. Wake Up And Say ARG!
  2. Savor Your Morning Coffee
  3. Sweat Your Way To Joy
  4. Do A Five Minute Favor
  5. Make Work A Game
  6. Friends Get Appointments Too
  7. Find Meaning In Hard Times

We’re all quick to say happiness is the most important thing … and then we schedule everything but the things that make us happiest. Huh?

So what’s going to make you happy today? Have you thought about it? Is it on your calendar?

Reading happiness information is useless trivia unless you use it and you won’t use it unless it’s part of your routine.

If happiness is the most important thing then make it the most important thing.

Join over 330,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Don’t Settle Down Until You Find Someone As Weird As You

Author Article

Don't Settle Down Until You Find Someone As Weird As You

Don’t settle for someone who is always nudging you to be quiet, someone who rolls their eyes at your jokes, someone who wishes you would take life more seriously.

Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel bad about being yourself, someone who acts like your interests are immature, someone who does not see the value in the way you are able to go with the flow.

Don’t settle for someone who expects you to tone yourself down out in public, someone who gives you a set of rules over how you are meant to behave, someone who tries to smother the real youunderneath a picture perfect version.

Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel bad about being a weirdo. Date someone who matches your weirdness, who encourages it, who loves you exactly the way you are.

Date someone who admires the fact you are a kid at heart. Date someone who gets your jokes, someone who appreciates the way you make them laugh even in the most inappropriate situations. Date someone who would never change your weirdness because it’s one of the many reasons they’ve fallen in love with you.

Date someone who will build pillow forts and sandcastles and Sim houses with you. Date someone who will come up with their own nonsense words to replace honey and love and sex. Date someone who makes weird jokes, makes weird noises, makes weird movements without a real reason.

Date someone who isn’t afraid of looking like a complete idiot in front of you — and likes you best when you are looking like a complete idiot in front of them.

Don’t settle for someone who wants you to act prim and proper all the time. Don’t settle for someone who teases you about how childish you are. Don’t settle for someone who thinks being a mature adult means being bland and boring.

Your forever person is not going to bat an eye when you act like a complete weirdo. They are going to get used to your quirks. They are going to understand the way you tick. Even better, they are going to fall in love with your weirdness. They are not going to want you to act normal. They are going to appreciate how utterly, shamelessly strange you are. They are going to be relieved they found someone who is authentic, someone who is unafraid of embracing their true self.

Don’t settle for someone you have to put on an act around. Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel like you have to hold back your weirdness in order to be accepted. Don’t settle for someone who wants a cardboard version of you instead of the real deal.

Don’t settle until you find someone who considers your oddities adorable, someone who laughs along with you, someone who makes you feel accepted. Don’t settle until you find someone you don’t have to worry about scaring away because they are as big a weirdo as you are.

These Are The 10 Happiest And Unhappiest Countries In The World In 2019

Author Article

The 2019 World Happiness Report has been released, and it reveals the countries whose residents say they are the happiest and least happy. The 10 happiest countries are:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Norway
  4. Iceland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Canada
  10. Austria

And the 10 least happy countries are (with 1 being the least happy):

  1. South Sudan
  2. Central African Republic
  3. Afghanistan
  4. Tanzania
  5. Rwanda
  6. Yemen
  7. Malawi
  8. Syria
  9. Botswana
  10. Haiti

The United States placed 19th on the list of happiest countries—down one spot from last year. The world happiness report ranks 156 ranks countries based on a three-year average of surveys taken by Gallup. Factors survey participants are asked to consider include their country’s GDP, social support from friends and family, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceived corruption, and recent emotions, reports Bloomberg. Another factor in the rankings is the effect technology is having on people’s happiness. It found that teens who spent more time with digital devices were less happy.

The major bummer about this year’s list? When you factor in population growth, world happiness has fallen in recent years, the report’s authors found. “The world is a rapidly changing place. How communities interact with each other whether in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, or on social media has profound effects on world happiness,” said professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the 2019 report.

Why Being Near Water Really Does Make Us Happier

Author Article

Every time my brother crosses the Sagamore Bridge from mainland Massachusetts to Cape Cod, we all know where he’s heading: a sandy spot off an ocean road on the Nantucket Sound, home to the little beach club my family has belonged to for more than 30 years. On clear days, you can see the shores of Martha’s Vineyard in the distance. That’s his water.

If you talk to Wallace J Nichols, a marine biologist and the author of Blue Mind, a book about the physical and psychological benefits of water, for long enough, he’ll eventually ask you what your water is. And as it turns out, nearly everyone has an answer.

To Feel Happier At Work, Share ‘The Real You’

Author Article Link

The study examines 65 studies focusing on what happens after people in a workplace disclose a stigmatized identity, such as sexual orientation, mental illness, physical disability, or pregnancy.

Eden King, a coauthor of the study and an associate professor of psychology at Rice University, calls the decision to express a stigmatized identity highly complicated.

“It has the potential for both positive and negative consequences,” she says.

The research overwhelmingly indicates, however, that people with non-visible stigmas (such as sexual orientation or health problems) who live openly at work are happier with their overall lives and more productive in the workplace. Self-disclosure is typically a positive experience because it allows people to improve connections, form relationships with others, and free their minds of unwanted thoughts, King says.

Workers who expressed their non-visible stigmas experienced decreased job anxiety, decreased role ambiguity, improved job satisfaction, and increased commitment to their position. Outside of work, these people reported decreased psychological stress and increased satisfaction with their lives.

But the study found that the same results did not apply to people with visible traits, such as race, gender, and physical disability.

“Identities that are immediately observable operate differently than those that are concealable,” King says. “The same kinds of difficult decisions about whether or not to disclose the identity—not to mention the questions of to whom, how, when, and where to disclose those identities—are probably less central to their psychological experiences.”

Because most people appreciate gaining new information about others, the expression of visible stigmas is likely to have less of an impact, King says.

“Also, people react negatively to those who express or call attention to stigmas that are clearly visible to others, such as race or gender, as this may be seen as a form of advocacy or heightened pride in one’s identity,” she says.

The researchers say more work will help understand the motivations for expressing different stigmas. They say they hope the meta-analysis will help workplaces and policymakers protect individuals with stigmas from discrimination.

The study appears in the Journal of Business and Psychology. Additional coauthors are from Rice University; Texas A&M University; the University of Memphis; Xavier University; Portland State University; and the University of California, Berkeley.

Source: Rice University

The Single Most Important Factor in Leading a Happy, Fulfilling Life—According to Science

Author Article

Working out at the gym got a lot easier the day I realized the sweat served a higher purpose. I’m 43, and have three kids under eight years old, so if I want to be around—healthy and active—for my grandkids, I better put the work in now or face regret later.

Activities that aren’t inherently joyful, like clocking time on a treadmill, get better when done in service of something bigger.

The same can be said of cleaning out one’s closet. Satisfying, yes, but the buzz is too fleeting to be self-sustaining. It’s only when decluttering is reframed as a piece of a larger, more significant puzzle that it sticks.

Without a bigger picture in mind, our actions are often dictated by “What’s more pleasurable in the moment?” rather than “What’s better in the long-term?” In the moment, the consequences of most choices are insignificant. It makes little difference, on a particular day, if you opt to stay on the couch rather than hitting the gym, but over the course of a year, the negative results from this repeated decision will compound.

An intentional life is one marked by long-term thinking that leads to beneficial short-term decision-making. First, decide what you want. Then, decide—every day, in ways big and small—how to get there. Have the ends in mind, and the means will become clear.

Determining the ends, however, is not always easy.

What makes Netflix so appealing—the quantity of programming—also makes it hard to decide what show to watch. The same quandary applies to life, but the stakes are obviously far greater. There are countless ways to live, values to prioritize, and experiences to optimize for. However, because there’s no clear path to follow despite the abundance of options, it’s easy to bounce aimlessly through life like a tumbleweed.

One of the best ways to live a fulfilling, intentional life, and direct one’s actions toward a beneficial end, is to adopt an “ism” operating system. Some “isms,” such as materialism and consumerism, have proven to be harmful and should be avoided. Others, such as minimalism, lead to smart decision-making, contentment, and happiness.

Years ago, when I first stumbled across the notion of minimalism, I bought into the idea that a life with less could lead to more. Like many, I began my journey by eliminating the low hanging fruit of plentiful and obvious excesses from my life. Over time, despite how satisfying purging could be, I came to realize that minimalism is not an end in itself. The process of decluttering, detaching, and deemphasizing materialism is simply a step on the road toward something more significant. Minimalism is a mechanism to create space and time for what really matters.

The Real Secret to Happiness

For thousands of years, people have grappled with the big question of “What really matters?” What, among the many alternative ways we can choose to spend our finite time, will bring us happiness?

Recently, another batch of smart people have attempted to answer these eternal questions, and their conclusion reinforces something that most of us intuit.

According to Harvard’s Grant & Glueck Study, which tracked more than 700 participants over the course of 75 years, the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment comes down to a single factor: the quality of our relationships.

The root of happiness is not money, fame, or good looks—it’s the people we choose to surround ourselves with and how well we nurture our relationships with them.

Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, explained that: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

As with most things in life, when it comes to building good relationships, quality is more important than quantity. Indeed, practicing minimalism is as important in curating relationships as it is in decluttering a closet.

In the 1990s, British anthropologist and researcher Robin Dunbardetermined that we are only capable of having a finite number of people in our social sphere—150 at most—due to the size of our brains. Any more, and it becomes impossible to manage one’s social network. This theory is known as “Dunbar’s Number.”

Dunbar went on to conclude that while we can form, at most, 150 loose relationships, we only have the capacity to form close, meaningful relationships with approximately five individuals.

The takeaways from the Grant & Glueck Study, and Robin Dunbar’s research, are both hopeful and daunting. Hopeful in the sense that our capacity to lead happy, fulfilling lives rests on our capacity to forge close bonds with merely five individuals. Daunting in that most can appreciate the challenge posed by nurturing just one close relationship over a lifetime.

Nonetheless, despite how hard it may be, the reward is worth it. As Booker T. Washington once said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”

The Payoff from Positive Relationships

The benefits of having close, healthy relationships with members of one’s immediate family are self-evident. A safe, secure, and loving family results in happy, independent children and parents who derive the satisfaction of having completed a job well done. The payoff from social and professional relationships may be less obvious, but are no less important. Consider the following historical examples of people leveraging close relationships into meaningful success:

In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris to join a group of expatriate, “Lost Generation” writers, including Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had taken up residence in the Left Bank. They hung out at cafes, argued about politics, caroused late into the nights on the streets of Paris, and produced some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th Century.

In the 1970s, young and brash directors Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Brian De Palma, known as the “Movie Brats,” took Hollywood by storm. They competed, collaborated, shared resources, worked on each other’s films, gave critical feedback, and formed friendships. They transformed an industry because of, not despite, one another.

A “tribe” of inspiring and supportive people can lift you up, hold you accountable, and inspire you to live to your greatest potential. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously observed, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So choose wisely.

Implicit in this principle, of course, is the fact that it works both ways. If you fail to choose wisely, and surround yourself with people who exhibit behaviors and habits that are inconsistent with your own desires, you’ll have a hard time bucking the group’s standards—as unappealing as they may be.

For example, if you desire to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, you’ll be hard pressed to do so if your inner circle consists of couch potato friends who spend their days playing video games and eating junk food. On the other hand, if your friends are physically fit you stand a much greater chance of being fit yourself because the cultural norms of your group will influence your own behavior. Who you spend the most time with is who you are.

Find the Tribe that’s Right for You

Our instincts to fit in have ancient roots. For thousands of years, humans have lived in tribes in which it was essential to conform. To buck the tribe was to be shunned or cast out altogether, leading to great hardship. Modern culture is different, but from fraternities and sororities to sports teams and social groups, tribes still exist and still enforce social norms. Just ask a young college student who is pledging a fraternity whether participating in hazing rituals is optional if you doubt the existence of modern tribes and their codes of social conduct.

In this environment, faced with the expectations of a tribe, you have a few options: (1) conform to the rules of the tribe, (2) resist, or (3) find a new one.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with conforming to a tribe’s social norms—as long as those norms align with your own desires. If you’re living out of alignment with your desired values, and those around you are exemplifying the lifestyle you want to live, then the quickest way to get what you want is to surrender to the group’s standards. But often the opposite is true—you want something different than what the group demands. In this scenario, surrendering to the group is sacrificing the life you desire.

Another option is to resist the group, but this path is perilous. It’s hard enough to change one’s own thoughts and behaviors. Why take on the nearly impossible task of trying to change someone else’s?

The third way is to practice relationship minimalism, which is not always the path of least resistance, but is certainly the path of greatest benefit. Most people enter into relationships too haphazardly, or maintain existing ones by default. They rely on proximity or convenience to guide relationship decision-making, or are gripped by the inertia of the status quo.

Finding the tribe that’s right for you is not always easy. It requires careful consideration. Often it means making difficult decisions to part ways with those who don’t align with your values. But isn’t the payoff of lifelong happiness and fulfillment worth it?

There are people out there who can bring real joy to your life, who you can share meaningful experiences with, and who will be there to lift you up when you need it. Cultivate a tribe in which your desired behavior is the normal behavior. Surround yourself with people who are leading lives you want to live.

Here’s how:

First, use minimalism to shed the extraneous excesses that clutter your home and your mind. Cast aside harmful “isms” that are detracting, not adding, value to your life and the lives of those around you. This will create the space and time necessary to tackle life’s more important issues.

Second, leverage your newfound mental bandwidth to think deeply about how you want to live your life. How do you want to spend your time? What makes you happy? What kind of person do you want to be?

Third, make the hard decisions necessary to part ways with toxic people in your life, and scale back ambivalent relationships to make room for new, better aligned ones.

Fourth, find people who exemplify the values and lifestyles you aspire to. Clusters of such people may already have found each other and formed groups—from book clubs to biking groups—centered around the activities and experiences that are consistent with your desires. Begin to engage.

Fifth, take frequent, consistent steps to strengthen budding relationships with members of your newfound tribe. Show up. Give back. Express gratitude. Let your guard down. Be generous. Find your people, then never take them for granted. You’ll become a transformed and better person when you surround yourself with people who push, prod, and encourage you to reach new heights.

Give of yourself to others who inspire you and a delightful thing will happen: you’ll get so much more than you could ever imagine in return.

***

Jay Harrington blogs at Life and Whim where he offers insights and inspiration about how to live a life full of more First Moments.

The Most Important Ingredient For True Happiness

Author Article

One of the benefits of being both ambitious and obsessive/compulsive is how such qualities can accelerate your career success.I spent over twenty-six years in the law enforcement profession. I promoted quickly through the ranks due to my work ethic, which was drilled into me by my father.


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering HappinessProductivityJob SatisfactionNeuroscience, and more!


“Get to work early, stay late, and always do a little more than everyone else,” my Dad used to say.

I took his advice and in sixteen short years went from rookie police officer to chief of police.

There’s no question that ambition and relentless drive can lead to results, but there are always unwanted consequences.

I was a workaholic. There were important family events I missed. The stress started to take a toll on my health, leading to anxiety and panic attacks. Despite a handsome salary and career prestige, I was never truly happy.

“I used to be a classic workaholic, and after seeing how little work and career really mean when you reach the end of your life, I put a new emphasis on things I believe count more. These things include: family, friends, being part of a community, and appreciating the little joys of the average day.” — Mitch Albom

Artwork by John P. Weiss

Fortunately, my doctor came to the rescue. He started to ask about my artwork, and how often I made time for it. A certified Hakomi psychotherapist, my doctor was able to drill down and help me overcome the anxiety and panic attacks.

I started saying no to new commitments, carved out more time for family, focused on helping others more, and made my artwork a priority.

I was happier not because I put myself first, but because I balanced out work, family time, helping others and my artwork. There was now a sweet spot in my life.

The answer is virtue

The author Edith Hall wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal based on her book, “Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life”. Hall examines Aristotle’s perspective on happiness, which probably differs from most of our views.

Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, wrote about “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” American culture often focuses on the holy trinity of wealth, pleasure and fame. Hollywood entertainment largely revolves around these things. But do they really make us happier?

Aristotle would agree that a good life includes happiness, but not happiness based on wealth, pleasure or fame.

Aristotle lived and worked among the Macedonian royal family, who were the elites. He watched their “conspicuous consumption,” lavish lifestyles, and petty plots against one another.

Edith Hall, commenting on wealth, pleasure and fame seekers:

“Such people spend their lives acquiring material possessions or seeking sensory gratification, but on some level they know that these pursuits aren’t conducive to true happiness.”

Consider the glitterati of today’s entertainment industry. How many Hollywood icons succumb to drugs, alcohol, serial divorces, and public squabbles? Despite tremendous wealth and fame, many celebrities appear to be unhappy.

Edith Hall adds:

“Aristotle saw that these seemingly fortunate members of the elite were actually miserable. Such people spend their lives acquiring material possessions or seeking sensory gratification, but on some level they know that these pursuits aren’t conducive to true happiness. They may even recognize the right thing to do, but they are too weak or lazy to act on it.”

So, what’s the right thing to do? If being a workaholic and focusing on wealth, pleasure and fame won’t bring lasting happiness, what will?

According to Aristotle, the answer is virtue. Living our lives by the highest moral and ethical standards. This sometimes means bypassing immediate gain or pleasure for a higher good, but in the end, this will lead to a happier life.

The best possible version of yourself

Aristotle analyzed a wide range of human traits, from courage and anger to how we treat one another and regard money. He argued that we should strive for the mean between extremes.

According to the Wall Street Journal article:

“All of us possess these properties, and happiness comes from cultivating each one in the correct amount, so that it is a virtue (arete) rather than a vice.”

What does all this mean? Namely, that you should pursue a virtuous life. Acknowledge the best and worst in yourself, and strike a balance.

Hone your habits of generosity, integrity, fairness, and kindness. Find the sweet spot in your life, focusing on family, helping others, and your passions.

Edith Hall summed it up this way:

“Real happiness, Aristotle believed, comes from a continuous effort to become the best possible version of yourself.”

The other night, I was tempted to spend the evening working on new articles that might earn me some money. The drive to get ahead still courses through my thoughts and efforts.

Thankfully, I decided to visit my disabled, elderly mother instead. When you’re 85 years old with advanced Parkinson’s disease, any family visit is a blessing. It made me feel good to visit her.

After the visit, I returned to my art studio and crafted the landscape painting above this article. I didn’t paint it for money or fame. I painted it for the same reason that I visited my mother: to invest in the best possible version of myself.

How about you? Why not invest in the best possible version of yourself? Make more time for family. Help others. Strike a balance between work and passions. Pursue a virtuous life. Do these things, and a deeper sense of contentment will wash over you.

True happiness doesn’t come from wealth, pleasure or fame. Rather, it comes from an internal state of mind, anchored in the contentment only attained by living life in the best way possible.

Before you go

I’m John P. Weiss. I paint landscapes, draw cartoons and write about life. Thanks for reading!

This article first appeared in Medium

The 1 Key Word To Happiness

Author Article

We all want to be happy. That’s obvious. But how much would people pay for a moment of happiness?Researchers did a survey — and the answer was about $80.


Other than pure love and dodging discomfort, people were willing to pay the most for happiness.

Via The Upside of Your Dark Side:

  • $ 44.30 for calm tranquility,
  • $ 62.80 for excitement,
  • $ 79.06 for happiness,
  • $ 83.27 to avoid fear,
  • $ 92.80 to avoid sadness,
  • $ 99.81 to avoid embarrassment,
  • $ 106.26 to avoid regret,
  • $ 113.55 for love.

(Suddenly heroin is looking pretty cheap, and Starbucks is an absolute steal.)

At $80 a shot, well, I’m about to save you a lot of money.

What’s it take to become happy very quickly without dramatically changing your life (or spending $80)? The key to happiness really comes down to one word:

Attention.

We all have regrets and worries. We all have bad things we could think about. But they don’t bother us when we pay them no mind. The Buddha once said:

We are what we think.  All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.

And research is agreeing with him. People always think more money or a better this or that — a thing or event — is going to make them happier.

But when we look at the data, very happy people don’t experience more happy events than less happy people.

Via 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior:

Ed Diener and Martin Seligman screened over 200 undergraduates for levels of happiness, and compared the upper 10% (the “extremely happy”) with the middle and bottom 10%. Extremely happy students experienced no greater number of objectively positive life events, like doing well on exams or hot dates, than did the other two groups (Diener & Seligman, 2002).

So it’s not really what happens. It’s what you pay attention to and the perspective you take on things. “Look on the bright side” is a cliche, but it’s also scientifically valid.

Paul Dolan teaches at the London School of Economics and was a visiting scholar at Princeton where he worked with Nobel-Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

He explains the importance of attention in his book, Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think:

Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drives your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways. If you are not as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention… So changing behavior and enhancing happiness is as much about withdrawing attention from the negative as it is about attending to the positive.

Make sense, right? So how can you and I put this to use?

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself about attention that can have a profound affect on your happiness.

Are you actually paying attention?

“Savoring” is a powerful method for boosting happiness. It’s also ridiculously simple:

Next time something good happens, stop whatever you are doing, give it a second and appreciate that moment. Pay attention to it.

Savoring is all about attention. Focus on the bad, you’ll feel bad. Focus on the good and… guess what happens?

Via Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth:

The key component to effective savoring is focused attention. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.

“Stopping to smell the roses”? It’s true. People who take time to appreciate beauty around them really are happier.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12 percent more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives.

This isn’t speculation. Studies show slowing down and appreciating good things boosts happiness and reduces depression.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

In one set of studies, depressed participants were invited to take a few minutes once a day to relish something that they usually hurry through (e.g., eating a meal, taking a shower, finishing the workday, or walking to the subway). When it was over, they were instructed to write down in what ways they had experienced the event differently as well as how that felt compared with the times when they rushed through it. In another study, healthy students and community members were instructed to savor two pleasurable experiences per day, by reflecting on each for two or three minutes and trying to make the pleasure last as long and as intensely as possible. In all these studies those participants prompted to practice savoring regularly showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.

Do one thing at a time. Pay attention. Enjoy it. You’ll feel less busy and you’ll be happier.

(For more on how to savor those precious good moments in life, click here.)

Okay, you’re going to pay more attention. But maybe that’s not your problem. You might be paying attention to the wrong things.

What are you paying attention to?

Why are lawyers 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to end up divorced?

Training your mind to look for errors and problems (as happens in careers like accounting and law) makes you miserable.

Via One Day University Presents: Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness (Harvard’s Most Popular Course):

I discovered the tax auditors who are the most successful sometimes are the ones that for eight to 14 hours a day were looking at tax forms, looking for mistakes and errors. This makes them very good at their job, but when they started leading their teams or they went home to their spouse at night, they would be seeing all the lists of mistakes and errors that were around them. Two of them told me they came home with a list of the errors and mistakes that their wife was making.

Don’t pay so much attention to the bad. Pay more attention to the good. Stop looking for problems. Enjoy what you have.

Gratitude is arguably the king of happiness. What’s the research say? Can’t be more clear than this:

…the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

You must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Research shows merely listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”

This technique has been proven again and again and again. One of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad.

And feeling gratitude doesn’t just make you happier. It’s correlated with an objectively better life:

…we found that gratitude, controlling for materialism, uniquely predicts all outcomes considered: higher grade point average, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption, as well as lower envy and depression.

(For more on how to use gratitude to improve your life, click here.)

Now I know what many of you may be thinking: I agree, but my attention span is terrible.

Well, we can do something about that too.

Can you pay attention?

You spend up to 8 minutes of every hour daydreaming. Your mind will probably wander for 13% of the time it takes you to read this post. Some of us spend 30-40% of our time daydreaming.

Via The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You):

Do you remember what the previous paragraph was about? It’s OK, I’m not offended. Chances are that your mind will wander for up to eight minutes for every hour that you spend reading this book. About 13 percent of the time that people spend reading is spent not reading, but daydreaming or mind-wandering. But reading, by comparison to other things we do, isn’t so badly affected by daydreaming. Some estimates put the average amount of time spent daydreaming at 30 to 40 percent.

As Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, explained in the Harvard Gazette, a wandering mind is not a happy mind:

People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

This is why you keep hearing so much about mindfulness these days. Meditation can help you train your attention. A 2011 Yale study showed:

Experienced meditators seem to switch off areas of the brain associated with wandering thoughts, anxiety and some psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Researchers used fMRI scans to determine how meditators’ brains differed from subjects who were not meditating. The areas shaded in blue highlight areas of decreased activity in the brains of meditators.

(For more on the easiest way to learn how to meditate, click here.)

Another issue may be that you’re not really noticing what truly makes you happy and unhappy. It’s a common mistake. But one we can fix.

Are you paying attention to what makes you happy and what doesn’t?

When something makes you really happy, jot it down. Then do that thing more often. Daniel Nettle jokingly refers to this as “Pleasant Activity Training.”

Via Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile:

This staggeringly complex technique consists of determining which activities are pleasant, and doing them more often.

Yeah, it’s stupidly simple. But as Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker explained in my interview with her, you probably don’t do it:

…people who spend more time on projects that energize them and with people who energize them tend to be happier.  However, what is interesting is that there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend their time. For example, if you ask people to list the projects that energize (vs. deplete) them, and what people energize (vs. deplete) them, and then monitor how they actually spend their time, you find a large percentage know what projects and people energize them, but do not in fact spend much time on those projects and with those people.

(For more of the things research has proven will make you happier, click here.)

Okay, time to bring out the big guns. This is something you can do at any moment to make yourself happier. And all it takes is asking yourself one question.

Are you paying attention to what’s going on right now?

You probably spend a fair amount of time worrying about the future, regretting the past or reliving an argument that ended long ago.

And that means you’re not paying attention to what’s happening right now. None of those negative things are actually occurring here in front of you. If you were focused on right now, bang, you’d be happier.

When happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky studied the happiest people, what did she find?

They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.

That thing you’re making yourself miserable about: is it here, right now, in front of you? Or are you projecting into the future or the past? Pay attention to the present and you’ll probably feel much better.

(For more on what makes the happiest people in the world so happy, click here.)

Still paying attention? Let’s wrap this up.

Sum up

Most people don’t do anything to make themselves happier.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life:

Researchers found that the majority of the subjects they studied were not able to identify anything they had done recently to try to increase their happiness or life satisfaction.

Be the exception. It’s simple. Try shifting your attention to the good around you.

Worrying about the future or dwelling on the past or letting your mind wander is a prescription for unhappiness. Those things aren’t in front of you and they’re not real. As Mark Twain once said:

I have had a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

According to some scientific studies, the ability to see life on the right or wrong side is linked to the gene of happiness. This gene regulates in particular the circulation of serotonin the hormone of good humour. Why should you embrace your emotions?People with the long form of this gene are more predisposed to happiness…

via The gene of happiness — Topics with Passion