10 Things You Should Do Every Day To Improve Your Life, According To Science

Ladders Article

These are the 10 things that scientific research shows can help improve your life.

1. Get out in nature

You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’s research that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.

2. Exercise

We all know how important this is, but few people do it consistently. Other than health benefits too numerous to mention, exercise makes you smarterhappier, improves sleepincreases libidoand makes you feel better about your body. A Harvard study that has tracked a group of men for more than 70 years identified it as one of the secrets to a good life.

3. Spend time with friends and family

Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified this as one of the biggest sources of happiness in our lives. Relationships are worth more than you think (approximately an extra $131,232 a year.) Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

The longest lived people on the planet all place a strong emphasis on social engagement and good relationships are more important to a long life than even exerciseFriends are key to improving your lifeShare good news and enthusiastically respond when others share good news with you to improve your relationships. Want to instantly be happier? Do something kind for them.

4. Express gratitude

It will make you happier.

It will improve your relationships.

It can make you a better person.

It can make life better for everyone around you.

5. Meditate

Meditation can increase happinessmeaning in life, social support and attention span while reducing anger, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Along similar lines, prayer can make you feel better — even if you’re not religious.

6. Get enough sleep

You can’t cheat yourself on sleep and not have it affect you. Being tired actually makes it harder to be happy. Lack of sleep = more likely to get sick. “Sleeping on it” does improve decision making. Lack of sleep can make you more likely to behave unethically. There is such a thing as beauty sleep.

Naps are great too. Naps increase alertness and performance on the job, enhance learning abilityand purge negative emotions while enhancing positive ones. Here’s how to improve your naps.

7. Challenge yourself

Learning another language can keep your mind sharp. Music lessons increase intelligence. Challenging your beliefs strengthens your mind. Increasing willpower just takes a little effort each day and it’s more responsible for your success than IQ. Not getting an education or taking advantage of opportunities are two of the things people look back on their lives and regret the most.

8. Laugh

People who use humor to cope with stress have better immune systems, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, experience less pain during dental work and live longer. Laughter should be like a daily vitamin. Just reminiscing about funny moments can improve your relationship. Humor has many benefits.

9. Touch someone

Touching can reduce stress, improve team performance, and help you be persuasive. Hugs make you happier. Sex may help prevent heart attacks and cancer, improve your immune system and extend your life.

10. Be optimistic

Optimism can make you healthierhappier and extend your life. The Army teaches it in order to increase mental toughness in soldiers. Being overconfident improves performance.

This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree

 

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.

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This article first appeared on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Life in 6 Short Days

Author Article

CREDIT: Getty Images

Want to improve your life? Considering that we spend more waking hours at work than we do at home, it would make sense to gain an edge over both our professional and personal lives.

For work, I glean wisdom from Steve Jobs and science to help us keep more focused and productive.

For improving one’s personal life, I called on Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and science to help us frame our lives with what’s most important.

Let’s look at both sides of the life-improvement coin, starting with your work life. Which of these habits can you start putting into play this week to elevate your game and be more productive?

1. Focus on doing the things that truly matter.

If you’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of overwork with an endless to-do list that won’t go away, try this to keep your sanity: Only do the things that create value in your life.

This prophetic quote by Steve Jobs 22 years ago hits the nail on the head. Here’s what he said at an Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Without focus, your very ability to think, reason, and make decisions will naturally suffer. You just can’t maximize your efficiency or go into a state of flow if your mind is wandering off in 1,000 directions.

2. Work in intervals.

Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, co-authors of Peak Performancediscovered that what separates great performers is how they practice “with full attention, focused on high-quality work, and in chunks of 60 to 90 minutes separated by short breaks.”

In their research, Stulberg and Magness found plenty of evidence that adopting an interval-based approach to productivity isn’t just for gifted artists, jocks, and docs and other brainy types. It can transform the workplace for employees as well.

In one study, the most productive people apply the rule of 52 and 17: They spend 52 minutes engrossed in their work and then break for 17 minutes before getting back to work.

3. Master your morning routine.

You arrive at the office and, as if on cue, distractions start to pile up and fires need to be put out. If that sounds familiar, productivity psychologist Melissa Gratias recommends this morning routine the moment you sit down at your desk.

  • Map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your day. What do you need to do to start the day well, and how much time should you allocate to each task?
  • Avoid jumping into email. Once you open your inbox, you may be sucked into a whirlpool of others’ needs. Do this last, even toward the end of the day.
  • Minimize interruptions. Mute your phone and make sure your email notifications are off. Schedule morning huddles rather than interrupting others (or being interrupted).
  • Avoid tasks that steal your productivity. Your “opening ritual” is a time to look at your calendar, update your to-do list, note your top priorities for the day, and clear off your desk.

Here’s the other side of the coin. Did you ever consider how these life strategies could drastically improve your outlook and put you on the path you’ve always imagined?

1. Measure your success in life by one word: love.

In Warren Buffett’s biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, Buffett lays down sage advice counterintuitive to most of us:

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.

That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.

The third-richest person on the planet says the most important lesson and “the ultimate test” of a life well-lived has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the most powerful emotion a human being can feel: love.

2. Treasure your friendships.

If you’re not aware, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are really close. Gates once said the biggest lessons he’s learned from Buffett over the years are more personal than dollars and cents. And the most important thing he’s learned from Buffett over 25 years?

What friendship is really all about.

Gates writes, “It’s about being the kind of friend you wish you had yourself. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend who is as thoughtful and kind as Warren. He goes out of his way to make people feel good about themselves and share his joy about life. To this day, every time I go to Omaha (which I try to do whenever I can), Warren still drives out to the airport to pick me up.”

Who are your true friends? Whom can you really count on in crisis or when the chips are down? Those are the friends you should treasure for life. Just remember: It’s a two-way street.

3. Give.

We’ve all heard the cliché that it’s better to give than to receive. Now science says the very act of giving away your money leads to more happiness. But there’s a catch.

Harvard Business School report concluded that the emotional rewards of giving are the greatest when our generosity is connected to others.

In other words, donating to an unfamiliar and anonymous charity doesn’t raise your happiness levels as much as contributing to a cancer-stricken friend’s GoFundMe campaign does.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development​, strongly suggest that “social giving” makes people happier, plain and simple.

This was the first study of its kind to examine how social connection helps turn generous “prosocial” behavior — the type that benefits another person — into positive feelings for the donor.

The bottom line? It’s the social connection tied to the giving that gives the giver the greatest psychological benefit and boost of happiness.

03 Snowboarding & Suicide Series: How I Used Snowboarding As A Framework To Effectively Set Goals.

Can anyone relate to the feeling of having a semblance of structure in your life but if we’re being real it is a fucking shitshow? You want to improve but deciding where to start is so overwhelming that you just freeze, get back in bed and turn on the TV and tell yourself tomorrow you’ll figure it out.

Every single resource you read about setting goals and effectively executing them will say not to overwhelm yourself with a million new changes at once. This is something that I 100% agree with, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am someone with constant anxiety who overthinks every goddamn thing that comes my way and I was lost as to where to start.

One day, it hit me. This is the beginning of the journey I am on that showed me that snowboarding is my therapy, my rehabilitation while I learn how to want to be alive again.

Here is how it started. I hate exercising and don’t at all devote energy to it unless I decide to take my pup on a walk. When I was younger, I was involved in sports but as I got older it just didn’t matter to me. I was naturally thin and a stoner with a good metabolism so I have the best of both words. Snowboarding is the one thing I actually will push my body to get up & grind for. I always had the goal of going snowboarding more every year, but I was either living in New Orleans during undergrad, or living on Cape Cod where the closest mountains are 2.5-3 hours away.

Now, I live in Portland, Oregon. Mount Hood is an hour to an hour and a half away, open YEAR ROUND, has lift ticket deals regularly, and suddenly I really had no excuse to NOT try to actually do what I have been saying I would for years, and hit the slopes more. I was happy at this realization but then it hit me that while it took days to come up with, and sort of randomly came to me one day, the concept itself seemed easy enough to be able to relay to others.

I am not trying to become a pro snowboarder//
*Rather, snowboarding is what clears my mind & is a healthy hobby that I can focus on for FUN, happiness, and a foundation for my goals.

So, I started with the fact that I have a shitload of things in my life I would like to improve. From health & wellness, to diet, finances, being more organized, exploring Oregon more, creativity, relationships, self-care the list goes on… it was a lot. When I decided that SNOWBOARDING would be the sort of “umbrella term” on my goal planning strategy, all of the other aspects fell into place.

If you choose an umbrella term type goal like I did, one that takes a little more effort than just doing 4 minutes of jogging a day (which is still an accomplishment, don’t get me wrong, just not enough to set up a blueprint for a life changed by reaching your goals.

If I accomplish my goal of going to the mountain more & improving my skills on a snowboard, I would have to do a few things to do it well and efficiently, and these things happen to fall under the categories that I wanted to improve in overall.

For instance:
1) Health/Wellness/Fitness: If I was going to be able to snowboard more frequently & improve my skills then I would need to be both healthy & improve my physical strength & stamina.
2) Diet & Nutrition: How can I be healthy, fit, and well without a healthy and nutritious diet?
3) Finances: I can’t waste money on delivery & late night Amazon prime shopping if I am budgeting for this new healthy goal plan.
4) Organization: Checking & keeping track of days with reduced lift ticket prices and ensure I clear my schedule that day. If it is a set day of the week, I must be sure to request work off and get my gear ready.
5) Exploring Oregon: There are three different resort sites within 2 hours of my house – that’s exploring in my book!
6) Relationships: I can see if any friends want to join me, or make some friends at the lodge because if all goes as planned, I will be there often!
7) Self-Care: I have been looking for a healthy and exciting way to practice self-care and since the ONLY FREAKING SINGULAR TIME I can shut the overthinking off and be in the moment is on the mountain, this is a perfect fit!!!
8) Creativity: I started this blog because of how much inspiration I felt when snowboarding became the impetus to me jumpstarting my life. I have already begun to integrate riskier little tricks and things on the mountain, which I hope to continue. Lastly, my love of photography has become a part of my life again since the views are insane up there.

By finding one activity that brings me joy, something I already had the gear and experience for, and something that is completely possible with just slight tweaks and positive changes to accomplish, I was able to hit all of my categories of goals without feeling stressed out.

I know that snowboarding won’t be everyone’s thing, but I encourage y’all to give it a thought for a second. I have to say the moment this thought became clearer to me I truly felt a weight lift off my shoulders and I finally felt like I had a direction to head in.

Stay Weird Guys 🙂

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