Science Says Do These 11 Things Every Single Day to be HAPPIER.
Try them. They work.
Obviously we all want to be happier. But there's another reason to wish to be more light-hearted and content: happiness is definitely a result, but happiness is also a driver.
While I'm definitely into finding ways to improve personal productivity (whether a of output, of increased effectiveness, or ), probably the best way to be more productive is to just be happier.
Happy people accomplish more.
Easier said than done though, right?
Smiling can make us feel better, but it's more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to :
(You've seen fake smiles that don't reach the person's eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There's a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.)
A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:
Think exercise is something you don't have time for? Think again. Check out from . That's a workout any of us can fit into our schedules.
Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it is an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor's book , three groups of patients treated their depression with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two.
The results of this study are surprising: Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels early on, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:
You don't have to be depressed to benefit from exercise, though. Exercise can help you relax, increase your brain power, and even improve your body image, even if you don't lose any weight.
We've explored , and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier.
A found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes:
Yep: Even if your actual appearance doesn't change, how you about your body does change.
We know that and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.
The BPS Research Digest explores that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task throughout the course of a day, researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger.
Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day.
And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees performed how well they performed it.
If you want more evidence that time with friends is beneficial for 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. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel.
George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.
He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at on how men's social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:
I think that last line is especially fascinating: "Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness." So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as we would if we increased the strength of our social relationships.
The Terman study, covered in , found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:
This is good news for those of us who worry about fitting new habits into already busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.
The published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that ), so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.
One of the most counter intuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the in order to enrich our lives.
If we go back to Shawn Achor's book again, he says this about helping others:
So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. But what about spending our time on other people?
In his book , University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:
As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness.
A study published in the journal showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the sense of anticipation:
Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:
If you can't take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar -- even if it's a month or a year down the road.
Then, whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.
Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity, and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it's also useful for :
Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it's been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. According to Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:
The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn't permanent.
Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to commute twice a day at least five days a week makes it unsurprising that the effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.
According to , having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:
Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, "Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day."
We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don't work:
This is a seemingly simple strategy, but one I've found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you're grateful for, with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.
In where participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:
The Journal of Happiness studies that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:
There's still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have a few ideas:
Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods -- for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and focus their goals on greater wellbeing.
So if you thought getting old will make you miserable, it's likely you'll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.
How cool is that?
-By Jeff Haden
Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, and contributing editor for He learned much of what he knows about business and technology working his way up to managing a 250-employee book plant; everything else he picks up as a ghostwriter for innovators and business leaders. He's written more than 50 nonfiction books, including six Amazon Business and Investing No. 1's, along with hundreds of articles and reports. And he's collected four years of tips and advice in his book