So many people have tried to define happiness. Writers, poets, musicians, and philosophers throughout time have tackled the topic. So why am I joining the discussion? Thinking recently about happiness and the impact of external events on one’s happiness I wondered what research might show.
Well, research shows that approximately half of your level of happiness — what psychologists call your happiness set-point — is determined by hereditary personality traits. Maybe that’s good news for you, maybe it’s bad. But you can also look at this as meaning half of your happiness is within your control.
You can’t control your genetics, and you have some, but not total, control over your circumstances, but your habits – what you do on a regular basis – can increase your “subjective level of happiness.” Here are some things you should try to do on a regular basis:
Focus on staying positive, not being happy.
Happiness is tricky. People like to feel happy, but if that’s your focus, times when you’re not happy feel like failure. Focus on positivity instead. Look for ways to feel and stay positive. Then when things happen, work to turn stress or anxiety into action – think “how can I turn this into a positive?” You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.
Get some time in nature.
This recommendation is no surprise – nature is good for you. But to put some parameters on it, research has shown that spending two hours per week outdoors can significantly improve overall well-being. And it doesn’t matter if that’s two hours all at once or several shorter outings. If mobility is an issue, even sitting outside is beneficial.
Buy a little time.
People who occasionally pay other people to perform tasks they don’t enjoy – cleaning, errands, yardwork, etc. – are happier and feel greater overall life satisfaction than people who do not. Really! This is backed up by research. The key to buying time is to consciously decide how you will use the time your money is buying. Instead of cleaning, use that time to connect with friends, or workout. Or instead of running errands, get your nature time for the week. Just do something you want to do with that time.
Focus a little more on your friends.
There is a real psychological payoff to making real – not just professional or social – friends. Increasing your number of friends – again, based on research – leads to high subjective well-being. So, make sure you’re spending some quality time with friends and get out there and meet some new friends. Science says it will make you happier.
Happiness and well-being are such an important part of a great life. Knowing you have some control over your level of happiness is so empowering! If you’re not already doing the things listed, try to incorporate them into your routine. And most importantly, recognize your happiness. In the words of author William Feather, “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications