After decades of focusing on topics like depression and anxiety, psychology has finally turned its attention to a sunnier subject – that of happiness. It’s about time.
Getting serious about getting happy is important to our mental and physical well-being. Those who view life looking on the sunny side of things are healthier, more successful, have more fun in the sack, plus they enjoy longer lives (a reported 19 per cent longer).
The new science of happiness, also known as positive psychology, has become a respected discipline, with top universities now employing professors of happiness and solid research being published in its own medical journal, The Journal of Happiness Studies.
The subject’s new street cred has helped remove the stigma around the pursuit of happiness. It used to be viewed by some that working towards a goal of attaining more joy in your life was a selfish pursuit. For example, in Japan, striving for personal happiness is somewhat frowned upon because the emphasis there is on the well-being of society as a whole. Now, we know that striving for it is part of routine self-care.
With that in mind, consider these pathways to finding your bliss…
- Keep a gratitude journal. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirksy from University of
California,Riverside found that people recorded the things for which they were grateful each day over a six-week period had greater life satisfaction.
2. Make the connection to others. Researchers have found that nearly everyone feels happier when they are with other people.
3. Talk it out. A Time magazine poll showed that the top tactic for improving mood is chatting with friends or family.
4. Have a little faith. There’s scientific evidence that suggests that those who practice some sort of religion are happier and can cope better with very stressful conditions. The belief is that religion allows you to see the world in a positive way.
5. Come out of your shell. Acting extroverted (even when you don’t feel like you really are) makes people happier, than behaving like a wallflower. However, in prison, introverts are happier than extroverts, according to one Austrian study.
6. Here’s to your health. Sociological research Glenn Firebaugh from Pennsylvania State University found physical health was the best single predictor of happiness.
7. Make more money than your peers. Firebaugh also look at income levels and discovered that a person’s reported level of happiness had a lot to do with how his or her income stacked up against others in a similar age group.
8. Get moving. Physical activity, whether it’s dancing or having sex, boosts your happy quotient – temporarily at least.
9. See the glass as half full. In addition to being happier, optimism has been linked to good physical health, longer life, and less depression and mental illness.
10. Get married (for a while anyway). Many studies confirm that those who are married are happier than those living the single life. Yet the mood boost are being a couple only lasts for a year and then returns to regular pre-marriage levels.
11. Give a little. A study of 3,617 people found that happy people were more likely to do volunteer work, plus they became even more cheery the more they lent a helping hand.
12. Embrace the notion of aging gracefully. Some research has demonstrated that older folks are just as happy as young people, and often happier. The theory is that, as we age, we are more realistic about goals and are able to set ones that are achievable.
13. Forget about fame and fortune. Adults who focused on money and image tended to have less enthusiasm for life and suffered more physical ailments.
14. Be master of your domain. Swiss studies suggest that being in control of your life leads to greater contentment.
15. Harness your power. Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, suggests that lasting happiness comes from figuring out your strengths (such as kindness and capacity for love), then discovering the best way to use them.
16. Kid stuff. A Time magazine survey found that for 35 per cent of respondents said that kids or grandchildren were their top source of happiness.
17. Laugh and giggle. A good chuckle helps reduce stress and outs the brakes on potentially harmful hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline.