Habits to Make You Happier

By Tony5657 Latest Reply 2012-12-24 18:58:52 -0600
Started 2012-12-23 05:30:06 -0600

Happiness is the only true measure of personal success. Making other people happy is the highest expression of success, but it's almost impossible to make others happy if you're not happy yourself.

With that in mind, here are nine small changes that you can make to your daily routine that, if you're like most people, will immediately increase the amount of happiness in your life:

1. Start each day with expectation.

If there's any big truth about life, it's that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: "something wonderful is going to happen today." Guess what? You're probably right.

2. Take time to plan and prioritize.

The most common source of stress is the perception that you've got too much work to do. Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

I'm not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.

4. Deflect partisan conversations.

Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can't control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt."

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can't read minds, you don't really know the "why" behind the "what" that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people's weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

6. Eat high quality food slowly.

Sometimes we can't avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.

7. Let go of your results.

The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you've taken action, there's usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.

8. Turn off "background" TV.

Many households leave their TVs on as "background noise" while they're doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you'll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?

9. End each day with gratitude.

Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.


2 replies

GabbyPA 2012-12-24 18:58:52 -0600 Report

My husband has a saying that goes "Merry we meet, merry we part" and that is a great way to live.

Your points are great and the one that stands out to me is 8. I tend to do this while I cook dinner. I have the news on while I mix my foods and cook. I may have to stop doing that.

Tony5657 2012-12-23 05:58:17 -0600 Report

More on Happiness: How to be Happy (Sorry, I lost the source for this.)

Do you wish you could spend more of your days feeling fulfilled? Or wonder why you aren’t happier, despite all that’s good in your life? If you let slip-ups or criticisms nag you, replaying them as a negative inner monologue long after the snafu has passed, you are in fact like everyone else, at least most women I know.

I have news that really will put a smile on your face. You can significantly increase your level of happiness—without being granted a surprise inheritance or an elusive 25th hour in every day—by adopting new ways of thinking. You see, while about 50 percent of our happiness quotient is determined by what researchers call our natural “set point” for happiness, and 10 percent depends on the circumstances of our lives, a whopping 40 percent is entirely up to you—the way you react to events, cope with stress, choose to spend your time and more.

The fact that we can influence nearly half of our contentment is huge, and realizing the role we can all play in boosting our joy spurred me to team up with SELF’s mental-health expert, Catherine Birndorf, M.D., to write our new book, The Nine Rooms of Happiness (Voice). What we’ve found: By changing your approach to certain situations, you can make your inner voice more positive, enjoy your passion (whether it be gardening, an active lifestyle or traveling) and find a sense of purpose which helps you be happier in each of the “rooms” of your emotional house. (We use the metaphor of your life as a house to allow you to see different areas of your life as rooms: The bedroom for romance, the office for work and money issues, the living room for friendships, etc.)

Just like anything else worthwhile—your health, your financial security—improving your happiness is a matter of making tiny tweaks in your decision making that have big, long-term payoffs you will be thrilled with later. Make these 4 habits a regular part of your day to reap more fulfillment, today and every day.

1. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing
The airlines have it right when they tell you in case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before you help the person next to you. It’s not selfish, it’s self-preservation. The same is true when it comes to caring for all those around you in your daily life. Yes, it’s wonderful to be giving, especially with your time, but at a certain point you can give too much of yourself, and then it’s just depleting and you’re no good to anyone.

When you get to this point, you need to learn to say no to the next person who asks you to chair another school benefit. You can also ask for help from your spouse, your best pal or your child’s friend’s mother in sharing carpooling duties, for instance. You’ll have more opportunities to pursue your own interests and nurture facets of your personality that make you happier, and then you’ll be more of a giver when you have the energy again.

So whether it’s signing up for a local extension course, getting outside for a walk after dinner, taking a morning swim, reading on your porch or doing whatever else it is that turns you on and replenishes you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by too many “have tos” with more “want tos” in your week. Think of it this way: You have to be strong to help others. Taking care of your inner self is as important as taking care of your outer self. Know your limits, and be happy to be healthy.

2. Now is the moment! Enjoy it!
I remember when I was a child, enjoying long, luxurious afternoons with pals in the playground while my mother and her friends watched us. We had hours to explore every inch of the place and it felt freeing. I think of those as perfect moments of my childhood. But when it came time to take my own kids to the playground, I was always rushing them to and fro. I thought to myself: What will they remember? Me saying “Hurry up!” on the way to the park.

My daughter, especially, loved to dillydally, and now I understand that for her, pausing on the street to stoop down and watch a caterpillar was more interesting than being at the swings. I had to slow down, too, and say: My memories of the playground may play like a movie on the screen in my mind, but her movie will be of this, the “fuzzy wuzzy” she helped to safety. My thinking had to change from "Get to the playground to have fun!" to "Have fun here, or wherever you may be." This is it. Now is the moment. Enjoy it! Connect. This could be another perfect moment, for her, if you let it be.

3. Find your “mouse hole!”
No matter how much of a people person you are, everyone needs some moments alone each day to recharge. (Think about it: Even your phone gets to recharge!) Time is the one gift you can give yourself each day to be happier and ward off a bad mood, and it doesn’t cost a thing (or require you to go anywhere). However, when you’re living with roommates or raising kids or inundated with more work than ever and fewer hours to do it in, claiming time and space to yourself can seem like an impossibility. Fortunately, you don’t need to jet off to a palm-tree-dotted island (though that would be nice) or even sleep in the guest room (also tempting sometimes) to get that precious time alone.

When my daughter was 3, she used to crawl into her “mouse hole,” the tiny space under the platform of the plastic slide in her room, and drag a picture book or stuffed animals in and play by herself. She told me, “You can’t come in; it’s a mouse hole and only I fit inside.” The wisdom was clear: Even a kid needs time and personal space to herself, to block out the world and think.

I generally find my time and space when I am swimming or jogging, away from it all. Think of where you feel most relaxed, whether it’s at a local coffeehouse, or even just folding laundry in an unhurried way. Find those peaceful sojourns, banish all the worries and think about the big picture of what makes you happy. The important thing is to try to figure out what that is and then make more time for it in your life, whether it’s being in nature, sharing experiences with the ones you love, or helping others find their emotional satisfaction.

Whatever it is, you’ll feel better just thinking about it. After this mini-break, I guarantee you’ll feel better and more grateful when you get back to the hustle and bustle of your emotional “house” and your busy life there.

4. Conflict can be OK!
This is something we all need to learn. When a friend is mad at you, or you at them (or you are not agreeing with a coworker about the best approach to a project), the hardest thing sometimes is to call the person up and talk about it. But once you do, you always feel better. Chances are, the thing you disagree over is minor, and you have more in common than not, but you need to discuss the situation to find out where you agree and where you don’t.

Call your pal and arrange to get together to talk. Tell her she means so much to you and you want to get beyond this stumbling block, and hear her out; then tell her your point of view. Rather than assign blame, let her know you’re sorry for the hurt you caused, or explain that you feel hurt.

Connecting, especially with friends, is important to your happiness long-term, studies show. While you don’t need to overlap completely to have a lot in common (and a lot of fun together), you do need to communicate and get past the little disagreements. Find the overlap and learn from each other, celebrate your differences and laugh about them, too. You can say to yourself: It’s not a case of either/or but both/and, since it’s not either we agree on everything or we can’t be friends. We can both be pals and disagree in one area. We can have conflict in one area, yet still be friends forever. Conflict is healthy. In fact it’s part of life.

Don't Worry: Happiness Levels Not Set in Stone
Stephanie Pappas
LiveScience Senior Writer
LiveScience.com Stephanie Pappas

"Don't worry, be happy" may be more than just a wishful mantra. A new study finds that people's happiness levels can change substantially over their lifetimes, suggesting that happiness isn't predetermined by genes or personality.

Psychologists have long argued that people have a "set point" for happiness. Regardless of what life brings, the set-point theory goes, happiness levels tend to be stable. A big life event could create a boost of joy or a crush of sorrow, but within a few years, people return to a predetermined level of life satisfaction, according to the theory.

The new study, which used a nationally representative sample of almost 150,000 German adults, finds the opposite. People's long-term life satisfaction can change, the researchers report today (Oct. 4) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, a substantial number of people followed over 25 years saw their happiness levels shift by one-third or more.

The study also echoed previous happiness research in finding that money doesn't buy happiness. "People with a lot of money are more satisfied with their lives… but mainly due to the more interesting and challenging jobs they have," study author Gert Wagner, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany, told LiveScience. "Money is simply a byproduct of good and satisfying jobs. If you want to be satisfied with your life, you must spend time with your friends and your family."

Wagner said that previous work suggests findings on happiness from one developed country, like Germany, should also hold true for another, such as the United States. In fact, a study in May found that in the United States, happiness tends to increase with age.

I'm happier than you:

The researchers used data from a study of German adults spanning from 1984 to 2008. Each year, the participants answered questions on their life satisfaction, life goals and other measures like how much they exercise and socialize.

By averaging life-satisfaction responses to even out any short-term effects, the researchers plotted out the respondents' happiness by percentiles. Someone in the 99th percentile, for example, would be happier than 99 percent of the study participants.

People shifted in the rankings - and thus in their levels of happiness - quite a bit. Just over 38 percent changed their position in the distribution by 25 percentiles or more during the study period. About 25 percent changed by 33.3 percentiles or
more, and 11.8 percent changed by 50 percentiles.

Feel-good factors:

So what contributed to long-term happiness? The researchers found several correlations between life choices and life satisfaction:

• Marry well: The personality traits of partners influenced people's happiness. Neuroticism, or a tendency toward anxiety, emotional instability and depression, was most influential. People who married or partnered with neurotic people were less likely to be happy than people who married non-neurotic types.

• Focus on the family: People who assigned relatively high value to altruistic and family goals compared with career goals were happier. Women were also happier when their male partners ranked family goals high.

• Go to church: People who went to church more often were happier, though the study can't determine whether the happiness is related to religious views or to the social circle religious organizations offer.

• Work, but not too much (or too little): People's happiness matched how well they felt their work hours matched their desired work hours. In other words, people who worked more or fewer hours than they preferred were less happy. Working less or being unemployed was worse than working too much, presumably because underemployment is a financial blow, the researchers wrote.

• Get social, and get moving: Social interaction and exercise were both associated with happiness. Working out made people happier regardless of body weight. The only correlation between body weight and happiness was that underweight men and obese women were more likely to be unhappy.