When you think about it, it’s our habits that define us. Our habits can either make us happier and more successful or they can thwart us from achieving our biggest goals.
The great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said it best:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness then, is not an act, but a habit.”
The good news is, there’s plenty of research that suggests that certain habits will improve your level of happiness and wellbeing.
We’ve looked at the research and have found a few simple practices that you can implement into your daily life to make yourself happier.
1) Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
Being appreciative for the things you have in life is an excellent way to boost your mood. In a recent study, psychologists at UC Davis had 3 groups of participants keep weekly journals focused around a particular topic. One group wrote about the hassles they experience in life, the other group wrote about major events, and the last group wrote about things they were grateful for.
After 10 weeks, those who were told to write about things they were grateful for ended up feeling happier and more optimistic about life.
2) Go on a hike or gaze up at the stars
Awe is a powerful human emotion and that one that we could do well to trigger more often. Several research studies have found a link between experiencing awe and feeling less stressed and more satisfied. One of the best ways to experience awe is to gaze up the stars or look at a beautiful view from the top of a mountain.
3) Drink coffee (not too much, though).
People don’t have coffee every morning for no reason. It boosts alertness and provides a much needed boost to the central nervous system. Several studies have found a link between reduced depression risk and coffee consumption.
We’ve written a lot about this before. Many studies have shown that meditating – focusing intently and quietly on the present for a period of time – can help lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. Brain scans have been conducted on Buddhist monks who show well-developed brain areas linked to heightened awareness and emotional control.
5) Read an adventure story
Research has found that you may be able to get the benefits of an awe-inspiring story just by reading about it. A study found that when people simply read about someone else’s awe-inspiring experience, they were less stressed and more willing to help others.
6) Get outside in nature
Many of us live in urban environments which may be taking a toll on our mental health. One study found that students who spent two nights in nature had lower levels of cortisol than those who spent two nights in the city.
7) Do things you do when you’re happy – even if you’re not.
Experiencing positive emotions allows you to neutralize negatives ones and encourages people to be more proactive. Therefore, do exactly what you normally do when you’re happy to spur those emotions and encourage proactivity.
8) Listen to sad songs
It may sound strange, but research has found that listening to sad music regulates negative emotions and mood.
9) Set realistic goals
Do you like to create lists of tasks you need to complete for each day? Then you might want to listen closely. It’s far better to set goals that are specific, realistic and achievable.
A study found that people who wrote down a task like “save environment” were less satisfied than people who wrote down “recycle more” even though they undertook the same actions.
10) Write down your feelings
Science has found that writing down your feelings is a great way to relieve stress and clarify your thoughts. Research has suggested that recording one’s feelings helps calm them by dampening strong emotional feelings.
11) Spend money on others, not yourself
When you’re having a bad day, we all have that urge of going shopping or buying our favorite comfort cake. However, research shows that you’ll feel happier if you spend that money on someone else, instead of yourself.
A 2008 study gave 46 volunteers an envelope with money where half of the participants were instructed to give that money to someone else and the other half were told to spend it on themselves. Sure enough, those who spend their money on others felt higher levels of happiness.