By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
How To Be Happier, Longer
Happiness is an elusive emotion, though it is one that we would all like to experience in our lives. Maintaining a positive mental outlook can greatly help with stress management, so happiness is not merely an enjoyable emotion to experience, but a healthy state to maintain. The trick to being happy is figuring out how to maintain this state for as long as possible. Here are some important things to understand about happiness, and research-backed strategies for maintaining greater levels of happiness long-term.
As many people have always instinctively known, happiness is positively linked to health. Research is increasingly demonstrating that many of the things that feel good often are good for us, and positive emotions have many physical benefits in addition to the obvious emotional ones. Those who are happy tend to live longer and enjoy greater health while they are here. With this in mind, happiness becomes an even more important pursuit. Learn how happiness goes with health, and you’ll be even more motivated to maintain habits that lead to both.
When we are in a more positive frame of mind, we tend to be more resilient toward stress. Negative thinkers tend to see more problems than solutions, and the issues they deal with seem more foreboding. Rumination makes negative events feel even worse than they are. Positive thinking, on the other hand, leads to a greater sense of confidence, and can help you feel more able to handle what comes your way. (One quick and easy way to experience this is to try to reframe what you face as a “challenge” instead of a “threat”.) Learn how positive thinking can help your stress levels, and see how to incorporate greater levels of optimism in your life.
People often talk about the little things in life bringing the greatest joys, and there is some truth to that. We may think about the big things–the promotion we’ve been gunning for, the new car we dream of, or the proverbial winning lottery ticket we crave–but small pleasures in life can help bring us happiness on a daily basis. It is true that the happiness brought by these little things can fade quickly, but the good feelings that come from any event or acquisition do indeed fade. (Even the joy of winning the lottery.) The thing is, while winning the lottery or meeting a big goal takes time and effort, you can work some of those “little things”–or what researchers refer to as “pleasures”–into your life on a daily basis. Learn how you can add pleasure to your life and increase your overall happiness levels in the process.
Small things (like the life pleasures discussed above) can bring a lift to your mood, but bigger lifestyle features such as your job and relationships can influence what you experience on a daily basis, and greatly influence your happiness as a result. One of my favorite researchers and professors, Michael Frisch, has identified 16 lifestyle factors that are most associated with happiness and life satisfaction. Learn what they are and how to make changes in these areas so you can create a lifestyle that continually supports your happiness.
It’s become almost a cliche’ to say that money doesn’t bring happiness, or that the best things in life are free. However, this is said so often because not only is it true, but it is something that many people seem to forget as they choose how to spend their time. We may “know” that buying more won’t bring greater joy, but this knowledge isn’t always reflected in our bank statements. Here are six things to remember–all of them free–that can lead to greater happiness. The next time you are tempted to do something that you know won’t bring lasting happiness, try one of these instead.
Happy feelings can be fleeting. The thought patterns that tend to produce happy feelings, however, can become habit. That means that you can change the way you habitually think and as a result, increase the frequency with which your thoughts bring you happiness–you can make happiness a habit! There are specific changes in your thinking that can lead to a way of seeing the world that will bring you greater levels of happiness and lower levels of stress. Maintaining happiness-inducing thought patterns can help you to stay happier, longer. Here are the most effective changes you can make, and tips on how to alter the course of your thoughts, permanently.
Happy people tend to be happy–this seems like a no-brainer of an idea. Looking deeper, though, it is actually an important thought to remember: those who are happy make choices that tend to bring more happiness. They nurture friendships that bring greater resources for dealing with stress. They go after their dreams and find success as a result. They smile more, and get more smiles back. If you know how to use your happiness to create more of the same, you can make your joy last. (Or, rather, you can create more joyful moments in your life, so you are happy a greater proportion of the time.) Read more about the research behind the truth that happiness brings more happiness, and see what you can do to maintain this type of upward spiral in your life.
While people have philosophized for thousands of years about what brings lasting happiness, we now have research to reinforce many of these ideas. The field of positive psychology has examined many different aspects of happiness–what contributes to happiness, how it affects us, and how to get more of it–and they’ve found many answers that point to the best set of choices on how to live. Some of their findings are what you would expect, and some of them may come as a surprise. (For example, did you know that positive affirmations do work under many circumstances, but some of the most popular ways of using these affirmations can actually do more harm than good?) Here are some recent findings on happiness–read up and put these findings to use in your own life!