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Some people seem to have a naturally higher baseline for happiness—one large-scale study of more than 2,000 twins suggested that around 50% of overall life satisfaction was due to genetics, 10% to external events, and 40% to individual activities.9
So while you might not be able to control what your “base level” of happiness is, there are things that you can do to make your life happier and more fulfilling. Even the happiest of individuals can feel down from time to time and happiness is something that all people need to consciously pursue.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is good for both your body and mind. Physical activity is linked to a range of physical and psychological benefits including improved mood. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise may play a role in warding off symptoms of depression, but evidence also suggests that it may also help make people happier, too.
In one analysis of past research on the connection between physical activity and happiness, researchers found a consistent positive link.10
Even a little bit of exercise produces a happiness boost—people who were physically active for as little as 10 minutes a day or who worked out only once a week had higher levels of happiness than people who never exercised.
In one study, participants were asked to engage in a writing exercise for 10 to 20 minutes each night before bed.11 Some were instructed to write about daily hassles, some about neutral events, and some about things they were grateful for. The results found that people who had written about gratitude had increase positive emotions, increased subjective happiness, and improve life satisfaction.
As the authors of the study suggest, keeping a gratitude list is a relatively easy, affordable, simple, and pleasant way to boost your mood. Try setting aside a few minutes each night to write down or think about things in your life that you are grateful for.
Find a Sense of Purpose
Research has found that people who feel like they have a purpose have better well-being and feel more fulfilled.12 A sense of purpose involves seeing your life as having goals, direction, and meaning. It may help improve happiness by promoting healthier behaviors.
Some things you can do to help find a sense of purpose include:
This sense of purpose is influenced by a variety of factors, but it is also something that you can cultivate. It involves finding a goal that you care deeply about that will lead you to engage in productive, positive actions in order to work toward that goal.
While seeking happiness is important, there are times when the pursuit of life satisfaction falls short. Some challenges to watch for include:
Valuing the Wrong Things
Money may not be able to buy happiness, but there is research that spending money on things like experiences can make you happier than spending it on material possessions.
One study, for example, found that spending money on things that buy time—such as spending money on time-saving services—can increase happiness and life satisfaction.13
Rather than overvaluing things such as money, status, or material possessions, pursuing goals that result in more free time or enjoyable experiences may have a higher happiness reward.
Not Seeking Social Support
Social support means having friends and loved ones that you can turn to for support. Research has found that perceived social support plays an important role in subjective well-being. For example, one study found that perceptions of social support were responsible for 43% of a person’s level of happiness.14
It is important to remember that when it comes to social support, quality is more important than quantity. Having just a few very close and trusted friends will have a greater impact on your overall happiness than having many casual acquaintances.
Thinking of Happiness as an Endpoint
Happiness isn’t a goal that you can simply reach and be done with. It is a constant pursuit that requires continual nurturing and sustenance.
One study found that people who tend to value happiness most also tended to feel the least satisfied with their lives.15 Essentially, happiness becomes such a lofty goal that it becomes virtually unattainable.
“Valuing happiness could be self-defeating because the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed,” suggest the authors of the study.
Perhaps the lesson is to not make something as broadly defined as “happiness” your goal. Instead, focus on building and cultivating the sort of life and relationships that bring fulfillment and satisfaction to your life.
How to Practice
While some people just tend to be naturally happier, there are things that you can do to cultivate your sense of happiness.
Pursue Intrinsic Goals
Achieving goals that you are intrinsically motivated to pursue, particularly ones that are focused on personal growth and community, can help boost happiness. Research suggests that pursuing these types of intrinsically-motivated goals can increase happiness more than pursuing extrinsic goals like gaining money or status.3
Enjoy the Moment
Studies have found that people tend to over earn—they become so focused on accumulating things that they lose track of actually enjoying what they are doing.4
So, rather than falling into the trap of mindlessly accumulating to the detriment of your own happiness, focus on practicing gratitude for the things you have and enjoying the process as you go.
Reframe Negative Thoughts
When you find yourself stuck in a pessimistic outlook or experiencing negativity, look for ways that you can reframe your thoughts in a more positive way.
People have a natural negativity bias, or a tendency to pay more attention to bad things than to good things. This can have an impact on everything from how you make decisions to how you form impressions of other people.
Reframing these negative perceptions isn’t about ignoring the bad. Instead, it means trying to take a more balanced, realistic look at events. It allows you to notice patterns in your thinking and then challenge negative thoughts.
Article by By Kendra Cherry
Yard work, like mowing or gardening or tree trimming
Hiking nature trails
Walking or jogging
Recreational sports like tennis, racquetball, softball or even Frisbee
Make it social and get an exercise partner
Physical activity and exercise releases endorphins, which are created in the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. They then interact with the opioid receptors in the brain. These are some of our pleasure and pain centers.
A steady of flow of endorphins triggers a positive feeling in the body, and can act like analgesics, which means they lessen the perception of pain. Here are some of the other endorphin driven benefits of exercise:
This helps with:
Decreased feelings of Depression and Anxiety
Rise in overall energy
Lowered blood pressure
Finding an activity that’s enjoyable will make it feel less like a chore. Remember to start slow and listen to your body. Never push through pain or take unnecessary risks that might cause injury.
Be realistic in terms of your goals and physical health. Adding a regular exercise regimen will generate endorphins and lead to a better state of mind.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey’s secrets to success
Oprah Winfrey is royalty among the world of celebrities—highly-respected, the image of grace and class, and a true role model. As a TV host, CEO, author, actor, producer, and philanthropist, it seems she’s won every outstanding achievement award under the sun, and luckily she’s also one of the most relatable and accessible billionaires out there, having shared so much of herself with the public over the years.
Beginning as a low-income woman of color, she’s had a tumultuous ride filled with hardships and breaking points. Check out the most valuable pieces of advice that have paved her path to success.
When people show you who they are, believe them
Winfrey has said that this is her favorite piece of advice—a lesson she learned the hard way about a partner, with the help of Maya Angelou—that if someone shows you they are untrustworthy, selfish, etc, believe them the first time.
Winfrey is someone who constantly seeks self-improvement through a relentless examination of her own life, but it took her some time to first realize that people just wanted her as she is. “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.”
Fight prejudice with excellence
In a field of white male news anchors, a black woman who didn’t fit beauty standards was an easy target for prejudice. But she was the best at what she did, and made her talent impossible to deny: “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.”
Find the good in the bad
Winfrey’s past is full of unimaginable struggle—she grew up poor, was sexually abused as a child, and had a son at the age of 14 who died in infancy—but she credits these events for giving her more capacity to relate to the pain of others. “Turn your wounds into wisdom,” as she says.
The “power of service”
For her commencement address at Smith College, she advised students to focus on how they can serve. She wants you to ask yourself, “How can I be used?”
There’s no such thing as failure
“Go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.” Winfrey looks at what most people consider failure to be a chance at seeing things from a new perspective, learning a new lesson, or finding a new route. She told Harvard’s 2013 graduating class that “failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
Challenge the status quo
Obedience we learn in school is sometimes the antithesis to success in business, and Winfrey is a great example of that. At her first job as a news anchor, she didn’t read the news in a dry, objective tone as everyone else did, but rather delivered emotion and empathy. It was a risk, but producers and audiences loved it.
Believe in the “why”
If you don’t know why you’re doing your job, it will not give you fulfillment. Understanding the “why” behind the “doing” gives both you and the work meaning, which is why Winfrey advises you only do things in alignment with your truth.
Try, try again
Winfrey encourages everyone to run head-on towards the thing they’re scared they cannot do, and to keep trying after they fail. “Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better.”
This article by Stars Insider has more Winfrey advice here:
Nope! Not Mine!
Ten days after undergoing open-heart surgery to correct a heart condition, singer Amy Grant took to social media with an update on her “miraculous” recovery.© Rick Diamond/Getty Images “Prayer changes everything.”
In her message, Grant, 59, thanked her friends and fans for their prayers and compared the experience to being “a non-runner who was signed up for a marathon.”
“I just want to say, from the moment I went to the hospital, if it really were a marathon race, I felt like I got into that runners block and as soon as it was time for the race to start there was this massive West Texas wind at my back… just pushing me through. Even stuff I was really scared about felt like nothing more than just a deep breath and something supernatural pushed me through it.”
Grant concluded the post with a call to action and a reminder about the power of prayer.
“My recovery has honestly felt miraculous” she wrote. “And so, I want to say thank you to each person who said a prayer for me. Prayer changes everything. Let’s keep those prayers going for our country and let’s turn all the brokenness into love and seeing each other. I love you.”
Well said, Amy.
This article was written by Meghan Overdeep for Southern Living
I know it’s June already, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the rest of 2020. Not just yet. More prayer, less violence. More education means less ignorance. More tolerance means less anger. More understanding means less misunderstanding.
Keep living, keep loving, keep writing or gardening or whatever makes you happy. And don’t forget to share your happiness with others who struggle.
All the best for a more peaceful 2020.