I’ve asked a lot of people what they want in life. About 80% just reply “I want to be happy.” Happiness is difficult to quantify but anybody can take steps to be happier.
Here are some of the most useful things I have done to improve my happiness levels.
- Keep a gratitude journal. This is a common suggestion in self help books but few people actually do it. Buy a little notebook and at the end of every day just write down three things in your life for which you are grateful.
For example: - I watched a funny movie with my girlfriend.
- I had an amazing sandwich at lunchtime.
- My friend Joe bought me a beer after work
As you can see from my examples, your list doesn’t have to consist of big things. They merely have to be things that you are grateful about on some level.
Research shows that doing this even once a week can significantly improve your mood and make you happier.
2. Be social. This means getting out of your house and talking to people REGULARLY. You should be doing this even when you “don’t feel like it.” Loneliness is a prime cause of depression and being depressed is a prime cause of loneliness. The two feed each other in a vicious cycle that will drag you down if you are not careful.
There is some evidence to suggest that people who are members of a club which meets once a week (even if it is for something boring) tend to be happier than those who are social on a less regular basis.
Spend time with your friends regularly and be pro-active about keeping in touch with those friends who you see less often. Extroverts tend to be happier than introverts simply because they have more social ties – we humans are social animals and we cannot be truly happy when we isolate ourselves.
3. Meditate regularly: Meditation is one of the few practices that are scientifically proven to significantly increase happiness. It need only take 10 – 20 minutes per day and the results can be astonishing. Meditation teaches you to be happy with the present moment, without resorting to daydreaming about the future or reliving the past. In a society where we are constantly bombarded with message that we need something external to satisfy us, meditating helps us to be satisfied internally.
4. Exercise: If there were one magic pill for increasing your happiness, then it would be exercise. Even mild exercise, such as walking has amazing benefits and will make you feel much better about life. Aerobic exercise (e.g. running / swimming) is thought to be best if your main purpose is to be happier. However, cardiovascular exercise (e.g. weight-lifting) is also extremely effective.
5. Eat better food: There are hundreds of great books out there which have fantastic diet advice so if you are interested in this, I suggest that you read some of them. One piece of advice that will make an immediate difference though is to limit how much sugar you eat.
Sweet foods cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels which leads to seemingly random changes in your energy levels and in your moods. By controlling how much sugar you allow into your system, you can keep your energy and mood at a more steady level throughout the day.
If you like the ideas in this article, don’t just nod your head – try them out! You should see a noticeable increase in your happiness in not much time at all.