The secret is that it’s a choice. You can’t buy happiness (maybe only temporarily) and it’s not just chance. Positive psychology leader Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, defines it as “Happiness is a choice we make”.
The mind is a powerful being on its own and making this very choice might be easier for some, and harder for others. All is not lost though. Start first with these simple habits often spotted in incredibly happy people, and slowly, but surely, you might even start noticing a shift in your mindset to the plus sides in life.
1. Practise gratitude
Sounds simple enough. Be grateful for even the most menial things and the smallest achievements. Take a moment to savour it. There are many studies that show that being thankful can do wonders to your body, mind and soul. The easiest way to do this is by keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing down three things to be grateful for and why. Doing so will help you feel happier and less depressed in at least six months, according to Martin E.P. Seligman’s book Flourish. As one of the founding members of positive pyschology, Seligman, by the way, knows what he’s talking about.
habits of happy people
2. Exercise regularly
It’s true and with a healthy fitness scene in Malaysia—what with boutique gyms and ClassPass—there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spare some time to work out. It doesn’t only keep your body fit but it also rejuvenates your mind. A 10-minute exercise alone could release GABA, a neurotransmitter that soothes your brain and, keeps both your impulses and mood in check.
Being mindful and taking time out to meditate on a daily basis aren’t just new-age trends. Both are key to maintaining a happy mind and a positive outlook. It stills the mind, freeing it from any current concerns and anxieties that might otherwise be overwhelming. There are plenty of apps out there to help you get started: Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.
4. Have a morning ritual
Expanding the note on meditation, curating a morning ritual and sticking to it helps set the tone of how your day will play out. It can be as easy as having breakfast, meditating, checking emails or reading a book. Consider it as part of your self-care plan.
habits of happy people
5. Spend time outside
Even if you’re a homebody, and even if your list on Netflix is calling out to you. Spending time outside, especially in nature, is easily one of the best ways to boost your happiness levels. This study displayed an increase in people’s mood and a decrease in negative thoughts after taking a walk surrounded by nature. City walks don’t count.
6. Get enough sleep
It’s the secret to everything. Happy people prioritises sleep because they know the difference it makes. Getting ample hours of sleep means your brain had the time to “recharge, remove toxic proteins accumulated during the day as byproducts of normal neuronal activity”, as mentioned in this article. Be deprived of Zs and your stress hormone levels will naturally rise without the need of a stressor.
7. Have five close relationships
Fret not, social butterflies. The number five isn’t specific but an average number based on a variety of studies. The number doesn’t matter. What matters is that these are your true-to-the-core relationships. The ones that stick with you through thick and thin, and vice versa. The ones where you make the effort to maintain that level of closeness.
Finding Flow states, “National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy’.”
Another study shows that every time you further strengthen that bond, you get a little boost of happiness at the same time. The data adds that checking in at least every two weeks with close friends is a good amount of buffer time.
habits of happy people
8. Be busy, but not rushed
The difference? According to research, feeling “rushed” leads straight to stress and unhappiness. Conversely, having nothing to do is also no good for the mind. Conclusion: Find a balance to be just busy enough. Be productive but at a comfortable pace. To help you decide if you should add more to your platter, note that the new opportunity should be something you’d be completely passionate about. Otherwise, you’ll better off without it.
9. See problems as challenges
It boils down to mindset. Everybody faces obstacles and problems that frustrates them but happy people view these as challenges. Challenges that will help them enhance their lives. Having this sort of “growth mindset”—where they believe improvement comes with effort and just trying—also helps them to outperform others, handle difficulties better (thereby being less stressed easily) and have a higher chance of learning something new.
10. Spend money on experiences
Happy people tend to reward themselves after overcoming a challenge. By reward, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean buying something expensive for themselves. It could something as simple as watching a funny video.
“‘Treats’ may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because, forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role,” wrote Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits,” she added.
With that being said, when it does come to spending money, there are plenty of research that proves people feel happier buying experiences instead of material items. That’s because it’s more rewarding on so many levels. The experiences can be unique, involve social interaction, and have a more long-term effect. And experiences then transform into a fond memory.
On the contrary, “materialism depletes happiness; threatens satisfaction with our relationships; harms the environment; renders us less friendly, likable and empathetic; and makes us less likely to help others and contribute to our communities,” as written by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The Myths of Happiness.
Our take on that? That just gave you another excuse to plan your next vacation.
We can go on but let’s start with baby steps. Ten baby steps. What else do you do to cheer yourself up or stay happy? Let us know in the comments!
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