11 Keys To Happiness, According To Science

When it comes to universal goals, everyone strives to be happy. Although we are all different with varying interests opinions, there are certain things that science shows make most people happy. If we are armed with this knowledge, we can take the right steps to implement these factors into our lives in hopes if living blissfully. Who wouldn't want to know all the secrets to living a happy, long, and stress-free life?

"As Americans, we sometimes feel we need to sacrifice fun and happiness in order to be successful," says wellbeing expert, Dr. Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, over email. "When we do sacrifice fun, we become more stressed and actually less productive. If we focus on boosting fun and happiness in our lives, we end up more productive, charismatic, energetic and innovative."

In addition to having fun — which we should all do at least time to time— there are a number of habits and mindsets that have been proven to lead to lifelong happiness. Some are obvious, and some might surprise you. These include lifestyle changes and even just overall attitudes. If you're looking to feel positive and enjoy your life, consider these 11 keys to happiness, according to science.

1. Optimism

Think people who see the glass half full just have their head in the clouds? Think again. Many studies show that optimists are happier, better able to cope with difficult life events, and even have better physical health. Train yourself to be more optimistic by keeping a gratitude journal, using positive self-talk, and fostering healthy relationships.

2. Utilizing Your Strengths

Do you have a talent or activity you enjoy that seems to go to waste? You might want to find somewhere to put it to use. A study published in the book The Happiness Advantage found that when employees were encouraged to pick up a task that involved their personal strengths each week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than those who stuck to their normal routine.

3. Living In The Moment

"Research again shows that happier people tend to be more present and more engaged in their activities and with the people around them," says happiness coach and psychologist Anita Marchesani, Ph.D. to Bustle over email. "Distractions, like smart phones and the focus on social media posts, pull people away from happiness and into an almost semi-hypnotic state." A study from Harvard University found that people's who mind frequently wanders during activities are less happy than those who focus on the present moment.

4. Buying Experiences, Not Material Items

Deciding between a new outfit or a trip with your friends? You might want to choose the trip. Research shows that people who spend money on experiences are more happier than those who spend it on possessions, according to a Cornell University study. The satisfaction from purchasing an experience lasts much longer than the happiness from new possessions, and people end up second guessing their choices more when they make a material purchase.

5. Being Grateful

It shouldn't sound that easy, but it is. Many studies show that being thankful is associated with greater happiness, helping people to feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships, according to Harvard Health. Whether you thank your lucky stars before bed or keep a weekly gratitude journal, reminding yourself what you're thankful to have can keep you feeling positive.

6. Writing Stuff Down

No one experiences constant bliss, so in those down moments, it can help to find some relief. That's where writing comes in. Writing about your feelings can help the brain overcome emotional issues and help you feel happier, says research from University of California in Los Angeles. Putting your thoughts onto paper, whether it be in the form of a song, a poem, or a diary entry, helps to reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of your brain that controls the intensity of emotions.

7. Volunteering

Volunteering not only helps others, but yourself as well. A review from the University of Exeter Medical School found that people who spent time volunteering experienced less depression, had better overall wellbeing, and even had a 22 percent less risk of dying.

8. Having Meaningful Relationships

A 75-year-long study from Harvard University found that good relationships with others is vital to long-term happiness. This includes happy marriages, relationships with your parents, and social support from your peers. It's not about the number of relationships you have, but how meaningful they are.

9. Eating Well

Keeping a healthy diet is for more than just your figure. A study from the journal BMC Medicine found that eating a Mediterranean diet filled with filled with foods such whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, beans, and olive oil is associated with a lowered risk of depression. Certain nutrients in food can help improve your overall mood, so incorporating these foods into your diet can help keep your emotions stable.

10. Taking Time To Exercise

Just like healthy eating, exercise does more than just shape your body. Regular exercise is linked to lower depression and improved wellbeing, according to a study from the journal Public Health Nutrition. Working out makes you happier by enhancing your self-esteem, improving mood states, reducing anxiety, creating resilience to stress, and improving sleep.

11. Not Making Happiness The Goal

Sounds counterintuitive, right? But research shows that explicitly and purposely focusing on happiness as a goal or destination can actually make people less happy, according a study out of the University of Denver. "Happiness shouldn’t be your end goal if you really want to be happy," says Dr. Zelana Montiminy over email. "It sound be a side effect of everyday living."

Because we are all different, not every one of these keys works for everyone, but it can't hurt to make positive changes in hopes of reaching our greatest potential.

Images: Pixabay (12); Isla Murray/Bustle