There's no secret weapon when it comes to how to be happy, as much as we'd like there to be. But new research shows that relationships may be linked with happiness a little more than you might think. The London School of Economics asked 200,000 people about how certain factors affected their well-being. And the factor that caused the biggest increase in happiness? Being in a relationship. Issues like depression, anxiety, and unemployment caused the biggest dips in happiness.
So if being in a relationship can give you the biggest happiness boost, does that mean we should all be in them? Obviously, it's not that simple. "Human beings are definitely social creatures. We are meant to have company and spend time with one another," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "We have an innate drive to pair up, settle down, and procreate. We are also very much socialized to do the same. So I think individuals who have settled into a nice relationship are generally happier than when they were single. However, people who are in an unsatisfying relationship are actually more unhappy than if they were on their own. In other words, a bad relationship is definitely worse than being alone, but being happily settled with someone probably makes for more happiness."
But What If You're Single — And Want To Be?
I can see that if you want to be in a relationship, being in a good one can make a world of difference. But if you don't want to be in a relationship, there's good news, too. In fact, according to a study presented at the American Psychological Association's Annual Convention in Denver this year, single people have more fulfilled lives than married people. So it's more about finding what works for you. Here are some other proven ways to boost your happiness level — regardless of your relationship status:
1. Floral Scents
You really do need to stop and smell the roses. According to research at Rutgers University, exposure to floral scents makes you three times more likely to be happy than those who aren't exposed. Who thought potpourri could be so powerful?
2. Doing Something For Others
Yup — a quick way to feel better? Do something good for other people. Studies have shown that benevolent acts, like giving to charity, give you a feeling of reward and fulfillment. So you get to give back and feel better, a double-whammy.
3. Going Outside
Never underestimate the importance of being outside. You know it'll make you feel good, right? You can just feel it in your bones. Part of the reason is that sunlight boosts your serotonin levels, which helps your mood. In fact, a study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that people who were given an hour exposure to sunlight everyday for three weeks had a better mood and reduced stress. And it wasn't just for while they were outside — it lasted well beyond that.
So, if you're someone who likes being in relationships then it seems like being in a healthy relationship — a good relationship, not just any old one — can be a total game-changer when it comes to your happiness. But if you don't want to be in a relationship or you're finding it difficult to find one that works for you, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to make yourself happy. Science says so.
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