How Do I Find Happiness In My Life? 7 Science-Backed Hacks That Actually Work
Happiness is something many try to achieve. However, as many of us know, it's not exactly the easiest thing obtain. If you're looking for ways to bring more happiness into your life, science has the answer.
"Research shows happiness is an equation of positive emotions plus overall life satisfaction," life coach, Prue Blennerhassett, tells Bustle. "So it's both a combination of how we feel moment to moment, as well as our overall movement towards living a satisfying life — whatever that means for us."
According to Blennerhasset, there are so many great ways to be a happier person each day. As cheesy as it sounds, it all starts from within you. "It's important to follow what feels good whenever possible," she says. That means choose to participate in activities and be around people that make you feel alive, inspired, and completely yourself.
"Trying to be something or someone you’re not is exhausting," Blennerhasset says. "Being authentically you provides space for other people to accept you as you are and for them to be who they are too, it’s a win-win."
The pursuit of happiness is a concept many of us are familiar with. But according to a recent study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, making happiness a goal tends to have the opposite effect. When you try to achieve happiness, it can make you feel like you're working on some kind of a deadline. But that's not how happiness works. There shouldn't be a deadline or time crunch involved.
Since "pursuing happiness" doesn't actually work, here are some science-backed hacks to finding happiness that do.
1. Enjoy The Simple Things
A 2016 study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found slowing down and enjoying the simple pleasures of life can help reduce stress and increase happiness. Incorporating simple pleasures can include things like singing as part of a choir, dancing, listening to music, reading, taking a walk, or doing something artsy. "Participating in these types of activities causes the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals and provide almost positive psychological effects, which can be calming yet energizing," Dr. Clarissa Hughes, Accredited Mindfulness Coach and Speaker, tells Bustle. And who doesn't want that?
2. Be Kind
Doing kind things for others can also increase your happiness and sense of satisfaction, according to a 2016 Oxford University study. "When we are kind, the brain reacts positively and similar to simple pleasures, we get chemical releases such as serotonin that can promote a positive mood," Hughes says. Dopamine also rushes through the body, and the brain signals "a particular type of elation" as a result. This is known as a "helper's high."
So find ways to give back to others. It could be as simple as being present and listening to a friend or colleague, it could be a random act of kindness like making someone coffee, or you can go out there and volunteer. When you do good for others, you do good for yourself.
A 2014 Harvard University study found mindfulness meditation can help ease anxiety and mental stress. When you're less stressed, it's easier for you to be more positive, and therefore, much happier. According to Hughes, doing some sort of "loving-kindness meditation" can make us feel happier, as well more loving and healthy. "This type of meditation is based on inter-connectedness, the sense that deep down despite our differences we are connected," she says. "Loving Kindness Meditation is the practice of cultivating goodwill, happiness, contentment, and peace towards others." It's all about centering yourself and repeating positive mantras to put you in a positive state of mind.
4. Be Grateful
A 2015 University of California, Davis study found that "gratitude is good medicine." In other words, practicing gratitude was found to boost physical and emotional well-being. Incorporating a gratitude ritual into your every day routine is something many life coaches will advise.
"On the emotional guidance scale, gratitude is at the very top and by reverting our thoughts to gratitude, we instantly raise our vibe," Dena Farash, founder of The Mindful Mom Revolution, tells Bustle. "I encourage people to use the daily mantra 'I wake up with a grateful heart' which can instantly turn our mundane morning routine into one which we love."
5. Incorporating More Fruits And Vegetables Into Your Day
A 2016 Australian study found eating eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day can increase life satisfaction. The amount of happiness you get is equivalent to finally landing a job after being unemployed for some time. So that's a pretty big deal.
"Only a minority of people in the U.S. meet the current guidelines of five portions a day," Dermot Barry, wellness experts and owner of the Brain Sponge Blog, tells Bustle. "But eating lots of fruit and vegetables can also improve your physical health, which means you can enjoy being happy for much longer."
6. Take A Class
A 2016 Oxford University study found that participating in weekly sessions of adult education classes made people feel happier and more confident. As they found, the course subject didn't matter as much. What did matter was the interaction. People who took courses like singing or creative writing were happier than other students in other more isolated subjects. "It's not the course itself, it's the bonding with your fellow students," Barry says. "So choosing a course where you need to work with your classmates will boost your mood in more beneficial ways."
7. Sing Your Heart Out
A 2017 University of East Anglia study found that singing can make you happier. In fact, participatns who were suffering from anxiety and depression found boosts in their overall wellbeing after participating in a community singing group.
"Singing makes you feel happy and relaxed," Barry says. "It's like a more fun form of deep breathing. You breathe in, hold the breathe for a longer amount of time and let the breath out slowly. Singing does all of that naturally." So it's like meditation but a little more fun.
As you can see, bringing more happiness into your life doesn't have to be complicated. When it comes down to it, all you need to do is be grateful, be kind, and just enjoy the simple things.