“There are lots of studies that aim for finding the right behavior that leads to a happier life. Below, we take a look at some of the more actionable advice.
1. Be busy, but not rushed
Research shows that being “rushed” puts you on the fast track to being miserable. On the other hand, many studies suggest that having nothing to do can also take its toll. The porridge is just right when you’re living a productive life at a comfortable pace. Meaning: you should be expanding your comfort zone often, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. Easier said than done, but certainly an ideal to strive towards.
We all have obligations, but a comfortable pace can only be found by a person willing to say no to most things, and who’s able to say “Yes” to the rightthings.
2. Have 5 close relationships
Having a few close relationships keeps people happier when they’re young, and has even been shown to help us live longer, with a higher quality of life. True friends really are worth their weight in gold. But why five relationships? The number isn’t the important aspect here, it is the effort you put into your relationships that matters.
Studies show that even the best relationships dissolve over time; a closeness with someone is something you need to continually earn, never treat it as a given. Every time you connect with those close to you, you further strengthen those bonds and give yourself a little boost of happiness at the same time. The data show that checking in around every two weeks is the sweet spot for very close friends.
3. Don’t tie your happiness to external events
Self-esteem is a tricky beast. It’s certainly good for confidence, but a variety of research suggests that self-esteem that is bound to external success can be quite fickle. For example, certain students who tied their self-esteem to their grades experienced small boosts when they received a grad school acceptance letter, but harsh drops in self-esteem when they were rejected.
Tying your happiness to external events can also lead to behavior which avoids failure as a defensive measure. Think of all the times you tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter that I failed, because I wasn’t even trying.” The key may be, as C.S. Lewis suggests, to instead think of yourself less, thus avoiding the trap of tying your self-worth to external signals.
It will make you feel better if you stick with it. Body image improves when you exercise (even if results don’t right away). And eventually, you should start seeing that “exercise high” once you’re able to pass the initial hump. The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time. So make it one of your regular habits.
5. Embrace discomfort for mastery
Research has suggested that mastering a skill may be just as stressful as you might think. Researchers found that although the process of becoming proficient at something took its toll on people in the form of stress, participants reported that these same activities made them feel happy and satisfied when they looked back on their day as a whole. The rewards of becoming great at something far outweigh the short-term discomfort that is caused earning your stripes.
6. Spend more money on experiences
Truly happy people are very mindful of spending money on physical items, opting instead to spend much of their money on experiences. “Experiential purchases” tend to make us happier, at least according to the research. In fact, a variety of research shows that most people are far happier when buying experiences vs. buying material goods.
Here are some reasons why this might be:
- Experiences improve over time. Experiences can be relived for years.
- People revisit experiences more often. Experiences are recalled more often than material purchases.
- Experiences are more unique. Experiences are often immune to comparisions as they are unique to us.
- We adapt slowly to experiences. Experiences take longer to ‘get used to’.
- Experiences are social. Experiences get us out of our comfort zone, out of our house, and perhaps involved in those close relationships we need to be happy.
7. Don’t ignore your itches
This one is more anecdotal than scientific, but perhaps most important; when The Guardian asked a hospice nurse for the ‘top 5 regrets of the dying’, one of the most common answers was that people regretted not being true to their dreams.
As they say, there are seven days in the week, and ‘someday’ isn’t one of them.”
Gregory Ciotti is the author of Sparring Mind