6 Secrets to Happiness

AdobeStock_34525943-300x200What’s the secret to happiness?

Not sure there are any secrets, but there appears to be a formula. By studying happy people, researchers have been able to find common traits and links between them. This is good news for us! It means we can take steps to actively increase our happiness. Who doesn’t want that?!

We can choose to age gracefully and happily by focusing on these six things:

Focus on Others First

One of THE best ways to increase your own happiness (and pull yourself out of any slump) is to do something for someone else. It works every time! That’s right – by making others happy you will boost your own well-being. So go ahead and reach out to someone and tell them how special you think they are! Bring someone a meal, send a note, volunteer…there are many reliable ways to improve happiness.

And be generous with others. A study from the University of Zurich found that participants in a research study who performed acts of generosity viewed themselves as happier, even if the act of generosity was small.

Seek Out People

Connection is crucial for humans. We need social interaction, friendship, and kinship. It keeps us healthy and lets us thrive. The opposite, isolation, is the equivalent of being an alcoholic and smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of mortality, according to a study from Brigham Young University. Plus, isolation and loneliness are linked to increases in dementia.

Happiness is affected by all kinds of human contact, not just relationships with lifelong friends, but even casual interactions with strangers or acquaintances throughout the day. The bottom line: Happy people spend time with people!

Cultivate Gratitude

Being grateful for the special people, great experiences, and good things you have in your life is key to happiness. One study demonstrating this powerful link was conducted by noted researcher Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, who showed that participants in a research study who delivered a letter of thanks to someone reported a large increase in happiness which lasted for a month.

Practicing gratitude is simple. Some people keep a journal in which they write down 3 things they’re grateful for every day. Other people spend a quiet moment simply thinking about what makes them feel blessed. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Exercise Regularly

It’s no surprise: In addition to being good for you physically, exercise is good for you mentally and emotionally, too. Regular exercise is associated with less depression and more happiness. It doesn’t have to be intense, either; a short daily walk is enough to notice an effect.

Practice Mindfulness

Being present in the moment is one of the hardest things we can do, as we’re often thinking about the past or planning for the future. But people who regularly practice mindfulness – focusing on the present moment – report higher levels of satisfaction with life.

The best way to do this is to practice meditation. Essentially, just a few minutes each day of sitting quietly and clearing your mind of all thoughts is a good start. Just breathe, listen to your breath.

Choose to Be Happy

Set out to be happy. That’s right, make it a conscious goal. While some researchers believe we each have a happiness “set point,” they also believe that this set point can be augmented by the things we do. Choosing to be happy, and actively working to include activities in our lives that have been shown to increase happiness, is the first step.

So there you have it. Start today!

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