Becoming a happier person, living a happier life – it’s something we would all love to achieve, but how exactly can we do it? There are a lot of vague solutions out there, but there are also many scientific studies on the psychology of happiness. And it just so happens that I’ve spent the last four years studying the behavioral patterns that can influence our happiness. Here are 10 specific and scientifically proven tips you can incorporate into your everyday life to boost your happiness levels.
1. Know that you are in control of your happiness.
Science tells us that about 50 percent of our happiness is based on genetic factors, 10 percent is on environmental factors (marital status, health, career), and the remaining 40 percent consists of the activities that we intentionally choose to participate in. Simply realizing that you can do something about how happy you are is a powerful first step on your journey to a happier life.
2. Choose specific activities.
The results of several “happiness experiments” in our research lab showed that people who made very specific plans – including an activity, a time, and his/her companions – were the happiest people in the study. Pick an activity that you’ve always wanted to try, like signing up for a dance class, exploring a museum, trying a new food, or traveling to a new place.
3. The more the merrier.
You’ve probably heard this all your life, but that’s because it’s scientifically true. In our studies, we saw that people who enjoyed an activity with someone else – a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend – were the happiest people. Find a partner in happiness, make a plan, and as the date approaches, the anticipation you experience will increase your hope, which is a major factor in creating happiness.
This is one of those activities that you can make more fun with a partner in happiness – and it’s an important one to incorporate into your lifestyle if you are seeking greater happiness. Studies show that people who exercise are about 20 percent happier on average. As you may have heard, exercising releases endorphins, which basically make the brain happier. Just 20 focused minutes of walking a day can make a difference.
5. Get enough sleep.
People who are sleep-deprived tend to remember negative thoughts more easily than positive thoughts. Even cat naps or power naps during the day will help boost your mood.
6. Surround yourself with positive people.
Because happiness is contagious! Research shows that when you live with a happy spouse or life partner, or within just a couple miles of a close friend, you’re bound to be a happier person. Even having a cheerful roommate or neighbor will boost your happiness factor, so surround yourself with positive, joyful people as much as possible, and cut out the negative people in your life – or at least try to spend the least amount of time with them.
7. Develop new habits.
It’s a scientific fact that when you form new habits, you are in fact rewiring your brain. So if you focus on forming positive habits, you will become a more positive thinker, which contributes to your overall happiness. (Of course the reverse is also true – forming negative habits creates more negative thinking.) Every day, you can train yourself to do something positive, like meditate for just five or 10 minutes, write down three things you are grateful for, or exercise for 30 minutes.
8. Help others.
This is especially useful to boost your happiness levels in the workplace. Inviting a co-worker to lunch, putting together a work activity, or generally offering help to a co-worker in distress has been shown to increase a person’s engagement with the job by a factor of 10 and make him or her 40 percent more likely to get a promotion.
9. Go all the way.
Sex sells, but sex also keeps us happier, according to several studies. Those people who got some action every few days were 55 percent more likely to report higher happiness levels, while those who got it on just once a week were 44 percent more likely to experience happy feelings.
10. Wake up feeling excited for the day ahead.
Doing any and all of the above will certainly make you much more excited to get up in the morning, since you know you have plenty of positive things to look forward to.
Vanessa Van Edwards is a behavioral investigator and published author. She figures out the science of what makes people tick at her human behavior research lab, the Science of People. As a geeky, modern-day Dale Carnegie, her innovative work has been featured on NPR, Business Week, and CNN and her latest CreativeLive class, The Power of Happiness, teaches you how to be a happier person every day.