Happy people have something in common – happy habits.
Research shows that much of what we do day-to-day is habitual. And since 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity, we can change our happiness by up to 40% by what we choose to do every day. (1)
Now about the 4 happy habits.
Happy Habit 1. Keep Focused on Goals
Being committed to goals is not just about achievement, it’s a recipe for happiness.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, found that working hard toward a goal and making progress towards achieving that goal activates positive feelings and suppresses fear and depression.
Happy Habit 2. Work the Body, Ears and Mouth
Exercise, sex, and socializing have a zen-like effect, keeping us present in the moment. Staying in the moment is a happiness habit.
Eesearch shows that happiness is high during exercise, sex, and socializing, while the mind is focused on the here and now. At the same time, happiness is low when the mind wanders and when commuting. (3)
Focusing on the here and now is taught around the world in various exercises like mindfulness meditation and breathing practices. It can also be experienced during physical exercise, like working out.
More about working out…
In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey discussed two powerful studies about exercise and happiness.
1. In a 2006 study with over 19,000 people, exercisers were found to be more socially outgoing, less neurotic, less depressed, and less anxious.
2. In a 1999 study, John referenced a Finnish study with over 3,400 people, which showed that people who exercise at least 2-3 times per week experience less anger, “cynical distrust”, depression, and stress than those who exercise less or not at all.
Happy Habit 3. Help Others
For thousands of years, various belief and practice systems have emphasized doing good deeds for others. Whether it is to reveal our “true nature,” discover “our divine Self,” awaken the “authentic self,” etc. helping others is a virtue that makes us feel good and happy; and research suggests that it may be linked with longevity.
Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong…
Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.
Happy Habit 4. Find Meaning in Hardship
No matter how rich or poor, young or old, we all face hardships during the course of our lives. And how we perceive it, affects us deeply. Research shows a healthy benefit for the “Silver Lining” seekers – happiness.
The Study: Men between the ages of 30 and 60 were interviewed after experiencing a heart attack. Researchers found that those who perceived benefits in the event seven weeks after it happened (ie. resolved to create less hectic schedules, believed that they had grown and matured as a result, or revalued home life), were more likely to be healthy eight years later, including a lower likelihood of having another heart attack. On the other hand, men who blamed their own emotions (ie. too stressed), or blamed others for their heart attacks, experienced poorer health eight years later.
(For more on how to master healthy habits, click here).
1. Set some short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Write them down and keep them visible to stay focused.
2. Commit yourself to some form of exercise 2-3 days a week – any type of exercise. Find a class, trainer or partner to support your effort.
3. Dedicate at least 5 minutes a day to do an extra something good for some one. Send a card, text some one a kind word, help a neighbor, leave a loving post-it note for some one you care about…or comment below with more ideas.
4. Often times how we perceive difficult experiences dictates the emotions that arise when we recount our hardships. Seek to find meaning when processing or reflecting upon life challenges.
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