Part of the American dream is the pursuit of happiness. But these days, happiness seems to be all too elusive, with depression on the rise and feeling “stressed out” accepted as a normal condition. Are we overthinking it, or is happiness not something we should all expect to achieve? Many researchers say we just need to calm down and simplify. Perhaps our fast-paced, over-complicated lives are getting in the way of our own happiness. Read on for 7 ways to be happy – it might be easier than you think!
#1: Think Happy Thoughts+
that happy people live longer, healthier lives. Science also backs up the idea that if you think it, it will happen; when it comes to happiness, the power of positive thinking is king. Consciously focusing on pushing the negative out of your mind and harnessing positive thoughts not only opens the door to happiness, but it also has tangible health benefits. In fact, a < a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/why-optimists-enjoy-better-health">Harvard University study found that in addition to being happier, optimists are 50% less likely to have heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke. So focusing on positive thoughts, being more forgiving, and writing down what you are grateful for can help you be happier.
#2: Connect with Your Inner Self+
Slowing the pace of your hectic lifestyle enough to hear yourself think and get in touch with your body is a great way to increase your happiness quotient. In a yoga class, silencing the neverending buzz of your chaotic day while you focus on breathing and clearing your mind can do wonders for your stress levels, and remind you what’s important in your life. Try 15 minutes of yoga a day – and it can be gentle, stretching yoga is the heated or advanced version isn’t your forte. Or, dip your toes into meditation and work some in during your lunch break or before you go to bed every night. If you’re new to both of these, we like YogaJournal.com
as an overall guide for beginners to learn basic yoga poses and meditation techniques.
#3: Less Buying, More Doing+
The old saying “Money buys happiness” should be retired. The fact is, money does NOT buy happiness
, and there’s science to back it up. Research shows that once your income level rises above poverty level, more money doesn’t equal more happiness. Rather than spending your life buying, organizing, and maintaining a house full of material things, focus more on gaining life experiences. Travel with friends to experience exotic cultures, cook a romantic meal with your spouse, dust off your library card and check out a couple books, or even walk to your local park and relax in solitude. Our consumer-driven society has placed so much value on physical property that we sometimes forget that some of the best things in life are free.
#4: Honor Happy Hour+
While the internet has made us all digitally connected across the globe, it’s also helped us become more isolated. Many of us substitute commenting on Facebook posts for real-life relationships with friends. Gone are the days of phone conversations, and for some a dinner with friends is a semi-annual event. While work and family can certainly eat up your free time, it’s still important to meet up with your friends to unload and connect in person, even if it’s just for a quick coffee on the weekend before the kids wake up. Studies suggest that people with a strong network of friends tend to live longer.
#5: Work Less+
Did you know that the United Nations has ranked Denmark the happiest nation in the world for over 40 years?It’s probably no coincidence that their average workweek is 33 hours, and only 2% of Danes log more than 40 hours a week. Sometimes workweeks are longer than others, and it’s those weeks when you have to roll up your sleeves and just push through it. But it’s also important to remember the mantra, “Work to live, don’t live to work.”
#6: Give and You Shall Receive+
Some say humans have an innate desire to give. Whether it’s helping out your neighbor, donating to your favorite charity, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen, helping others makes you feel GOOD. Research suggests that making as little as a $5 donation
has a positive effect on your emotional state.
#7: Laugh A Lot!+
Just like exercise, laughing triggers a chemical release of endorphins to your brain and literally makes you happier. Plus, it decreases stress hormones that can wreak havoc on your mind and body in a variety of ways. A recent study found that heart patients who laughed daily were less likely to suffer a repeat heart attackWhat’s great about laughter is that your body doesn’t care if your chuckles are real or fake – you’ll reap the same health benefits either way.
At the end of the day, it may be trying these methods or even something as silly as turning off the radio for a moment of solitude on your evening commute that gives you an extra nudge of happiness. The bottom line is being happy is a lot easier than you think, it’s an opportunity around every corner, and it doesn’t cost a thing.