People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all their lives for happiness. But the pursuit of happiness is available to us all, today. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore the relationship between wealth and happiness. What is found, time and time again, is that people overestimate the influence money has on happiness. Money matters, but not as much as we think. While it’s certainly true that being comfortable financially leads to a greater standard of living and therefore greater overall satisfaction, once our basic needs are met more money does not equal more happiness. Happiness is not something that can be bought, it is a way of living. Happiness is not a destination, it is a journey. Here are 5 simple steps to get you started on that journey.
1. Do stuff (instead of buying stuff)
One finding of studies into the relationship between wealth and happiness is that doing stuff results in a greater sense of well being than owning stuff. This is something that we get wrong repeatedly. We assume that the feeling of happiness that comes when we buy something will last longer than the joy we feel when we experience something that makes us happy. But the opposite is actually true. Experiences satisfy needs such as social connectedness and the feeling of being alive. So, go to the beach or to the park with your friends instead of buying those new shoes.
2. Hugs make us happy
Another phenomenon that has been well documented is the effect hugs have on our happiness. Hugs, among other things, increase oxytocin (the love hormone) and serotonin levels (the happy hormone), and make us more relaxed. So, for a happier you and a happier planet, try for 8 hugs a day.
3. Smile when you WANT to be happy.
It is common knowledge that we smile when we are happy. But did you know that we become happier when we smile? Even faking a smile can bring about greater happiness than a neutral face. But for a “real” smile, think of a pleasant memory.
4. Be kind
There are studies linking kindness to happiness both psychologically and biologically. Spending money on others produces longer lasting happiness than spending money on ourselves. But we don’t have to spend money to be kind! Hold the door open for someone, help someone with a project at work, offer to cook or do the dishes when it’s not your turn. Engaging in random acts of kindness makes us happier (as well as making the recipient of our kindness happy. Win-win!)
5. Give thanks
One of the greatest predictors of happiness is an attitude of gratitude. The more grateful we are for what we have, the happier we will be. What do you have to be grateful for today?
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