Are you an eternally-optimistic 'glass half full' person? Maybe you're more of a 'glass half empty' individual and think of yourself as a realist.
Whatever the case, it's hard to argue against having a happier life!
First off, did you know that each of us has a particular emotional baseline when it comes to how happy we usually feel? This is called the happiness or hedonic set point, and here's how it works.
Hedonic set point
We're all familiar with that surge of happiness when something positive occurs in our lives. We've also experienced the awful emotions we feel when faced with adversity.
Whether we're dealing with a good or bad event, research shows that, after some time, we generally revert to our personal happiness baseline known as our hedonic set point.
Granted, certain negative occurrences that greatly impact our lives, such as serious illness or the loss of a loved one, take longer to recover from.
There's some scientific agreement that our individual inclination toward a particular level of cheerfulness is due, in part, to genetics.
However, there's also recognition that we can build more resilience to deal with difficulties and, perhaps, nudge our hedonic set-point more into the happiness zone permanently.
Here are 10 tips for more happiness:
1. Focus on the good things
Our natural tendency is to skip over the good things happening around us and focus on the negative. Think about how much time we spend worrying about the future or reliving past failures and difficulties.
Try paying more attention to your day's positive happenings and see how this can lift your mood. Just noticing that it's a nice day outside is helpful.
Rick Hanson, the author of Buddha's Brain, calls this "pulling weeds and planting flowers" ─ isn't that a great visual?
2. Be grateful
There are many studies on gratitude that show how powerful this practice can be in improving your mental health. So, as your mother may have told you, count your blessings when you're feeling sad.
The act of running through a mental list of everything that's going well in your life and all the advantages and personal privileges you have will help you keep things in perspective.
3. Help others
Remember the good feeling you get when you help someone else? Altruism is a definite route towards finding greater joy.
When you take on volunteer work, such as serving meals at your local soup kitchen, you know that you're making a difference in the lives of others. And, you're also reminded of your good fortune.
It doesn't have to be a large gesture ─ even paying it forward at the coffee shop by getting the next customer's order can raise your happiness quotient.
Regular meditation is proven to change your brain, effectively rewiring it towards more happiness. One change that happens is that the amygdala shrinks over time.
Why is this important? Well, this part of the brain controls our fight or flight response and is related to fear, anxiety, and increased stress.
5. Use your imagination
Would it surprise you to know that most of what we worry about never happens? Various studies have found that 80% or more of our fears never come true.
If you think back to possible scenarios that had you worried, you're bound to recall that things turned out fine after all.
Take this to heart and use your imagination to anticipate good fortune. You'll find your happiness increase dramatically.
6. Hang with positive people
As you've probably noticed, moods can be very contagious. When you spend time with someone who is in a funk, all that bad energy can definitely impact how you're feeling.
Aim to spend more time with individuals who are upbeat most of the time. You'll find that nurturing those relationships helps you feel happier too.
7. Spend time in nature
Have you heard the term 'forest bathing'? It originates in Japan and refers to spending time in nature to experience therapeutic health effects.
If you don't have parkland or a forest nearby, simply being outside for a while ─ soaking in the fresh air and listening to the birds singing ─ is a real mood-lifter.
8. Use a journal
Journaling is a helpful practice for several reasons. One big advantage is that it allows you to purge your mind of negative thoughts and worries effectively.
By recording them in writing, you can leave them to be sorted through another day and, relieved of thinking about your problems for a while, feel emotionally lighter.
9. Trick your brain
You might find it amazing to hear that making an effort to smile more can actually make you feel happier.
Whether it's smiling or frowning, your facial expressions send a message to your brain about how you're feeling ─ reinforcing your mood. Even wearing sunglasses can induce more happiness. This gives new meaning to the Corey Hart classic, Sunglasses at Night!
10. Give your pet some love
If you have a pet in your life, you already know how satisfying spending time with them can be.
Watch the total joy your dog demonstrates during a walk in the park or your cat's unconditional affection when they want a cuddle. All those feel-good vibes they send out will quickly put a smile on your face.
As you can see, there are many small steps you can take to boost your happiness. Pick something from this list that resonates with you and experiment with how it feels. Better yet, use a couple of these practices simultaneously and watch how they enhance your mood even more!