Want a Happier Life?
- Realize that enduring happiness doesn’t come from success.People adapt to changing circumstances—even to wealth or a disability. Thus, wealth is like health: its utter absence breeds misery, but having it (or any circumstance we long for) doesn’t guarantee happiness.
- Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of their lives. To master your use of time, set goals and break them into daily aims. Although we often overestimate how much we will accomplish in any given day (leaving us frustrated), we generally underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year, given just a little progress every day.
- Act happy. We can sometimes act ourselves into a happier frame of mind. Manipulated into a smiling expression, people feel better; when they scowl, the whole world seems to scowl back. So put on a happy face. Talk as if you feel positive self-esteem, are optimistic, and are outgoing. Going through the motions can trigger the emotions.
- Seek work and leisure that engages your skills. Happy people often are in a zone called “flow”—absorbed in tasks that challenge but don’t overwhelm them. The most expensive forms of leisure (sitting on a yacht) often provide less flow experience than gardening, socializing, or craft work.
- Join the “movement” movement. An avalanche of research reveals that aerobic exercise can relieve mild depression and anxiety as it promotes health and energy. Sound minds reside in sound bodies. Off your duffs, couch potatoes.
- Give your body the sleep it wants. Happy people live active vigorous lives yet reserve time for renewing sleep and solitude. Many people suffer from a sleep debt, with resulting fatigue, diminished alertness, and gloomy moods.
- Give priority to close relationships. Intimate friendships with those who care deeply about you can help you weather difficult times. Confiding is good for soul and body. Resolve to nurture your closest relationship by not taking your loved ones for granted, by displaying to them the sort of kindness you display to others, by affirming them, by playing together and sharing together. To rejuvenate your affections, resolve in such ways to act lovingly.
- Focus beyond the self. Reach out to those in need. Happiness increases helpfulness (those who feel good do good). But doing good also makes one feel good.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Those who pause each day to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (their health, friends, family, freedom, education, senses, natural surroundings, and so on) experience heightened well-being.
- Nurture your spiritual self. For many people, faith provides a support community, a reason to focus beyond self, and a sense of purpose and hope. Study after study finds that actively religious people are happier and that they cope better with crises.
Digested from David G. Myers, The Pursuit of Happiness (Harper Paperbacks, 1993)