- Leslie Tourish
Ten Tips for Getting Happier
We all want to know how to cope with the unknown, with change, with life when we’re dealt a rough hand. We want to know how to be happier. But what is the secret to getting happier? If we’ve satisfied the basic survival needs of shelter, food, water, and safety, we naturally look to the next order of needs, feeding our minds, hearts, and souls.
In his book The Pursuit of Happiness, psychologist David G. Myers studied the habits of people who self-reported general feelings of happiness. What are happy people doing that makes them happy? Dr. Myers came up with a list of ten things happy people do:
1. Realize that lasting happiness doesn’t necessarily come from financial security. People adapt to changing circumstances, even to wealth or a disability. Wealth is like health: its absence breeds misery, but having it (or any circumstance we long for) doesn’t guarantee happiness.
2. Take control of your time. Happy people who feel in control of their lives have often mastered daily time-management goals. We tend to overestimate how much we will accomplish on any given day (leaving us frustrated), but we generally underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year, with just a little progress every day.
3. Act happy. We can act ourselves into a frame of mind. When they’re smiling, 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, optimistic, and outgoing. Going through the motions can trigger the emotions.
4. Seek work and leisure that engages your skills. Happy people are often in a “flow” zone: absorbed in a task that challenges them without overwhelming them. The most expensive forms of leisure (like frequent travel or sitting on a yacht) often provide less flow experience than gardening, socializing, cooking, or craft work.
5. Keep moving. Countless studies demonstrate that aerobic exercise not only promotes health and energy, it’s also an antidote for mild depression and anxiety. Sound minds reside in sound bodies.
6. Get REST. Happy people reserve time for renewing sleep and solitude. Americans suffer from a growing “national sleep debt,” with resulting fatigue, diminished alertness, and gloomy moods. Even a literal day of REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) or small daily doses of solitude in meditation or prayer can help you spiritually recharge.
7. Prioritize healthy relationships. There are few better remedies for unhappiness than close relationships with people who care about you. Confiding is good for soul and body. Share with your loved ones. If married, resolve to nurture your relationship and value each other.
8. 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. Compassionate acts help one feel better about oneself.
9. Count your blessings. People who keep a gratitude journal, pausing each day to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (their health, friends, family, freedom, education, senses, etc.) experience heightened well-being.
10. Take care of the soul. In study after study, actively spiritual people are happier. They cope better with crises. For many people, faith provides a sense of life’s meaning and a timeless perspective on life’s woes.