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   15 WAYS TO BE         INCREDIBLY                HAPPY

The 15 suggestions noted below are easy to understand, and easily achievable. While happiness is defined by the individual, it seems foolish to declare that nothing can be learned from observing the happiness of others. Examining how to be happy is benefited from observing the patterns of others, and then taking only what is useful. Inspiration is the goal, not rigid rules on being happy. If you would like a sure-fire list of how to become happy, take seriously the following:


1. Think of Yourself Less – Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. These thoughtful words are from C.S. Lewis, but do they equate to real life or happiness? Our self-esteem is a bit of a tricky topic, because current research on self-esteem paints a very inconsistent picture: it seems that high self-esteem is certainly related to happiness, but it can produce other problems with the ego.


2. Be Busy, but Not Rushed – Being busy can cause stress and unhappiness, it also notes that less and less people can find that happy medium of being “just busy enough.” It seems strange that being very productive would cause one to be happy, but studies suggest that balanced free time is key, as too much boredom can be burdensome. Better yet, strive for a productive life at a comfortable pace.


3. Have Five Close Relationships – Relationships are perhaps the most important thing (without exaggeration) when it comes to overall life satisfaction, at least for most people. Having a close group of people in your life can keep you happy for life (it can also help you live longer). National surveys find that when someone claims to have five or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are “very happy.”


4. Be Proactive About Your Relationships – This applies to all relationships, but especially with your patient loved one. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that many relationships (especially marriages) decline over time. So what can you do? The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development.


5. Move Beyond the Small Talk – “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote has certainly made its rounds on many a Facebook feed, but is there any truth to it? The extent of small talk was negatively associated with happiness….and the extent of substantive talk was positively associated with happiness. So, happy people are socially engaged with others, and this engagement entails matters of substance. Deep conversations are often those we reserve for close friends and family, which explains why close relationships are so important for your happiness.


6. Treat Yourself (the Small Pleasures Matter) – The research has shown that one  needs to have small wins along the way in order to be truly happy – across many different domains. Happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive effective experiences. They discovered that regular small pleasures had a bigger impact on happiness than fewer larger ones.


7. Plan Fun, and Spend Money on Experiences – While spontaneous fun is usually a good thing, a variety of interesting research has shown that it’s the planning of future activities that often adds to the fun. While the study above specifically looked at vacations (which may not occur often), additional research revealed that specifically planning a nice dinner can have the same effect on you as well as your loved one.


8. Keep Your Eye on the Prize -  You’ve likely heard of the marshmallow experiment, but a quick summary is that researchers found those children who were able to resist the temptation of eating a marshmallow immediately (vs. waiting for the researchers to come back) did notably better in some major areas of life, leaving some to conclude that delayed gratification is a solid predictor of future success. The research has shown that there certainly seems to be some sort of connection between delayed gratification and overall life satisfaction. People with self-control seem to be happier with life.

9. Show Some Appreciation – There is a study that showcases how showing gratitude for someone (or even for what you have) boosted happiness by a noticeable level. The researchers say 25%, but again, we’re debating minutiae, the important thing is that it worked. Another study found that writing thank you notes (or just a nice letter) was an effective method of increasing happiness and life satisfaction.


10. Observe Happiness in Others – Most of us like to think we are unique snowflakes, but sometimes things are popular for a reason. In fact, research suggests that the best way to predict how much you will enjoy an experience is to see how much someone else enjoyed it. In other words, learning about someone else’s experience is a far better way for you to internally evaluate if you will enjoy it as well.


11. Make a List - In one study researchers found that the simple act of listing three good things that happened that day (no matter how small) increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms. Furthermore, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (and avoiding a pessimistic outlook) really can make you feel better about your situation. Perhaps most interestingly, a change in view can have a really big impact on your overall happiness.


12. Pick a Skill; Master It – Excellence in anything increases your potential in everything. As it turns out, regularly engaging in your strengths is a great way to feel better about yourself. The long and short of it is that you should find something to excel in, and do it as often as you can.


13. Setting Objectives - Psychologists claim that people with the ability to set objectives for themselves – both short-term and long-term – are happier. Additional research seems to back up this finding: goals really do seem to add a sense of meaning, direction, and focus to life that can easily become absent if you don’t have anything for which you are currently striving.


14. Exercise Regularly – No verbose headline for this one because there is no getting around it. I don’t care how much you hate exercise, there are so many benefits for it (both physically and psychologically) that you should be doing it regularly in some form. To add to the pile, research has also found that exercise is a proven strategy for feeling better, increasing your energy levels, and reducing tension.


15. Don’t Let Time Slip Away – I’d rate this one as one of the most important of this list. The only other more important one on the list would be maintaining strong relationships, bar none. It doesn’t have to be said, but time is precious – use it to its ultimate advantage. Do something you can be proud of.