We know happy people tend to have stronger relationships, better health, and regularly contribute to their communities.
The reality is, we are going to get moments where we can get into a happy groove and feel good. Then, there will be times life throws us a curveball and our happiness is affected. But the good news is we can all increase our level of happiness through everyday practices.
Our bodies need regular movement during the day. Sitting around for extended periods of time does not keep our body or mind happy. At the very least, briskly walk an hour each day. One might also love to swim, dance or do yoga.
Regular physical activity and exercise are at the top of the happiness checklist because studies have consistently shown the connection between being physically active and increased subjective well-being, or happiness.
Studies have shown walking 30 minutes per day improves health. But studies of happiness suggest people get the most benefits from medium- to heavy-intensity exercises, which raise heart rates. Moderate exercise is anything that gets you a little winded—you could still talk, but probably would not sing a song.
Friends and Family
The latest research on happiness shows that our social connections matter for our general well-being and satisfaction with life. In fact, setting aside time to talk, listen, share, and enjoy with friends and family is a happiness-inducing habit. Recent research has found that we typically interact with friends and family more when we are feeling miserable, and less so when we are feeling cheerful.
This could be because we naturally seek out comfort and support when we are feeling happy, and we engage in other activities when we are feeling stable in our own happiness. It seems it comes down to the issue of balance, spending too much time alone may cause negative emotions, so seeking others is a natural way of relieving that and increasing our mood.
On the other hand, when we are feeling positive and happy, we are more likely to be supportive to others and offer a shoulder to cry on. Despite this, spending time with friends and family provides both short-term and long-term benefits for well-being. Our outlook on life and the way we value things also plays an enormous role in our level of happiness.
Studies have found that having a more optimistic outlook and practicing gratitude buffers negative emotions and increases happiness. Practicing gratitude every day, like counting blessings or listing things you are grateful for during the day, helps me to think more positively and experience more joy. You can do it in many ways, for instance, with a daily gratitude journal, which you can write by hand or store on your phone.
The three-good-things intervention is an easy, fast habit to adopt to boost your optimism. You just record the three things going right each day, and think of the things that are great about them.
There are now plenty of apps out there to encourage and keep track of your gratitude. Other apps let you make vision boards and positive affirmations for your day.
While some might sound gimmicky, they are all about giving yourself that little push toward positivity, and science backs that up. Or to put it another way, practicing and cultivating a grateful, appreciative attitude tends to work, and helps you to feel more positive about your life. Gratitude also helps you see the bigger picture, and becomes more resilient when faced with challenges.
You can even practice gratitude more naturally by giving thanks: Tell someone you are grateful for that day, or send a thankful message. In fact, this may seem corny, but it is important because studies have shown that everyday feelings of gratitude are associated with higher levels of positive emotions and better social wellbeing.
Pets can be part and parcel of our daily family routine, as well as supporting our everyday happiness. Studies have shown that dogs motivate their human partners to become more active, and in return, both dogs and humans have shared pleasant experiences which increase their well-being.
Studies have found that having a household pet provides a number of benefits for health and happiness, since not only do they provide companionship, they reduce incidents of depression and anxiety, and they also contribute to increasing our levels of happiness and self-esteem. The primary ingredients of happiness, and what research has come to a conclusion on, are social connections and activities — of the mind and the body. And finding the flow to our lives via our everyday habits and intentions, leads to happier, fuller lives.