How do we cultivate our happiness?
Does happiness can just happen, or can we make it so? As we age, we realize
that happiness is more of a choice than a random occurrence. Try incorporating
some of these happiness practices into your life every day and see what results
they accomplish in your life.
Research by Michael McCullough, Robert
Emmons, Lyubomirsky, and others has revealed the power of simply counting our
blessings on a
Their studies show that people who
keep “gratitude journals” feel more optimism and greater satisfaction with
their lives. Additionally, writing a “gratitude letter” to someone you’ve never
properly thanked brings a major boost of happiness.
Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues
found that people report greater happiness when they spend money on others than when they spend it on
themselves, even though they initially think the opposite would be true.
Similarly, neuroscience research shows
that when we do nice things for others, our brains light up in areas
associated with pleasure and reward. So, it seems like a good idea to show
kindness to anyone – from family, to friend, to neighbor.
Give Up Grudges
Groundbreaking studies by Everett
Worthington, Michael McCullough, and their colleagues exposed a truth known for
centuries: when we forgive those who have wronged us, we feel better about ourselves,
experience more positive emotions, and feel closer to others.
Exercise isn’t just good for our
bodies; it’s good for our minds. Studies show that regular physical activity
increases happiness and self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and can even
lift symptoms of depression.
“Exercise may very well be the most
effective instant happiness booster of all activities,” writes Lyubomirsky in The
How of Happiness.
Studies show that people who practice
mindfulness – the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and
external circumstances – not only have stronger immune systems but are more
likely to be happy and enjoy greater life with greater satisfaction, and they
are less likely to be hostile or anxious.
Notice the world around you, and tune
into your self. Find enjoyment in it. Why not reap the benefits so you can then
Don’t Focus on Material Wealth
After our basic needs are met,
research suggests that more money doesn’t bring us more
happiness. In fact, a
study by Kahneman found that Americans’ happiness rose with their income only
until they’d made roughly $75,000; after that, their happiness plateaued.
Many eastern cultures don’t associate
money with happiness at all. There’s probably a lot of wisdom in that kind of
Pema Chodron, the renowned Buddhist nun, says the key to happiness is curiosity. When you look at your world with wonder and exploration, you will find joy in the smallest and biggest observations. Be curious and give the world a happy face.
Live in the Present
Now is the only moment you have. We
spend most of our time focusing on the past or the future or some distraction.
Make it a habit to keep your attention on what is here and now. Look for the
fullness in every moment.
Accept what comes to you so that you
can appreciate it, learn from it, and then let it go. The present is as it
should be. It reflects infinite laws of Nature that have brought you to this
exact thought, this exact physical response. This moment is as it is because
the universe is as it is.
A thought becomes yours when you have
it in your consciousness for 17 seconds. If a negative thought comes into your
mind, release it before 17 seconds, and it will not have an impact. Hold the
thought that you are perfect just as you are, right now for 17 seconds.
Participating in what brings you inner
joy is the most vital path to growing younger gracefully. Make sure that you do
something that makes you happy every day. Do it just for yourself and keep it
Begin a journal and write down one or
more people, places, or things you are grateful for. Do this as often as you
choose, whether it’s twice a day or twice a month.
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows
Think of something joyful – and joyful
energy will flow. Where your attention rests dictates where your happiness
lands. Focus your attention on things that bring you happiness. When your
attention and energy begin to dwell on negative things, gently redirect them to
keep your energy focused on joy.
Perform one act of kindness to
someone, whether they know about it or not! When it is a hidden gem, it is all
the more impactful on your own spirit.
Happiness is a conscious practice. One
last tip, as Annie sang: “You are never fully dressed unless you are wearing a
How often do you look at the world
with joy? How often do you smile in a day? What are you grateful for today? What
do you think are 5 things you can do differently to bring happiness to your
life? Please share with our community and let’s have a conversation!