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FEATURE

 

The Keys to Happiness

12 Activities to Become Happier

by Jiana Furagganan

The average person may define happiness as experiences of joy and excitement, pride and accomplishment, and serenity and peace. However, researchers in Positive Psychology argue that happiness is more than just feeling positive emotions. They define happiness as a state of well-being encompassing a good life with a deep sense of meaning and purpose. One thing we may agree on is we can recognize when someone is truly happy. A Duchenne smile—one that causes the corners of the eyes to wrinkle is the most authentic expression of happiness.

Why should you be happy?

Research shows that happiness brings forth benefits beyond just feeling good. Studies reveal that happy people have a stronger immune system and live longer, cope better in stressful situations, and recover faster from an illness or injury. Moreover, happy people are more likely to get and stay married, have more friends, and maintain strong social connections. They are also better leaders and negotiators and earn more money (Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness. Penguin, 2007).

The Components of Happiness

Lyubomirsky, Ken Sheldon, and David Schkade propose three components of happiness: genes, life circumstances, and intentional activities. Each of us has a 50% happiness baseline determined by our genes that we return to after positive or negative events. Results of their research further suggest that only 10% of the differences in people's happiness can be attributed to life circumstances. The remaining 40% lies in our behaviors and thinking patterns that are all within our control.

The Keys to True and Long-lasting Happiness

Here are 12 intentional activities that you can incorporate into your life to achieve true and long-lasting happiness:

1. Expressing Gratitude

From the air that you breathe to your morning coffee, appreciate ordinary experiences. Express gratitude in a journal, through contemplation, or in person.

2. Cultivating Optimism

Expect good things to happen. Write down your goals and the specific actions you need to take to achieve them. Visualize and write about your best possible future life.

3. Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison

Distract yourself with meaningful activities that make you happy, peaceful, or proud. Avoid overthinking triggers. Look at the big picture instead of sweating the small stuff. Find the lesson in unfavorable situations.

4. Practicing Acts of Kindness

Do something nice for someone else. Random acts of kindness are a sure way to make you feel good and help shift your focus away from your worries.

5. Nurturing Social Relationships

Make time for important people in your life. Express admiration, appreciation, and affection. Respond positively to someone else's good news and celebrate other people’s success. Show understanding when in disagreement with another.

6. Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma

Cope by solving your problems. If the event cannot be fixed, cope by managing your emotions instead. Engage in healthy distractions to fight your sadness or anxiety. Seek social support from friends and family.

7. Learning to Forgive

The first step to forgiveness is to think about a time when you were forgiven. Imagine granting forgiveness to a person that hurt you. Write a forgiveness letter. Practice empathizing with the person. Avoid ruminating.

8. Increasing Flow Experiences

Flow is a state of intense focus and immersion in an activity. To get into flow, the activity must meet your skills. If the task is too difficult, you might become frustrated, anxious, or stressed. If it's too easy, you might become bored. Increase flow experiences by controlling your attention on a moment-to-moment basis. Be open to new experiences and develop the mindset of a lifelong learner. Determine what activities you do in which you find yourself in flow and do more of them. Transform mundane tasks by creating microflow activities. Listen intently in conversations. Strive for superflow—where not only are you fully concentrating but enthralled and lost in time.

9. Savoring Life’s Joys

Replay your happiest days with as many details as you can. Be mindful and live in the moment. Think of upcoming positive events. Share an experience with a loved one. Take pictures and print the best ones.

1​0. Committing to Your Goals

Pursue goals that are intrinsically rewarding to you. Set goals that are authentic and align with your personality. Focus on desirable outcomes versus attempting to avoid undesirable outcomes. Choose goals that complement one another to maximize your results. Decide which goals are appropriate for each stage in your life. Pursue activity-based goals to create new experiences and take on new challenges.

1​1. Practicing Religion and Spirituality

Pray, seek meaning and purpose in your thoughts and experiences, or find the divine in your everyday life.

1​2. Taking Care of Your Body

Incorporate meditation and physical activities in your daily routine.

The Bottomline

The pursuit of happiness is an achievable goal. More importantly, your happiness is your responsibility. You can’t change your genes, and although you can improve your current situation that may bring more happiness, that happiness cannot be sustained for an extended period due to hedonic adaptation—adapting quickly to material things. Fortunately, you can participate in healthy behaviors and shift your thinking to cultivate more happiness in your life.

The intentional activities outlined above are powerful tools to boost your happiness, improve your well-being, and help you live a more meaningful life. However, you should not aim to fulfill each one. For any happiness-inducing activity to work, it must fit the individual. Pick a few that you can apply to your life. Spice it up and vary the activities that you engage in to maintain their authenticity and continue to reap their rewards, and just as it takes intense focus, persistence, and dedication to build muscle, train yourself to be happy.

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Jiana Furagganan is a ghostwriter and a health and wellness content writer. She also has a blog focused on self-mastery and living an abundant life. Outside of writing, she enjoys hiking and kickboxing. For business inquiries, you may reach her through her website www.jianafuragganan.com.

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