Doesn’t that picture just make you smile? And doesn’t smiling make you happy? When I’m happy, I’m more creative and what a great way to start writing.
I have had the most amazing few months. My world has changed. My energy levels have skyrocketed. Ah, how wonderful life is.
Don’t you love when that happens?
Is it magic? Because we know I love magic. But actually this time, no. This time we have science to back it up, and here’s a short list for happiness:
33 Ways to Be Happy With Your Life Right Now
Notice, this didn’t say avoid something unhealthy! But by consuming good, nutrient-dense foods, you’ll feed your body and get that sense of being good to you.
We’ve all seen the recent studies showing that sitting is the new smoking. And while so many of us have desk jobs, if we get up and move every hour, the negatives of those evaporate. Plus, the more you move, the more those “feel-good” hormones (endorphins) surge. A natural anti-depressant!
A behavioral study by researchers at Harvard U and Mass General Hospital found that participants felt least positive in the morning. But, they reported being happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing! How cool is that.
And who doesn’t love flowers?
We know that performing a kind act for another helps serotonin uptake, which works like a natural anti-depressant. But, so does buying something for someone else. A study in the Journal of Happiness found that when participants were asked to recall purchasing something for someone else, they felt significantly happier.
Now, this we know! You simply can’t be in a state of gratitude and fear at the same time. We didn’t exactly need a study for this, but they do abound. The Emmons/McCullough study found that a conscious focus on one’s blessings resulted in a heightened wellbeing.
Count your blessings. You simply can’t be in a state of gratitude and fear at the same time. #happiness
Again, no surprise here! And I chuckle about studies for this, but Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, conducted one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life, and you guessed it—that’s what he found.
We know the converse is true as well. So choose your relationships wisely!
You’ve read the studies on color and mood, no? One reported in the journal BMC Medical Research Methodology showed that the happiest people picked light blue as their favorite. Their color-wheel chart is fascinating! Get something in a bright color you love and put it on your desk.
We all know how procrastination can sabotage us and our goals, right? But does making progress really make us happy?
Now this is the really cool thing: Studies have found that successfully pursing those goals that matter to us, actually plays a huge role in our psychological wellbeing. When we make progress, we’re happier and more satisfied.
Who doesn’t want that?
When we make progress on #goals, we’re happier and more satisfied. Check something off your to do list. #happiness
We’re usually against complaining, no? The damage done here is that when we get stuck in doing so, we keep the focus on what’s not working. In other words, on what we don’t want. And since what we focus on expands . . .
But when our complaints lead to actual change, it makes us happier.
So go on and complain—but then figure out the solution and do it.
This is mandatory in my world. Even though I work from home, and writing, editing, and all that goes with that are solitary pursuits, I cherish my friends and make time every day to talk to at least one. Sometimes I do this under the guise of business (hi, Renee!). But that ruse just ends up with talking personal stuff at some point.
We know that by planning your day, you get more done. It’s easy to get sidetracked, no? And I do it. Some. But by planning each day (mine are in segments), it keeps me on track. And when I’m on track, I check off tasks as I go. Which makes me happy. See #8 above!
A study by Andrew Clark and Claudia Senik at the Paris School of Economics concluded: "Man may well be a social animal, but constantly looking over one's shoulder seems to make the world a less happy, and more unequal, place."
As Dr. Daniel Crosby, a psychologist and behavioral finance expert who helps organizations understand the intersection of mind and markets, said: “Studies show that the most noticeable way in which money impacts happiness is negatively! We see that the very rich enjoy a slight bump in happiness given their comparative superiority, but the ‘have nots’ are made absolutely miserable as they look up at their better resourced counterparts.”
Never, ever, ever! How many examples can we recount of people following, and realizing, their dreams later in life?
My very favorite story of this ilk is about, as you can imagine, an author. Norman Maclean spent most of his life working as a university professor. But his first love was writing. Once he retired, and in his early ‘70s, his first book was published—A River Runs Through It. My favorite book of all time. One day I want to grow up to be him . . .
You are not too hold to follow that #dream of yours.
Just because it feels good. Because we know that studies have shown that when an act of kindness occurs, it raises the serotonin levels in both the giver and receiver. Even beyond that, it also raises the levels in anyone around witnessing said act. Wow! How cool is that?
We’ve all see the stories and shows about hoarders. Can’t be me! We think. But sometimes when I look around . . .
Author of the book, Behind the Clutter: Truth. Love. Meaning. Purpose, said, "You hold onto things based on hope.” You hope to lose weight, catch up on reading, finish that abandoned project. But when you don't, it's hard not to feel like a jerk about it. "How much stuff do you really need to represent that thing?" Saruwatari said. "How many items do you need to hold onto before it starts controlling your life?"
Because you’re going to fail, or you’re not trying. Learn from it. And learn from all the folks who’ve failed before you!
Remember, Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, was rejected 30 times . . .
Because you’re going to fail, or you’re not trying. Learn from it. And learn from all the folks who’ve failed before you!
Or 4. John Tulloch and Deborah Lupton, professors in Cultural Studies and Cultural Policy at Australia's Charles Strut University, and authors of Risk and Everyday Life, examined how people respond to, experience and think about risk as part of their everyday lives.
They found that risk-taking is part of self-improvement and of personal growth as well. It gives us opportunities to escape the mundane. And, it brings excitement through self-actualization. They linked risk to “self-improvement, emotional engagement and control.”
Funny thing about smiling—studies show that by doing so, your mood is actually lifted. So, you don’t have me telling you this, but scientists who study these things J
In the study, published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, researchers at the University of Kansas found that the act of smiling positively affects our happiness and physical health. And, it helps the heart to recover more quickly after stressful events.
What’s to lose?
Shawn Achor, the CEO of Good Think, Inc., researches and teaches about positive psychology. He maintains that happiness inspires us in all areas of our lives, and that it’s a choice. His Ted talk is absolutely amazing!
In a nutshell, Achor found that happiness makes us more productive. “If we can change the lens through which your brain sees the world, we can not only change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”
His studies found: “Ninety percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. If we change it . . . we can change the way that we can affect reality.”
Okay, I’m in!
If you have them, this can be a real toughie. But we know what Control is about, no? When your life feels out of control, when you fear the unpredictable, the ambiguous. In other words, when you fear losing control, you work at controlling your environment (and often, that of those around you).
This is exhausting. And the older you get, the more untenable the situation becomes, as you just don’t have the energy to control every bit of minutia in life.
Often, the underlying conditions are such that they have to be dug out with therapy. But so many mindfulness practices can take you a long way to releasing them as well.
This relates to the above. Perfectionism is about Control. And what an energy zapper that all is!
We all know the new meme about you being the average of the 5 people closest to you, or, with whom you spend the most time. Some folks have debunked this, but the law of averages (and common sense) do prove that out, at least somewhat. And if you’re striving, on the path to your goals and dreams, the last thing you need is to be dragged down by another’s “issues.”
I actually counsel my editorial clients not to mention to those around them that they’re writing a book. Saves untold heartache.
Of course, you can’t just ditch your friends and family! One of my favorite avenues for dealing with the naysayers is from Abraham, who says that if you don’t give energy to something, it can’t affect you.
So, smile, nod, and talk about something positive.
You know that old saying, “If you want to get something done, ask the busiest person in the room”? That can certainly be true. But a truer question would be, “Is that busy person actually effective and happy?” Because as Shawn Achor pointed out in # 19, the happiest people are the most creative, productive, and successful. Wouldn’t you rather be that?
It doesn’t? Dang! Because wouldn’t that be cool?
I can vouch for true that being poor is difficult. I can still remember those days, although vaguely now. Doing what you love and starving for it can be quite the challenge.
But studies reveal that just being rich doesn’t make you happy either. I loved the Cornell study that showed experiential endeavors–such as a walk in the woods—bring more happiness than material purchases. For one simple reason: People talk more about their experiences than they do their possessions. And, they derive more value from doing so.
Yep, it happened. And yep, you wished you’da done something differently. But the more you stay stuck in regret, well, the more regret grows.
I’ve always loved Nietzsche’s two-pronged solution to this:
If you choose wrong, forget it. Accept it and love it.
From now on, live with constant awareness of your mortality. And choose differently.
Women especially can have a tough time not agreeing to take on any task in the Universe—whether for ourselves, or others. But learning to say no is one of the most empowering things on Earth. Not, “No, I can’t because . . .” But just, “No.” It shows you care about yourself and what you’re doing. And, that whatever you say yes to, you’ll do with all of your heart.
We know all the wonderful things that being in nature does for us, right? How it slows down the heartrate and mind. How it causes feelings of connection. How it cleanses the soul.
And not that we need a study for this, but of course they’re being done!
Zelenski and Nisbet’s study of Happiness and Feeling Connected, The distinct Role of Nature Relatedness found that:
“Nature relatedness remained a significant distinct predictor of many happiness indicators, even after controlling for other connections. Results support the notion that nature relatedness could be a path to human happiness and environmental sustainability.”
See, that walk in the woods being calming wasn’t all just in your head!
Not only for fun and to get out of a rut, but challenging the brain by learning a new skill actually leads to changes in the brain.
Dr. Kathryn Papp, neuropsychologist and instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School said, "It may create new connections between brain cells by changing the balance of available neurotransmitters and changing how connections are made."
Although cognitive scientists can’t exactly explain why you need sleep, Namni Goel, Ph.D., a biological psychologist and sleep expert at the U of Pennsylvania, says that plenty of research exists showing how a lack of it cripples your mind.
That’s pretty much good enough for me. Not to mention my own brain fog when sleep deprived.
I don’t know about you, but this one was tough for me. Kinda went back to that perfectionist thing, and I had to pry my fingers apart in order to let others assume responsibilities of my business.
But you know how when you start becoming successful, there are actually more tasks that need doing? And many of those are technical ones, about which I’m virtually clueless. Furthermore, about which even if I studied and studied, I wouldn’t do nearly as well as those folks who already are proficient in them, and like what they do!
I decided a while back that if I were to break a leg, I wouldn’t try to set it myself, but rather, go to a good orthopedist. You know, the professionals who have the training and ability and get paid to do it.
Once that correlation became apparent about business, it was easy to outsource many things.
We all get screwed up about time, no? At least I truly used to. I can still get caught in that today if I’m not careful.
But I loved this from Tony Robbins:
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year - and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”
Because that’s what life is, no? It’s those moments in time we remember. The rich ones, the fertile and profound ones. The ones that give our lives meaning.
And if we’re not careful, we can sure forget them . . .
Aren’t your most meaningful moments worth remembering? And I’ve found that if I don’t write them down, don’t document them, I can forget. Sure, something may jar my memory, but why count on that?
By listing those, keeping track of them, it’s easy to look back for a smile in the midst of a harried day.
As Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass: “Happiness is not another place, but this place . . . not for another hour, but this hour . . .”
The highest vibration on this Earth, and the strongest, is unconditional love. It is what makes life worth living, the power that moves mountains.
We often think about this in terms of a significant other, or of parenting, but that’s putting constraints on the most powerful force of our world. To truly feel this love transcends all relationships and things.
As the poet Pablo Neruda said, "I love you without knowing how or when or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride."
Okay, so what are some of your happiness actions?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.