“Imagine a drug that causes you to live eight or nine years longer, make $15,000 more a year, be less likely to get divorced,” says Martin Seligman, who started the positive psychology movement almost a decade ago. “Happiness seems to be that drug.”
So here are 10 simple tips to help you find happiness.
- Be less virtual, more 3-D. “If there’s one thing that separates happy people from ridiculously happy people, it’s the quality of their social relationships,” says psychologist Todd Kashdan of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. If you sit at a computer all day, get up and indulge in some human contact instead. Even time with strangers ramps up your sense of well-being, says Kashdan. “You laugh much harder when you’re with other people in a theatre than when you watch a movie at home.”
- 4, 6, 8…who do we appreciate? Making a list of things you’re grateful for may seem silly, but it’s been proven to work. In fact, counting your blessings may be the single most helpful thing you can do for your happiness quotient, experts say.
- Rack ’em up. Think of every positive experience during the day as a bead on a string, and see how they add up. This simple exercise makes you focus on even the smallest positive moments, like a fellow driver waving you to go first at a four-way stop, or an email from a friend in a spam-filled inbox.
- Think memorable, not material. If you have to choose between, say, a new car and a family vacation, pack your bags. Even the sexiest sports car becomes routine over time. But the memory of a good time with friends and loved ones will last forever.
- Go to the funny side. “Humour is like salt on meat,” observes psychologist Martin Seligman. “It amplifies everything.” Watch reruns of classic shows that never fail to make you laugh. Try to smile at the absurdities of life.
- Escape to your stress-free zone. Think of a place where you always feel calm and happy. Then, when you’re tense and miserable, call it up mentally, with as much detail as possible. Smell the suntan lotion. Feel the sun. Hear the sea. Play this video in your mind when your spirits slump.
- See the glass as half full. Whenever possible, try to look at the bright side. You might be feeling like your life right now is one giant downhill slope. But if you stop and assess it honestly, you’ll see you actually have it pretty good. And if things truly are against you, see No. 8.
- Find your inner artist. Think back to when you had time for creative expression. Were you in a rock band? Did you write poetry? Did you love tinkering with cars? Remember feeling so engaged that you lost track of time? Why not pick up that Fender (or fender) again? Joyful expression can bring happiness.
- Do good. Acts of kindness, however small, deliver as much pleasure to the giver as to the getter. For example, a real paper-and-pen letter, telling someone who’s helped you how much it meant to you, is a surefire way to cheer yourself up. So is giving time, money, or both, to a good cause.
- Seize the moment. Rather than waiting to celebrate a big event, why not do it today? Bake a cake just because. Take someone out to lunch. Buy pink nail polish. Have sex in the afternoon. Raise a toast to a good day. Go ahead, be happier.