5 Ways To Live A Happier Life, According To Psychologists

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Happiness is something that we all strive for, yet many of us find it challenging to grasp and even harder to maintain. Especially during these difficult economic times, happiness can feel like it is hiding just behind next week’s paycheck, a new job, or a distant raise. However, as Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard University recently pointed out, “money alone can buy you happiness, but not much.”(1) It appears that happiness has less to do with money than we might imagine, and more to do with the people around us, how we live our lives, the way spend our time, and how we perceive ourselves and understand our life experiences.

Based on the latest research in psychology and my experience as both a psychologist trying to understand happiness, and as a human being searching for my own happiness, here are 11 ways to live a happier life…that have nothing to do with money!

1) PRACTICE GRATITUDE

No matter where they are or what they are doing, happy people recognize that they always have something to be grateful for. Research in the field of Positive Psychology has shown that people who practice gratitude are happier, less stressed and less depressed! Happy people can easily find gratitude in the world around them, whether they are looking at the cracks in the pavement in the concrete jungle or the sun setting over the ocean. It is possible to find gratitude even in smallest of things, like a delicious meal, a good book, a challenging yoga class, or a smile from a stranger on the street.

Each of us has a choice on how we focus our attention. Choosing to focus on gratitude for the beauty and uniqueness of life instead the stressors and problems will make you feel happier and more relaxed.

2) FIND A PLACE OF FLOW

In Positive Psychology, the concept of “Flow” is defined as the “complete immersion in activity for it’s own sake.” When we are in flow, such as when we are running a race, writing a song, or reading a great book, our self-awareness dissipates, time seems to stop, and we become focused, peaceful, and attentive to the task at hand. People who frequently experience flow tend to be happy, productive, creative and focused.

You can reach a state of flow by putting special attention to tasks that you find intrinsically rewarding and enjoyable. In other words, carve out some time to do what you LOVE! For more information about how to find your flow, explore Dr. Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s book, Finding Flow.

3) SMILE MORE

If you are feeling down or having a rough day, it is possible to cheer yourself up by simply thinking of a person, place or situation that makes you smile! Indeed, research in psychology has shown that the physical act of smiling will make you feel happier, even if you are just flexing the muscles of your mouth and not intentionally smiling!

While scientists are not yet completely certain why the simple of act of smiling makes you feel happy, it has been suggested that smiling contracts the facial muscles, leading to more blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobes, which in turn triggers release of dopamine, one of the pleasure chemicals in the brain. So bust out the comedies and get your giggle on (or maybe let someone tickle you a little bit)!

4) EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES

We are all perfectly imperfect in this human form, and it is only natural that we make mistakes (sometimes very often!) Living in denial about your mistakes or getting wrapped up in your ego will only you make you miserable and block you from learning valuable lessons that will help you grow and improve.

By embracing your mistakes, you will be able to forgive yourself, and the bonus is that other people might actually like you more! According to Dr. Eliot Aronson’s “Pratfall effect” in Social Psychology, making mistakes makes competent people seem more attractive, and more human to others. Happy people seem to intuitively know this, embracing mistakes as learning experiences and not judging themselves too harshly.

5) MAINTAIN AN OPTIMISTIC ATTITUDE

Happy people tend to respond to negative events in a more optimistic manner than unhappy people. Positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman defines optimism as “reacting to problems with confidence and high personal ability,” specifically, recognizing that negative events are temporary and limited in scope.Research has linked optimism with a plethora of positive outcomes including longevity, recovery from illness, overall physical health, enhanced coping skills and problem solving in difficult situations.

Overall, optimism is a central component of staying happy and healthy, so when in doubt, look on the bright side.-themindunleashed.org

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