When you think about how to be happy in today’s world, the concept itself may seem overwhelming. Is happiness genetic? Are there habits you can implement in your everyday life to become a happier person?
According to Psychology Today, research in the field of positive psychology defines a happy person as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.
While it may also be true that our genes can impact our emotions and general disposition, more and more research is beginning to show that happiness itself is not entirely genetic. In fact, it’s actually possible to manifest happiness regardless of your genetic makeup.
According to Harvard Health, 40% of people’s happiness actually comes from the life choices they make.
So, if we know that we can increase our happiness through our decision-making skills, where do we begin as we start to explore how to be happy?
Live Your Values/Purpose
When it comes to lessons in how to be happy, it is important to remember that happiness may look different for everyone. The first step is to get clear on what your values are and what exactly you want to manifest in your life.
You can begin by making a list of the qualities you believe reflect your true self. Perhaps those qualities include things like honest, relatable, inspiring, empowering, or compassionate. When you act with these qualities in mind, you are likely to feel satisfied and proud. This can spur genuine happiness.
Process Negative Emotions
Another lesson in how to be happy is to allow yourself to process your negative emotions on a daily basis. Although it may seem counterintuitive, recognizing negative emotions and making space for them can actually boost your happiness.
Not sure where to begin? The first step in how to be happy is to name the negative emotion you are feeling. Is it anger, sadness, or jealousy? Perhaps it’s shame or disappointment. After you identify the emotion, imagine you are a reporter explaining the scenario to an outside source. Describe the emotion by stating where you feel it and what it looks like. You will instantly notice that you are able to separate yourself from the thought or the feeling.
After you have recognized that the negative thought is just that (a thought), you can acknowledge it and let it pass through. Sit still for a few minutes and practice some diaphragmatic breathing. Focus on expelling negative emotions from your body. This lesson in how to be happy could change the way you process any negative emotion in the future.
Give Back/Engage in Meaningful Activities
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest lessons in how to be happy has less to do with you, and more to do with how you interact with others. Research continues to show that giving back to family, friends, strangers, neighbors, and community members can significantly raise your happiness level.
In one study, participants of all ages agreed to volunteer in their community at varying frequencies. Four groups of volunteering participation were created: frequent (once a week), infrequent (once a month/several times a year), rare (once or less a year), and never. Results from the study showed that frequent to moderate acts of volunteering elicited the most happiness among participants ages 40-80 and older.
Volunteering also boosted the participants’ sense of purpose. According to this study, feeling purposeful is another way to achieve inner peace and happiness. When we feel purposeful, we feel like we are making a difference in some important way. This, in turn, contributes to feelings of positivity and increased self-worth.
Build Meaningful Connections
When we really reflect on lessons in how to be happy, human connection is at the top of the list. Our relationships with others help us to feel safe, loved, and appreciated.
One way to foster happiness through relationships is to listen carefully and respond in encouraging ways. This helps to cultivate positive emotions and can also aid in deepening relationships.
Additionally, seeking out connections and building upon those relationships is another key to the happiness puzzle. Researchers in Canada found that in-person social connection is one of the greatest predictors of happiness and reduced stress. According to their surveys, friendship offers a source of social support that in turn makes people feel cared for and happier.
Another study aimed at assessing the value of social connection ran four distinct trials where the participants were either rejected or excluded by others. After interviewing the participants post-rejection and exclusion, researchers concluded that loneliness created lower levels of meaning and contributed to an increase in depression.
Practice Kindness and Gratitude
A similar lesson in how to be happy also ties into relationships with others. More specifically, this piece of the happiness puzzle involves treating others with kindness and practicing gratitude.
When we think about our relationships with those we are closest to, it can be easy to harp on disagreements, disputes, and things that we differ on. This is all but natural; our closest relationships are usually the ones we feel safest in.
Despite this, it is important that we also practice kindness and gratitude towards the people we care about. If you are truly wondering how to be happy, this piece of advice is vital to sustaining happy, vibrant relationships with those that matter most in your life.
The evolving research on gratitude and happiness continues to show that gratitude can improve relationships, and in turn, increase personal happiness. This is partly because gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. Additionally, it helps partners, friends, and family members to feel appreciated and heard, which can help to deepen these relationships.
Happiness is not entirely inherent; rather, it is something you can cultivate. Your thoughts, actions, and choices impact your level of happiness. By implementing some of these lessons in how to be happy, everyone has the power to make changes towards living a happier life.
Looking for more ways to live a happier life? Explore TelMD Resources!
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