Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Be Happy

How to Be Happy

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Happiness - isn't that the thing we all strive to find and keep? Nobody is happy all the time, but some people are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies reveal that happiness has little to do with material goods or high achievement; it boils down to your outlook on life, and the quality of your relationships.


  1. Be optimistic. In the seventies, researchers followed people who'd won the lottery and found that a year afterward, they were no happier than people who didn't. This hedonic adaptation suggests that we each have a baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the effect on our happiness is temporary, and we tend to revert to our baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than others, and that is due in part to genetics, but it's also largely influenced by how you think.[1] So, while this article will help boost your happiness, only improving your attitude towards life will increase your happiness permanently. Here are excellent starting points for doing that:
  2. Have something to look forward to, always. It's important to work toward a goal you'll achieve by getting up every morning. Having something to look forward to makes you see the "big picture" and you won't feel as if you are just working every day towards nothing. Do something for someone else; when you are working on something bigger than yourself, you will find that inspiration naturally comes to you.
  3. Follow your gut. In one study, two groups of people were asked to pick a poster to take home. One group was asked to analyze their decision, weighing pros and cons, and the other group was told to listen to their gut. Two weeks later, the group that followed their gut was happier with their posters than the group that analyzed their decisions.[2] Now, some of our decisions are more crucial than picking out posters, but by the time you're poring over your choice, the options you're weighing are probably very similar, and the difference will only temporarily affect your happiness. So next time you have a decision to make, and you're down to two or three options, just pick the one that feels right, and go with it. Never regret the decisions you make, though. Just live by the 3 C's of life: choices, chances, and changes. You need to make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.
  4. Make enough money to meet basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing. In the US, that magic number is $40,000 a year. Any money beyond that will not necessarily make you happier. Remember the lottery winners mentioned earlier? Oodles of money didn't make them happier. Once you make enough to support basic needs, your happiness is not significantly affected by how much money you make, but by your level of optimism.[3]
    • Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort isn't what makes people happy. It makes people bored. That's why it's important to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel personal growth.
  5. Stay close to friends and family: Or move to where they are, so you can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this because we think salary increases make us happier, but in fact our relationships with friends and family have a far greater impact on happiness. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you'd need a salary increase of over $100,000 USD to compensate for the loss of happiness you'd have from moving away from friends and family.[4] But if relationships with family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and you are bent on moving, choose a location where you'll make about the same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people feel more financially secure (and happier) when on similar financial footing as the people around them, regardless of what that footing is.[5]
  6. Have deep, meaningful conversations. A study by a psychologist at the University of Arizona has shown that spending less time participating in small talk and more time in deep, meaningful conversations can increase happiness. [6]
  7. Find happiness in the job you have now: Many people expect the right job or career to dramatically change their level of happiness, but research makes it clear that your levels of optimism and quality of relationships eclipse the satisfaction gained from your job.[7] If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job, and if you have good relationships, you won't depend on your job for a sense of meaning. You'll find meaning in interactions with the people you care about. This isn't to say you shouldn't aspire to get a job that will make you happier; it means you should understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small relative to your outlook and your relationships.
  8. Smile: Science suggests that when you smile, whether you feel happy or not, your mood is elevated. [8] [9] So smile all the time! In addition, having enough money to pay the bills allows you to focus your energies on more productive aspects of your life, such a the pursuit of happiness, as opposed to keeping the 'wolves from the door'.
  9. Forgive: In a study of college students, an attitude of forgiveness contributed to better cardiovascular health. You could say forgiveness literally heals the heart. While it is unknown how forgiveness directly affects your heart, the study suggests that it may lower the perception of stress.[10]
  10. Make friends. In a 2010 study published by Harvard researchers in American Sociological Review, people who went to church regularly reported greater life satisfaction than those who didn't. The critical factor was the quality of friendships made in church. Church-goers who lacked close friends there were no happier than people who never went to church. When researchers compared people who had the same number of close friends, those who had close friends from church were more satisfied with their lives.[11] It's thought that the forming of friendships based on mutual interests and beliefs (and meeting consistently based on that) makes the difference, so if church is not your thing, consider finding something else you're deeply passionate about and making friends with whom you can connect regularly based on that. Furthermore, when you interact with people who share your interests, you will feel happier due to sensations of reward and well-being. This is because during such interactions, endorphin and dopamine -- neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness and relaxation -- are released. In other words, your body is designed to feel happier when engaged in social interactions. [12]


  • Just because something seems to make others happy doesn't mean it really does. People may pretend they're happy, especially when they've invested so much into the things that are supposed to make them happy; it's hard to admit that you've been placing all your eggs in the wrong basket.
  • Don't be afraid to admit when you're down and need a lift. Conversely, if a person is a negative influence who drags you down, don't be afraid to remove such a person from your life.
  • Keep in close touch with relatives and a small circle of friends. Cultivate love and support.
  • When you're purposely trying to be happy or cheerful, but just can't seem to achieve it at the moment, do something crazy. Stupid, crazy, weird actions seem pointless, but could actually lift your mood -- just because you're glad you did it. Most fundamentally, recognize that happiness is a state of mind, not something to be defined objectively. You can change your state of mind in many ways including these suggestions:
    • Turn your favorite music up loud and do a stupid dance to it. Talk to yourself in the mirror.
    • Try a new food.
    • Rearrange your room in a weird way.
    • Write a funny or inspiring quote on your mirror/wall/locker.
    • Scream as loud as you can (warn your family first!) and bounce up and down; jump all around.
    • If it's a hot day, get your swimsuit on, go outside and turn the hose on yourself.
  • If you have a child, tell him/her often how much you love and admire him/her and would do anything to help him/her.
  • Listen to happy music, not music that will get you down.
  • Surround yourself with colours that make you happy. Make that dark wallpaper light blue or yellow.
  • If you are not happy, remember that you don't have to have a great house and be rich; live in a peaceful house and do what you want to do.
  • Nobody is perfect! Don't let just ONE bad thing make you sad.
  • Expect the best. You might think it's better to expect the worst, that way you'd never be disappointed. But in the long run you're going to be better off expecting the best because then you can always be proud of yourself, whatever happens.
  • Always try to impress your heart because that's where you will find god


  • If you are constantly unhappy or depressed, seek professional help.
  • Happy people are not happy all the time. Everyone has times when they feel sad, frustrated, guilty, angry, and so on. Happy people are just better at bouncing back to a state of contentedness. We may all feel negative at moments in our lives, but try to bounce back and live in the moment, and be content with everything you do.

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Sources and Citations

  2. The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson
  10., PubMed, "A change of heart: cardiovascular correlates of forgiveness in response to interpersonal conflict." Lawler, K. A., Younger, J. W., Piferi, R. L., Billington, E., Jobe, R., Edmondson, K., Jones, W. H., Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2003 Oct;26(5):373-393.
  12. The Neuroscience of Sharing

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