Proven daily habits that will ignite and spark joy for the long-term.

Photo by Eddie Kopp on Unsplash

The quest for happiness can be as confusing as Indiana Jones looking for lost treasure. Many people are waiting for happiness and they believe that if they aren’t happy now, they will be happy when their career finally takes off, they find Mr. Right, or they strike it rich. Yet, the science of happiness reveals that happiness is actually something you can create daily. It’s a lot like exercise because it requires discipline, regular effort, and a commitment to a continual practice.

Letting go of the idea that you will one day arrive at happiness, and instead practicing “happiness habits” is the most effective way to increase your happiness. Research shows that committing to one new happiness habit at a time and practicing it regularly can make a big difference towards living a happier life. Here are some of the most powerful happiness habits, backed by science:

6 Happiness Habits to Practice

Savour

Stopping to smell the roses (which in scientific literature is called savouring) means recognizing the good things in your life (i.e. a beautiful flower, a delicious cup of coffee, or the sun shining on your face) and then basking in the positive feelings associated with them. Instead of letting a positive experience pass by with little attention or appreciation, savouring means taking time to acknowledge, appreciate, and fully enjoy it. Research shows that savouring can be a potent happiness booster, and it doesn’t really matter exactly what you choose to savour (as long as you enjoy it). 

Try to slow down two to three times per day to notice what is good or makes you feel happy in that moment. Once you’ve found something to appreciate, take at least 10 seconds to really enjoy the feeling of that moment, and notice how it affects your mood.

Monitor your media

Have you ever watched the news and noticed that you feel less happy or more anxious after? Scientists have found that watching the news can trigger negative feelings and can have an immediate effect on your happiness. One study found that people who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to people who watched positive news or no news at all. 

Social media can also affect your mental health. In a recent study, researchers found that emotions expressed by others on Facebook can influence your emotions. Social media can also be a happiness drain, and a study from the University of Michigan found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the less happy and satisfied they were with their life. 

Happy people often limit their news consumption and are intentional about what media and social media they consume. Try to notice your media and social media habits, and make an effort to eliminate or limit the ones that made you feel less happy.

Do something nice for someone

When you do something nice for someone it releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) that activate the parts of your brain associated with happiness, pleasure, and social connection. There is a positive feedback loop created by doing something nice for someone and happiness. When you are happy, it increases the likelihood that you will be altruistic; and when you are altruistic it makes you feel happier. 

Doing something nice doesn’t need to mean a grand gesture. Small things, such as buying a stranger behind you in the coffee line a cup of coffee, putting a coin in an expired meter, or giving someone a genuine compliment can make a big impact on someone’s day–and your own.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude is a feeling of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation, and it can significantly increase your happiness as well as protect you from stress, anxiety, and depression. A recent study found that 90% of respondents said that practicing gratitude helped them feel happier. 

By intentionally focussing on things you are grateful for, happiness and life satisfaction increase. A regular gratitude practice is one of the easiest ways to counter the brain’s negativity bias (the tendency to cling to negative thoughts and things in the environment).

Get moving!

Have you ever noticed that you feel great after an intense workout? There is a reason for that! Happiness and exercise are both independently associated with the release of endorphins and an increase in immune function; it also decreases cortisol, a stress hormone. 

Exercise is not just good for your body, it’s also sublime for your mind. Regular physical activity increases happiness and can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. 

Let it go, let it go!

Happiness comes down to basic math. It requires both subtraction and addition. If you want to be happy now you need to let go of the past. The past is valuable (it provides a solid foundation for the present), you can learn from it (both the mistakes and the successes), and then let it go.

More Inspiration: Check out this other great article by Gillian on how to find happiness.

Author: Dr. Gillian Mandich is Canada’s Happiness Doctor. She uses the latest science to help people live happy lives. Mandich has a PhD from Western University in health science, specializing in health promotion. Her primary areas of research are happiness and health, and her personal mission is to educate people about evidenced-based health information, so they can lead a happy, healthy life. You can find her online here.

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