5 Simple Practices for Cultivating More Happiness in Life |

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Do you ever feel like happiness is a butterfly you’re chasing in the wind? Why is that some people seem to “catch happiness” easier than others? Is happiness in our genes? The research says that’s not the case: There are simple things you can do every day to cultivate happiness in your life.

What is happiness, really?

Two things that science, so far, says happiness is not

  • Happiness is not (all) in your genes. Blue eyes, brown hair…that’s genetic. Happiness, not so much. Unless it is classified Top Secret, no illustrious scientist has identified a genetic marker for happiness. Now, some twin studies have shown that a happy disposition is somewhat influenced by genetics, but even if a high estimate of 40-50% of happiness is linked to genetics, that’s not proof. There’s still a lot of wiggle room for other biological and social factors that contribute to what makes a person happy.
  • Happiness is not a trait. Research also indicates that happiness isn’t a personality trait. Though it may be affected by a cluster of other personality traits, happiness itself isn’t a stand-alone trait we are born with and that remains unchanged throughout a lifetime. In addition to personality traits, many things create and affect happiness, among them are circumstances, environment, behaviors and habits, mindset, social and cultural factors, relationships, and the list goes on. A kaleidoscope of factors, every changing, has a lot to do with how a person experiences happiness.

Happiness, defined:  Happiness can be defined by a range of different, but related positive connotations and emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, peacefulness, satisfaction in life, elation, not feeling sad, etc. And then there’s the things that research shows are associated with being happy like wealth, good health, work satisfaction, achievements, and that list goes on and on. But these things don’t define happiness. The definition depends on how happiness is measured, which is a pretty big deal. In a nutshell, an enduring and simple definition of happiness goes something like this:

Happiness is a state of wellbeing that encompasses living a fulfilling life with a sense of meaning, purpose and with contentment.

How do you create meaning and contentment that tally-up to happiness? By cultivating the traits, habits and practices that are common among happy people.

Traits & Habits Shared by Happy People

Remember we said a kaleidoscope of factors shape how a person experiences happiness… (yep, we said that, go back up a few lines). Well, science has identified a long list of those factors, including traits, behaviors, habits and so on, that are common among happy people…here’s the short list, in no particular order.

A happy person…

  • cherishes simple pleasures in life
  • is open to learning / trying new things
  • smiles & laughs often
  • has compassion for self & others
  • expresses gratitude
  • takes care of their mind & body
  • nurtures healthy relationships
  • gives without expecting in return
  • feels their life has a sense meaning
  • is not spiteful & doesn’t hold grudges
  • doesn’t sweat the small stuff
  • shows resilience in tough times
  • lives in the present moment without anxiety for the past or future

5 Simple Happiness Practices Anyone Can Do

You can strengthen the traits, habits, and attitudes that cultivate happiness by engaging in simple “happiness practices” such as the ones listed here. Start with one or two of these practices on a weekly basis with the aim of making them a part of your daily life.

Shift to a Positive Perspective

In a world full of problems…look for things to be optimistic about and anchor your mindset to those positive vibes. Even if for just a few minutes each day, try to cultivate realistic optimism, which is when you acknowledge that even in very a difficult circumstance, you can focus your attention on something positive and meaningful in the process of navigating the situation. One way to this is shift your mindset to look for possibilities that exist in times of change (“when one door closes…”).

Express Gratitude

A paper journal or journaling app can help you regularly express gratitude for the people, moments, and things that bring goodness into your life. Start or end your day with a gratitude journal entry. Or, take 30 seconds midday to reflect something you feel grateful for. Expressions of gratitude, both over time and in the moment, can boost happiness and reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. You can feel sad or anxious about one thing and still feel gratitude for something else simultaneously.

Engage in Kind Acts

A meaningful act of kindness creates good vibes for everyone involved. For the recipient of a kind act, you’ve doled out a dose of positivity that warms their heart. Acts of kindness also kickback to you, increasing your level of happiness. Try these easy-to-do kind acts: place a sticky note in your partner’s workbag—tell them they’re appreciated. Text your teen a meme from their favorite show so they know you’re paying attention to little things that bring them joy. Compliment someone—this not only brightens their day, giving compliments also conditions your mind to focus on the positive.

Strengthen Social Connections

More than just a risk factor for unhappiness, loneliness can be a deadly health problem, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. The remedy:  Strengthening social connections, in person and offline, to boost emotional and physical wellbeing. People who have one or more close friends or family members indicate they feel happier and healthier. They also experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. Try these tips to overcome loneliness.

Take Care of Your Mind & Body

Having good emotional and physical health means you have one less thing to be stressed about—and health is a strongly linked to happiness. When your mind and body are healthy, you’re able to engage in activities that you enjoy, spend time with people who have common interests, more easily bounce back from adversity, and can seek out new experiences. All of that helps to bring meaning and purpose to your life. Taking care of you can include a variety of things done daily or periodically, but consistently and in alignment with your values:  exercising daily, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, reading for pleasure, laughing often and with others, using your unique skills/strengths, and engaging in hobbies.

I’m Just to Grumpy to Be Happy

Actually, you aren’t…so no more excuses because even the most pessimistic person can create a shift toward optimism to experience more happiness in life. Of course, if your truly happy being grumpy and pessimistic…we’re happy for you!

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