We all want to be happy. This sentiment may mean different things to us; so what does it really take to be genuinely happy? Research results from a study done at the University of California Berkeley, lead researchers to believe happiness stems from having satisfaction and meaning in one’s life, to live positively and move on from negative emotions or situations, and to have a sense of purpose. So, if we were to break that all down, what would it look like to be happy? What are the habits of happy people?
It almost seems a little backwards when it’s laid out on paper, but doing kind things for others really does make us feel good. It’s part of human nature to want to help others, but with our busy lives, it’s easy to let the door close behind you without looking over your shoulder on your way into the coffee shop, or forgetting to send your best friend a birthday card. Happiness doesn’t just come from doing good things for ourselves; a large part of that warm, fuzzy feeling comes from doing good for others, whether it’s holding a door open for someone, picking your sister up from the airport, or volunteering at a children’s hospital once a week.
The Berkeley researchers found that the number “happy-maker” for people was having strong connections to others. Our brain works in such a way that happy-feeling hormones are released when we have positive interactions with people, whether we’re helping someone out, giving or receiving kindness, or just goofing around with friends. These positive connections and relationships can be made between essentially anyone, from family and friends to strangers, or your community as a whole. Call up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and ask her to coffee, or invite some classmates over for a study group. Sometimes it takes a little more reaching out than we’re comfortable with, but stepping outside our comfort zone leads us to healthy, strong relationships.
Spending some quality time with yourself is a great way to release stress, deal with your emotions (positive and negative) and build a stronger foundation for your relationship with yourself. It can be challenging to allow ourselves some time everyday to do something for ourselves, but even a 10-minute mediation in the morning can make a huge difference on our happiness levels. What you do for yourself may change from day-to-day, and that’s okay! Find what works for you, whether it’s scheduling that time into your planner, or spontaneously reading your novel and sipping a latte at the local coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon.
A 2015 study conducted at Harvard showed that 78% of people who were extremely happy exercised at least three times a week, and 93% of happy people said their good health was a large contributing factor to their mental well-being. Just like when we do something kind for another, exercising releases feel-good hormones in our brain that boosts our mood, and overall, improving our physical and emotional health. And when we eat well and get a little sweaty, we know - and feel - that we’re doing something good for ourselves, something that is nourishing our body, mind and soul, which is enough to make us happy.
Chasing your dream can be super daunting. But would you rather sit in a cubicle eating yoghurt routinely at 10 a.m., wishing it was lunch already, or would you rather take a leap, scary as it may seem, and start that business you’ve always talked about or go back to school to finish your degree? It’s easy to settle into a routine and live our lives just going through the motions. But that doesn’t really foster happiness. Don’t be afraid to live your life the way you want to. Follow your heart and create your own rules to live by so that you can live your truth and feel happy.
Gratitude is a beautiful thing. It teaches us how abundant our lives are even on the days when you’ve spilled coffee beans on the floor, ripped your pants, and missed the bus before noon. The more we acknowledge the good things we have in our lives, the more good we will attract. There are times when we find ourselves smiling while walking down the street because we are embodying that gratitude and feel it deep in our bones and hearts. But for the other days, try keeping a gratitude journal or listing three things you were grateful for that day before you head to bed. You’ll wake up feeling full of joy, even if your coffee ends up all over the floor.
We’re all capable of being happy, and feeling happiness. We just need to make decisions that will lead to positive changes and actions, and be grateful for what and who we have in our lives. The more time we spend fostering positive relationships with ourselves and others, and reflecting on how amazing those people and our lives are, the happier we will become.