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Four Ways to Increase Your Happiness

November '16

I was leafing through an old magazine yesterday, but stopped when I came across an informative two-page spread on “How to Find Happiness.”1 The ideas it contained were wonderfully specific and also backed by scientific research, so I decided to share them with you.

By now, you probably know some of the benefits happiness brings, such as better health, a longer life, plus a deeper, more meaningful existence. Now who doesn’t want some of that? Here are the four approaches I found on these pages.

#1 – Establish routines. This one came as a surprise to me, but I was persuaded by both the argument presented and by my own experience. In examining what creates a meaningful life, psychologists propose three factors: significance, purpose and coherence. And it is that last factor, coherence, where routine comes into play. Turns out that folks who do pretty much the same things every day find life more meaningful. When I paused to reflect on this finding, I realized that my morning cup of Barry’s Irish breakfast tea with a dash of milk always brings me a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, as does hitting the sack at almost the same time every night. This first tactic reminded me of another research finding I reported in this newsletter a few years ago, that people who made their beds every morning tended to be happier.

#2 – Plan time for activities you enjoy. This one seemed pretty obvious to me, but I understood that doing so does require conscious effort. The researchers named this one, “prioritizing positivity.” May I suggest you combine formulas #1 and #2 here by making activities you enjoy a routine. For example, my weekly Saturday morning visits to our local farmer’s market with a friend are both a routine and a “positivity” generating activity. What regular routine, or activity, could you establish that would promote more “positivity” in your life?

#3 – Spend money on experiences, not things. Evidently there are many research studies to support the notion that a cash outlay for events like the theater, dining out, or travel brings more happiness in the long run than money spent on goods. One factor that leads to more joy here is the anticipation of the upcoming activity. With the days darkening and possible snow predicted for this weekend, thinking about my plan to travel to Florida next February actually does give me a lift.

#4 – Grow older. Yup! One page featured a chart that clearly showed the nadir of reported happiness in the US to be around ages 53-54 with a clear, upward trend for all the decades thereafter. Fun to think you’ll simply become happier by hanging around!

Have you ever tried any of these approaches and found them to effectively boost your happiness level? Or have you discovered other methods that expand your feelings of contentment? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences; please share them.

Happy Holidays – Enjoy!

Bonnie

1 Scientific American Mind, July/August 2015, pp. 8-9.

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