Recent research suggests that 40% of the factors related to happiness are under our control. This means that we can all improve our happiness by making changes in the way we think and act.
Although many will disagree as to what exactly is the definition of happiness, no one will deny that this is a situation we can recognize when we experience, while we are able to understand when we are not happy.
Dr. Lyubomirsky has devoted most of her career in the scientific study of happiness. She has come up with a series of strategies that aim to bring happiness to our lives. The “recipe” of happiness proposed by Dr. Lyubomirsky is based on research evidence rather than anecdotal data or personal observations.
1. Expressing gratitude
It is important to express our gratitude for the goods we have, either to our self (e.g. by keeping a diary) or to a close friend. Also, Dr. Lyubomirsky advises us to express our appreciation to the people around us who we believe that they deserve it, but we have not ever thanked them. She argues that in this way, we will fell more beautiful and become more approachable to others.
2. Cultivating optimism
Let’s try to consciously direct ourselves to see the glass half full rather than half empty. It is not easy, but there is much research evidence according to which optimistic people are healthier, have a stronger immune system, and recover faster from illnesses than pessimists.
3. Avoiding comparisons
Dr Lyubomirsky argues that constantly revisiting the difficulties we face and comparing our situation with that of others is bound to make us feel that we do not have control of our lives. This will negatively affect our self-esteem and the relation with our loved ones. Let us try to distract our mind with other thoughts when we see that the germ of social comparison tries to invade our minds.
4. Help other people
No matter how we help others (anonymously or spontaneous or planned) the fact that we are doing something good for a fellow human being who has our need (e.g. helping an elderly person to fill out an application, make a donation) fills us with a sense of euphoria, which according to Dr. Lyubomirsky has an antidepressant action.
5. Caring for your relationships
Undoubtedly we do not need a specialist to convince us that relationships are important for happiness. The proposal of Dr. Lyubomirsky is to focus on an important relationship in our lives that we neglect and devote time and energy to improve and strengthen it.
6. Enjoyable activities
Dealing with demanding but enjoyable activities that absorb us so that we lose track of time is an essential ingredient to feel pleasure and euphoria.
7. Enjoy the moment
In our daily lives there are moments of joy and laughter around us, but we are often too preoccupied to give them meaning. And yet, the next time you hear a colleague tell a funny story or a small child describing his new game will benefit us to briefly turn our attention to them and then share that experience with others.
8. Focus on goals
“Happy people always have goals they are trying to achieve,” explains Dr. Lyubomirsky. Whether it’s learning a musical instrument or a foreign language or for a business purpose, it is important to commit in achieving our goals. Having a purpose in life leads to happiness. (See also: How to set goals and achieve them)
9. Learn to forgive
Preserving the anger and rage about the unfair behavior of others towards us, drives us away from happiness. Dr. Lyubomirsky points out that we must learn to forgive and not to preserve the hatred.
10. Take care of your appearance
When we are mentally depressed, we tend to neglect exercise for the benefit of the sofa. We usually think that our concerns are more important than taking care of our appearance. However, Dr. Lyubomirsky argues that taking care of our body plays an important role in the pursuit of happiness. This does not necessarily mean that you have to join a gym, a daily walk or 10 minute run is enough.
“It is easy to implement some steps that lead to happiness and to see results, but it is not easy to maintain happiness.”
As with any other important goal in life (e.g. parenting, career), happiness takes effort and commitment. It is necessary to radically change our habits-how we think and behave-and most probably we will have to try very hard in implementing strategies that increase happiness in our every day life.