This year is … Researchers still argue over the exact numbers, but what matters is this: As is nearly everything, some people win the genetic lottery of life, and some people lose. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees. The results of this study are surprising: Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels early on, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different: The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Smile with just your mouth. Smelling floral scents like roses can make us happier. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it's been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. If you can't take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar--even if it's a month or a year down the road. It turns out it's also useful for improving your happiness: In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants' brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes: Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 minutes exercising and 6 × 40 minutes reading. Are you willing to make it? Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, is the science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Try them all. We all want to be happy. In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives: ...we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested. Empty success, shallow pleasures, and immediate gratification seem to dominate our culture more and more, and so it’s time to ask: Luckily, researchers have found an answer to the question that has plagued philosophers for thousands of years. Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. It helps promote a view of ourselves as responsible and giving people, which in turn makes us feel happy. If we go back to Shawn Achor's book again, he says this about helping others: ...when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities--such as concerts and group dinners out--brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. 5. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. This is a seemingly simple strategy but I've personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. Think … Happy people tend to make others happier as well, and vice versa – those who do good, feel good! Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. What this means is that others are born, well, “less happy” than others. He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how men's social connections made a difference to their overall happiness: Men's relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable. However, even if you are one of those unlucky people seemingly doomed for misery, don’t give up just yet! Go and find your happy place. This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. This year is … Czikszentmihalyi pioneered the “experience sampling method” to discover what he called the “psychology of optimal experience,” and specifically, the experience of Flow. Get Outside More: Happiness is Maximized at 57°. After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people. A portion of our happiness is determined by our genetics (but there’s still plenty of room for attitude adjustments and happiness-boosting exercises!). It's easy to think of happiness as a result, but happiness is also a driver. Life and liberty aside, what really makes people happy? Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods--for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Once you realize that, happiness becomes a choice. Sadly, most people fail in their quest for happiness for one simple reason: They seek it where there is nothing to be found. There's a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.). It's fascinating what a small change in temperature can do. At least according to the aforementioned Ed Diener, who was the first person to study happiness scientifically. Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it is an effective strategy for overcoming depression. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent. Try one. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. 4. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break. A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances: Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. In a study cited in Shawn Achor's book The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you're grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you. Plan a Trip: It Helps Even if You Don't Actually Take One. Try it. Quick Final Fact: Getting Older Will Actually Make You Happier. Happy people accomplish more. So if you thought getting old will make you miserable, it's likely you'll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now. So, every year on March 20, the UN releases a new happiness report, which details the happiest and saddest nations, and tries to explain what makes a happy citizen. Spending money on other people, called "prosocial spending," also boosts happiness. 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