Sunday, October 6, 2013

Are You Really HAPPY?

Happiness - it's what we all strive to find and keep, even when it's as elusive as ever. Nobody is happy all the time, but some people are definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies reveal that happiness has little to do with material goods or high achievement; it boils down to your outlook on life, the quality of your relationships, and the basic amenities like good governance and community resources.

In the 70's, researchers followed people who'd won the lottery and found that a year afterward, they were no happier than people who didn't. This hedonic adaptation that we each have a baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the effect on our happiness is temporary, and we tend to revert to our baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than other, and that is due in part of genetics, but it's also largely influenced by how you think.

Add up all the little happy things that happen to you during the day. For example, there was no traffic on the road, you had a nice breakfast, your friend said something funny that made you laugh, you took your dog for a walk in the park and played with it. All of these added together account to one big happiness.

Look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty. Your girlfriend break up with you? Now you have a chance to meet someone else! You lose your job? Now you have the opportunity to find a better one! Adjust your mentality so that, in everything that happens to you, there's some kernel of good.

Put yourself in situations where good things are likely to happen to you. It's easier to stay optimistic if you set yourself up for success. Cheating on a partner, or stealing a bike - while temporarily thrilling - rarely end well for any party involved. Ask yourself before you act: Am I setting myself up for success or for failure?
Think of your current situation (however hard it may be) and then think how much harder some other people have it. Just be happy that you are not in that worse situation. Learn to enjoy your life!
Next time you have a decision to make, and you're down to two or three options, just pick the one that feels right, and go with it. Never regret the decisions you make, though. Just live by the 3 C's of life: choices, chances, and changes. You need to make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.

Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort isn't what makes people happy. It makes people bored. That's why it's important to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel personal growth.
Treat your body like it deserves to be happy. It may sound cheesy to say, but your brain isn't the only organ in your body that deserves to be happy. Researchers have found that exercise, healthy diets, and regular sleep are key factors in growing more happy and staying that way.
People who are physically active have higher incidences of enthusiasm and excitement. Scientist hypothesize that exercise causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins that elevate our mood.

Eat right. Eating healthy foods - fruits and vegetables, lean meats and proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds - gives your body and brain the energy it needs to be healthy. Some scientists speculate that unhealthy diet, especially those rich in processed carbohydrates, sugars, and industrial vegetable fats, is responsible for brain shrinkage and certain brain diseases like depression and dementia. 

Get enough sleep. Study confirms it: the more sleep you get, the happier you tend to be. Getting just a single extra hour of sleep per night makes the average person happier than making $60, 000 more in annual income, astoundingly enough. So if you're middle-aged, shoot to get at least eight hours of sleep per night; the young and elderly should shoot for 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night.

Stay close to friends and family: Or move to where they are, so you can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this because we think salary increases make us happier, but in fact our relationships with friends and family have a far greater impact on happiness. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you'd need a salary increase of over $100, 000 USD to compensate for the loss of happiness you'd have from moving away from friends and family. If relationships with family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and you are bent on moving, choose a location where you'll make about the same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people feel more financially secure (and happier) when on similar financial footing as the people around them, regardless of what footing is.

Be compassionate. Compassion is all about doing something kind for someone in need, or someone less privileged than yourself. A brain-imaging study (where scientists peek into people's brains while they act or think) revealed that people gain as much happiness from watching others give to charity as they do receiving money themselves. Think of easy, quick, and effective ways that you can make your community a better place by being compassionate: Tutor, volunteer, or get involved in a church group. Countless children are looking for someone to teach them and act as a role model. Make a microloan (is when you give someone a very small sum of money for an economic project of their own. Many microloans have 95%+ repayment rates. Give a person in need food clothing or shelter. It's so basic we often forget to think about it, yet so easy to do.

Have deep, meaningful conversations. A study by a psychologist at the University of Arizona has shown that spending less time participating in small talk and more time in deep, meaningful conversations can increase happiness. So next time you're beating around the bush with a friend, instead cut right to the chase. You'll be happier for it.

Find happiness in the job you have now: Many people expect the right job or career to dramatically change their level of happiness. But research makes it clear that your levels of optimism and quality of relationships eclipse the satisfaction gained from your job. If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job: and if you have good relationships, you won't depend on your job for a sense of meaning. You'll find meaning in interactions with the people you care about. You'll use your job as a crutch instead of relying on it for meaning. This is not to say you shouldn't aspire to get a job that will make you happier; many people find that being on the right career path is a key determination in their overall happiness. It just means you should understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small when compared to your outlook and your relationships.

Smile: Science suggests that when you smile, whether you're happy or not, your mood is elevated. So smile all the time if you can! Smiling is like a feedback loop: smiling reinforces happiness, just as happiness causes smiling. People who smile during painful procedures reported less pain than those who kept their facial neutral.

Forgive: In a study of college students, an attitude of forgiveness contributed to better cardiovascular health. You could say forgiveness literally heals the heart. While it is unknown how forgiveness directly affects your heart, the study suggests that it may lower the perception of stress.

Make friends. In a 2010 study published by Harvard researchers in American Sociological Review, people who went to church regularly reported greater life satisfaction than those who didn't. The critical factor was the quality of friendships made in church. Church-goers who lacked close friends there were no happier than people who never went to church. When researchers compared people who had the same number of close friends, those who had close friends from church were more satisfied with their lives. the difference is the forming of friendships based on mutual interests and beliefs. So if church is not your thing, consider finding something else you're deeply passionate about, making friends with those who share similar interests. When you interact with people who share your interests, you feel happier due to sensations of reward and well-being. This is because during such interactions, endorphin and dopamine - neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness and relaxation - are released into the body. In other words, your body is designed to feel happier when engaged in social interactions.

Think of something that made you laugh or smile, even if it's from a long time ago. It'll still have the same effect. Fake it till you make it... Smile. Look on the bright side. Be mindful of life. Notice the trees, the birds, and the people around you. Connect with your senses and be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Watch your favorite movies, listen to your favorite songs and eat some food that you love. Try to think about that someone special and thinking about happy things that make you happy. Do things that make you feel happy too like singing, dancing, cooking, drawing or whatever it is. Talk to someone close and you trust. Cry as much as you can. Pray and feel confident about yourself. Telling yourself when you wake up you're going to be happy today, everyday will help also. Be content with who you are because nobody's 'the perfect one'. Always assume that what is done is done. Don't feel regret due to past mistakes. Instead, learn from them and move on. Be happy. Always look on the bright side. The past is the past you can't change it. No one can. Just be happy. Dance or sing. If you're worried take a deep breath and focus on the positives. Sit and figure out what makes you happy, and make one step at a time to get there.

As long as you are working toward your own personal goals you will move forward instead of procrastinating. Finding time for you is important. Relaxation and meditation or even getting a massage are all ways of taking just a bit of time out for yourself. A way to reward yourself for all that you do. Don't be afraid to admit when you're down and need a lift. Conversely, if a person is a negative influence who drags you down, don't be afraid to remove such a person from your life. However, it is even better when you can see the potential in people, and help them. As with charity, this is beneficial to both you and them; and you have a valuable friend afterwards who is grateful of your aid. For every bad thought that comes into your mind replace it with good one instead. Meditation is also useful. 

When you're purposely trying to be happy or cheerful, but just can't seem to achieve it at the moment, do something crazy. Stupid, crazy, weird actions seem pointless, but could actually lift your mood -- just because you're glad you did it. Most fundamentally, recognize that happiness is a state of mind, not something to be defined objectively. You can change your state of mind in many ways including these or suggestions:
  • Turn your favorite music up loud and do a dance to it. Talk to yourself in the mirror.
  • Write a funny or inspiring quote on your mirror/wall/locker.
  • Scream as loud as you can (warn your family first!) and bounce up and down; jump all around.
  • If it's a hot day, get your swimsuit on, go outside and turn the hose on yourself. 
Keep in close touch with relatives and a small circle of friends. Cultivate love and support. Fly kites alone or with a friend and feel your cares drift away with the breeze. If something bad happens, focus on the other great things that happened, if you do you will remember the good and forget the bad. Think of advice you would give to someone you care about. Take that advice yourself. Tell funny jokes with friends or family. If you are unhappy, even if you don't know why; talk it out with someone. The exchange of ideas and feelings is healing and usually provides some level of satisfaction or peace. Only desire 3 meals and a roof every day. Everything else is extra! Always be goofy and have a few funny jokes to share. Get a fair bedtime so you will be fresh and happy in the morning. Always have a routine. If you have a routine, life will get easier on the way. No more stress. Look at the bright side of things too.

Try to love yourself a little more. Happiness stems from feeling good about the things around you and how that affects you. Look in the mirror and feel happy that who is looking back at you is a survivor. Keep reinventing yourself. The only person on earth who shouldn't be bored with who you are is yourself. When negative thoughts pop up in your mind, just ignore them or think of something else. Write a list of the things that make you sad, and talk to the person or people that did it to you. 

Happy people are not happy all the time. Everyone has times when they feel sad, frustrated, guilty, angry, and so on. Happy people are just more resilient and better at maintaining a state of ubiquitous happiness. We may feel negative at moments in our lives, but try to bounce back and live in the moment, and be content with everything you do. If you are constantly unhappy or depressed, seek professional help.

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