Happiness is in short supply these days, but the good news is: You can become happier if you work at it. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, and she says that 50% of happiness is genetic and 10% is due to circumstances. The rest can be impacted by your behavior. So, here’s how to alter your approach to life, and boost your happiness:
- Be at the center of your social network. Researchers tracked over 4,700 people for 20 years, and they found that happy people tend to have strong social networks of family, friends and neighbors. Unhappy people tend to cluster on the fringes of social networks. So, start scheduling movies with friends, lunches with co-workers, and barbecues with your neighbors.
- Then, surround yourself with happy people. Studies show that happiness is contagious. In fact, you can even catch happiness from a friend of a friend. So, if you hear that someone you barely know got a new job, or welcomed a new baby, that can make you more content than a $5,000 pay raise. On the flip side, you can also catch unhappiness. So, after you spend time with a friend, ask yourself how you feel. If you’re always angry or blue, it may be time to ease them out of your life.
- Watch less TV. Studies show that unhappy people watch at least 30% more TV per day than very happy people.
- Manage your time wisely. Research shows that North Americans don’t feel any more stressed or rushed than they did 20 years ago. However, having too much time on your hands – or not enough time – leads to unhappiness. So, plan to do at least one fun thing every day. If you feel you’re spread too thin, learn to say “no.” “I’d love to help plan the fundraiser, but I’m overcommitted right now.”
- Don’t obsess about the unknown. For example, stop worrying that you’ll never meet “The One” or that you won’t have enough money to retire. If you’re going out of your way to meet people and you’re setting money aside, relax and go with the flow. The more you live “in the moment” – instead of worrying about an uncertain future - the happier you’ll be.