The past year has been challenging for us all. We’ve endured the global pandemic, quarantine, layoffs, protest, and xenophobia, to name a few. It may seem as if happiness is out of reach. Despite the challenging year, there are many things that we can actively do to experience joy and well-being.
Below are five happiness hacks backed by science that you can incorporate into your life today.
Focus on Building Quality Relationships
According to a Harvard study, close relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Even more so than money or fame. It’s these relationships that help protect us from life’s grievances and slow down our mental and physical decline. Many more studies prove just this: our relationships and how we help others contribute to a longer and happier life.
Begin to build quality and meaningful social relationships. You can always start by putting all your energy into nurturing your existing relationships to become better. If you have a bad relationship with someone, repair it.
How many times do we wait for the person who has hurt us to make the first move to reach out and apologize? Even if they do, we don’t always forgive easily. Studies show that by doing so, we’re only hurting ourselves.
Cultivating a habit of forgiveness brings many benefits. Forgiveness enhances our emotional capabilities. People who forgive others are better able to control their anger. This practice helps to avoid depression and disappointments. Forgiveness also helps repair bad relationships. The first step in forgiving others is to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.”
Take an “Awe” Walk
Studies show that when we feel “awe,” our focus shifts away from ourselves to the broader world. Feeling “awe” helps us feel more socially connected to our community. It could also lead to a rise in positive emotions. For older adults, feeling “awe” could help combat loneliness and negative emotions.
An easy way to feel “awe” is to set aside 20 minutes a week to take a walk outdoors by yourself. Taking an “awe” walk boosts happiness and kills loneliness and stress. Block out your calendar and try to stick to this schedule if you can. As you take your walk, try to notice the positive things around you–sights, sounds, smells. A few examples you could focus on are the feeling of sunlight on your skin or the scent of fresh flowers and grass. Perhaps even a beautiful tree you never noticed before. Acknowledge each one in your mind as you see it. Try to take it all in and figure out what about it makes it enjoyable to you. Try walking a different route each week, so you don’t take any route for granted.
Focus on and Use Your Strengths
For most of us, it’s always easier to obsess over our weaknesses or flaws. But what if we did the opposite and put more of our efforts into acknowledging our character strengths? According to psychologists, understanding and cultivating, our character strengths leads to a good life. It’s not only essential to know your strengths, but also to actively use them daily. When we focus on what we do well and use these character strengths daily, we will experience happiness and well-being.
My favorite tool for finding out your character strengths is the VIA Character Strengths Survey. It’s the only free, scientific survey of character strengths globally, and it only takes 15-minutes of your time.
Live the Life You’ve Always Wanted
How many of us would live our lives so differently if we stopped working to meet everyone’s expectations? What if you chose the career you wanted, got married when you wanted, and started a family when you felt that you and your partner were ready? The point is to stop living your life based on anyone’s expectations of how you should live it.
What others think of you or what other people want you to do doesn’t matter. Pursue what feels authentic to you—your hopes, your goals, your dreams. And don’t forget to surround yourself with people who support and love the real “you.”
The most important thing to realize is that happiness is a choice. Fifty percent of your happiness is within your control. Start small and do a few things that make you happy each day.
If you’re looking for more lifestyle hacks to try, check out Five Ways to Build Your Self-Confidence.
What is your favorite happiness hack from this list? Which happiness hack will you start trying today? I’d love to know; please comment below.