There’s an overwhelming amount of happiness research.
Forget incorporating it all into your life — merely remembering it is daunting enough.
I like to keep it simple: Remember the 4 P’s.
Work those into every day and you’ll be smiling more.
This one gets short shrift in the modern era so we’ll put it first. You don’t need to live and die by the Bushido code but the best lives have purpose.
Studies of older Americans find that one of the best predictors of happiness is whether a person considers his or her life to have a purpose. Without a clearly defined purpose, seven in ten individuals feel unsettled about their lives; with a purpose, almost seven in ten feel satisfied. – Lepper 1996
This can be religion or a set of ethics or goals. But your vision of your life needs structure.
Research on the effect of religion on life satisfaction found that regardless of what religion people affiliated themselves with, those who had strongly held spiritual beliefs were typically satisfied with life, while those who had no spiritual beliefs typically were unsatisfied. – Gerwood, LeBlanc, and Piazza 1998
Being happy and being moral buttress each other. People who feel they lack morals report they are half as likely to feel happy compared to those who feel they are moral. – Garrett 1996
Goals are crucial to one’s orientation to the world and to life satisfaction. If one’s goals conform to one’s self-concept, it increases by 43 percent the likelihood that goals will contribute in a positive fashion to life satisfaction. – Emmons and Kaiser 1996
And it’s not enough to just have beliefs. We really feel good when we make progress toward our ideals.
In research on hundreds of college students, individuals were found to be happiest when they felt they were moving closer to achieving their goals. Students who could not see progress were three times less likely to feel satisfied than students who could. – McGregor and Little 1998
Happiness is more about how you look at life than what actually happens.
Happy people and unhappy people’s lives, objectively, are not all that different.
Happy people do not experience one success after another and unhappy people, one failure after another. Instead, surveys show that happy and unhappy people tend to have had very similar life experiences. The difference is that the average unhappy person spends more than twice as much time thinking about unpleasant events in their lives, while happy people tend to seek and rely upon information that brightens their personal outlook. – Lyubomirsky 1994
Compare yourself to those better than you and you’ll feel bad. Compare against those below you and you’ll feel better.
…despite that the circumstances might be exactly the same.
A large group of students was given a word puzzle to solve. Researchers compared the satisfaction of students who finished the puzzle quickly or more slowly. Students who finished the puzzle quickly and compared themselves with the very fastest students came away feeling dissatisfied with themselves. Students who finished the puzzle more slowly but compared themselves with the slowest students came away feeling quite satisfied with themselves and tended to ignore the presence of the quick-finishing students.- Lyubomirsky and Ross 1997
If you focus on the added work and pressure, even a promotion can be seen as negative.
People who have experienced similar life events can wind up with nearly opposite perceptions of life satisfaction. Researchers have compared, for example, people who have received a job promotion, and they found that while some of the people treasure the opportunity others lament the added responsibility. The implications of life events are a matter of perspective. – Chen 1996
Happy people see negative things as isolated incidents. Unhappy people see bad times as part of who they are.
In a study of adult self-esteem, researchers found that people who are happy with themselves take defeat and explain it away, treating it as an isolated incident that indicates nothing about their ability. People who are unhappy take defeat and enlarge it, making it stand for who they are and using it to predict the outcome of future life events. – Brown and Dutton 1995
70% of happiness is your relationships with other people.
Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996
Do you have a group of people you feel very close to? You’re four times as likely to be happy.
Close relationships, more than personal satisfaction or one’s view of the world as a whole, are the most meaningful factors in happiness. If you feel close to other people, you are four times as likely to feel good about yourself than if you do not feel close to anyone. – Magen, Birenbaum, and Pery 1996
Friends and family were nine times more important than money when it comes to being happy.
In a study using surveys and daily observation, the availability of material resources was nine times less important to happiness than the availability of “personal” resources such as friends and family. – Diener and Fujita 1995
And it’s not just getting. Giving has a huge effect on happiness.
Life satisfaction was found to improve 24 percent with the level of altruistic activity. – Williams, Haber, Weaver, and Freeman 1998
In an experimental research program, a relationship was found between happiness and helping behavior. By helping others, we create positive bonds with people and enhance our self image. Those who had more opportunities to offer help felt 11 percent better about themselves. – Pegalis 1994
It’s hard to tell how happy you are from knowing how many problems you have.
It’s much easier to tell by knowing how many people love you.
The need for support or the number of problems individuals face is a less strong predictor of their happiness than the amount of support available to them. – Jou and Fukada 1997
It’s not all serious, deep stuff. You need to have plain old fun to really have a happy life.
Regularly having fun is one of the five central factors in leading a satisfied life. Individuals who spend time just having fun are 20 percent more likely to feel happy on a daily basis and 36 percent more likely to feel comfortable with their age and stage in life. – Lepper 1996
In studies of hundreds of adults, happiness was found to be related to humor. The ability to laugh, whether at life itself or at a good joke, is a source of life satisfaction. Indeed, those who enjoy silly humor are one-third more likely to feel happy. – Solomon 1996
Quality and quantity of sleep contribute to health, well-being, and a positive outlook. For those who sleep less than eight hours, every hour of sleep sacrificed results in an 8 percent less positive feeling about their day. – Pilcher and Ott 1998
Research on physical activity finds that exercise increases self-confidence, which in turn strengthens self-evaluations. Regular exercise, including brisk walks, directly increases happiness 12 percent, and can indirectly make a dramatic contribution to improving self-image. – Fontane 1996
Read. (Yes, blog posts count.)
Reading engages the mind. Reading materials, by exercising our memory and imagination, can contribute to happiness in ways similar to active positive thinking. Regular readers are about 8 percent more likely to express daily satisfaction. – Scope 1999
Try to check off all four of these each day:
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.