According to the founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, a happy life is one that is pleasurable, engaging, and meaningful. And the more engaging and meaningful, the better. Seligman suggests that people who focus their energies on leading an engaged and meaningful life are more successful at achieving lifelong happiness than those who focus on the transitory feel-goods of pleasure.
Research appears to support his theories. A recent study revealed that participants' subjective well-being was directly affected by the fulfillment they derived from the activities they spent most of their energy on, whether that was raising children, working, or volunteering. Research on aging shows that being actively involved in life is linked to increased levels of happiness.
What You Can Do
Spend more time doing what you love. Engaging in activities that are in line with your values and interests can improve your sense of well-being. If you feel as though you have lost touch with what those activities might be, think about what captivates you so entirely that you lose yourself in the moment and forget about your stress.
It is likely to be something you're good at that also provides you with a bit of a challenge or some kind of emotional reward. Some examples might be gardening, writing, painting, surfing, cycling, volunteering, or playing a musical instrument.
If you can make your activities social, all the better. Whereas personal hobbies, such as knitting, have been linked to an increase in happiness, social activities have been associated with an increase in both happiness and life expectancy.
As you focus on bringing meaning to your life, be sure to set realistic, attainable goals. People who do so report being happier than people who focus on grandiose long-term goals. Being able to realize goals that reflect your personal values and interests can help reinforce your sense of autonomy, purpose, and achievement. This has been shown to contribute significantly to overall well-being.
3 More Ways to Get Happy1. Forget the Joneses
Social comparison is a natural part of human behavior, and it can be a healthy source of both motivation and affirmation. But taken to the extreme, social comparison can become an unhealthy, unhappy competition. Try not to compare your successes to others. Happiness researchers identify this as a key detractor to life satisfaction.
It can be especially harmful if you are making material comparisons. Some studies show that placing too much importance on material wealth can make people very unhappy.
Just as people adapt to bad situations, they also adapt to good ones. With each new pay raise or purchase, aspirations also increase. People get used to the good life. Once the initial thrill of extra income and the latest luxuries wears off, they want more. Another raise, a faster car, a bigger house.
It becomes a never-ending cycle that leaves people feeling perpetually unsatisfied.
2. Share Your Skills
Giving back to the community and helping others is linked to greater levels of happiness, particularly for people who are retired or not employed. Volunteering in your community can provide a valuable social interaction, increase your sense of purpose, and, yes, make you happier.
Check out the Network for Good Web site to search a database of volunteer organizations by zip code and area of interest.
3. Do Your Happiness Homework
Seligman and his happiness colleagues have devised and tested a number of exercises to help boost well-being. Here are several activities that have been found to be most effective:
- Take note of what is good in your life :: Literally. Studies show that people who spend a few minutes every evening writing down what went well each day show a significant increase in well-being.
- Tone-up your signature strengths :: Signature strengths are the things you're really good at. Discover your signature strengths at www.authentichappiness.com. Once you know what your strengths are, try using one of them in a new way every day for a week.
- Give gratitude :: Write a letter of thanks to someone who has been particularly good to you or has had a profound impact on your life. Once the letter is written, deliver it personally to the recipient. If your gratitude letter has a long distance to travel, call the recipient to make sure it was received and tell the person on the phone how much you appreciate his or her presence in your life.
No More MysteryThere is no mysterious magical formula that you have to follow exactly in order to achieve happiness. Happiness is a personal journey of self-discovery. What makes you happy is not necessarily the same as what makes your friend, your partner, or your son or daughter happy.
Experimenting with key happiness factors will help you find the combination that works for you. Just be sure to take stock now and then to see how your emotional health is doing. It's worth your time and attention. Not only does your health benefit from it, but there's nothing like a contented smile, a look of ease, and a few sexy laugh lines to make you look -- and feel -- years younger.
:: Information in this post is from RealAge.com. Check out their site for more great information!