How can you maximize your happiness in life?
3 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Happiness
1. Practise Mindfulness
In a comprehensive research to study the level of happiness of 2250 participants, Harvard psychologists contacted the participants at random intervals during the day to find out the activity they were engaged in, their feelings and their thoughts.
The responses revealed that half of the time, the participants were not paying attention to what they were doing. Those who daydream, and thus are not concentrating at the task at hand, were reported to be less happy. It is this wandering of the mind that is causing them to be gloomy.
Rather than focusing at what was happening right at that instant — living in the moment — some of the sadder participants were thinking about the past or something that had yet to happen. The study is still ongoing, and you can participate here, if you have an iPhone.
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Mindfulness living is about living consciously, and according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
The ability to concentrate well requires repeated practice. One way to do that is to practise mindfulness meditation: sitting down with our eyes closed and observing our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions from a distant without judgment. Label them as an “itch”, a “thought” or anger, for example, as they come and go in our consciousness.
When we can do this 20 minutes a day, often enough, we will start to realize that we are not our thoughts or emotions, and we will be less affected by them. That’s when we’re able to stay focused on what we do at any moment and become more present with our lives.
More: Apart from engaging in daily mindfulness meditation, here are 10 stepssuggested by Reader’s Digest on how you can start living mindfully as well.
2. Have Sufficient Quality Sleep
Most of us are aware of the importance of sleep on our health. After all, it’s a fundamental “physiological” need under Maslow’s hierarchy. Yet, many of us are still stubbornly putting off going to bed early in the name of productivity. Some of us may actually consider “adequate sleep” as a luxury, thanks to our tight work schedules and project deadlines.
However, psychologist Norbert Schwarz from University of Michigan had foundthat getting just an extra hour of sleep every night will make you happier than earning a $60,000 raise for the year!
Considering how the lack of sleep can negatively affect our mood the following day, it perhaps makes more sense to get enough of it every day, become happier, and consequently increase our productivity at work.
But that doesn’t mean you need more of sleep. An analysis of the lifestyles of some 4,000 adults found that the happiest of the lot get an average of 6 hours 15 min of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night. According to another study by Cornell University, happy people tend to sleep better as well. It’s a loop: resolve to get more quality sleep, become happier, sleep even better!
More: To kick-start this awesome habit, check out this great list of 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep by Dr. Mercola.
3. Know & Spend Time With Happy People
Happiness is contagious. The Framingham Heart Study that followed 4,700 people over 20 years revealed that a person’s happiness level can influence up to three degrees of separation, which means our happiness is partially affected by our social network (not the Facebook kind) of up to the level of our friends’ friends’ friends!
Specifically, we are 15.3% more likely to be happier when we know another happy person directly (1st degree), followed by 9.8% and 5.6% for 2nd and 3rd degrees respectively. Moreover, it was also found that physical distance matters, particularly when a friend of ours who resides within a mile from us becomes happy, the probability that we are happy increases by 25%. Interestingly though, such effects are not reflected between co-workers.
Happy people are often the center of social networks that comprises of similarly happy people. The reasons why positive emotions trickle down from the happiest people to others are not determined in the study, but it’s suggested that this group of people could have a tendency to be more generous, friendlier and nicer as a whole, cascading positive feelings down the levels and inducing those affected to act in the same positive manner to others.
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