No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.
– Barbara de Angelis
Many of us spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars every year on books, CD’s, seminars, coaches, teleseminars etc to figure out how to be happier in our lives. Interestingly, there’s been very little research to date on what actually makes us happy. There’s a lot on what makes us unhappy, depressed, miserable, but those are certainly not places we aspire to.
There has however, been recent data on the ceiling of achievement of material comfort-which is around $75,000. More money a year, after that amount, has very little effect on your happiness.
But according to a new research study from Stanford and Wharton, the way you spend your time can make HUGE difference on your happiness quotient. These researchers looked at 60 academic studies and came up with five guidelines that anyone can use to increase their happiness.
1-Who You Spend Time With Matters. The research shows that by spending our time with the “right people”, generally family, friends and romantic partners, will increase our overall general happiness. Finding the people in our lives that “give us energy”, not “suck out our energy” are the “right people”. The research also shows that a predictor of happiness is how much substantive conversation we have in our lives. Small talk can make people unhappy and often times our lives have a disproportionate amount of small talk in it.
2-Increase your socially connecting activities. Are you connecting often with friends and family? And while there are certainly benefits to social media and on-line groups, socially connecting activities also means physically getting out with other people who enjoy the same activities and hobbies that you do.
Volunteering and focusing on other people’s issues and challenges, can improve our level of happiness as well. Look for organizations that mean something to you and see where you can offer your gifts and strengths.
3-Take time to daydream. Research has shown the part of the brain responsible for pleasure can be activated just by thinking about something pleasant. For example, vacation planning is something some people enjoy more than the vacation itself. Memory is also important to happiness, because it takes a past event or experience and allows us to “expand” its worth into the future.
4-Be in the present moment. Focusing on the “here and now” slows down the perceived passage of time, allowing us to feel less rushed. One study showed that people who were asked to breath slowly, taking long and slow breaths (versus short quick ones) for five minutes, helped them feel there was more time available to get things done, and gave the perception that the days are longer.
Pay or barter with people to do the chores you dislike. Tasks that we choose to do and like make us happier than the obligatory tasks. If you can afford to hire someone to do the things around the house that you dislike i.e. cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, then do so, and take the time you “bought” to do something enjoyable. If you don’t have the money-see if you might barter or trade with someone, something you like to do for something you don’t like to do. Maybe child care for house cleaning, baking bread or cooking some meals for something else. Be creative.
5-How old you are effects the way you experience happiness. The younger generations tend to measure happiness by excitement, but the older generations tend to associate happiness with peacefulness. Younger people get more happiness from spending time with interesting new people, while older people get more enjoyment from spending time with close friends and family.
My hope is that some of these will inspire you to look at the way you think and spend your time and perhaps make some changes that will increase your happiness quotient!