People ask me all the time how they can be happier, expecting to hear about a magic pill or an ancient secret that will boost their mood. The truth is, the secret to happiness takes work. Psychologist and author Barbara Fredrickson says we need a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences to flourish in life. Most of us do not come close to hitting that mark.
First, let’s start with what happiness is not. Happiness is not a condition you are born with or that is gained through flashy cars and bags of money. You can’t buy happiness or earn it through success. You can, however, choose happiness. Happiness can be a choice that you make every single day by creating happy habits. After a while, these habits will carve new grooves, or pathways, into your brain making happiness an automatic process. Once you are happy, then you start noticing the rewards: better health, more success, more wealth.
Research shows that happier people are more motivated, persistent and outperform negative people. Happy people are creative problem solvers, enjoy what they do and see more favorable outcomes. Now, after reading this, what’s stopping you from being happier?
Here are five actions you can practice every day to get more happiness in your life:
1. Practice gratitude.
Countless studies show that being grateful helps your body, mind and soul. Keeping a journal and noting three things to be thankful for and why every day is the most effective method of practicing gratitude. Martin E.P. Seligman, regarded as one of the founding members of positive psychology, writes in his book Flourish that by practicing this habit daily, you will be happier and less depressed in six months. Eventually your brain will be trained to look for the good in life.
2. Use your strengths.
One of the main tenets of positive psychology is focusing on what works and building from there. Maybe you aren’t a natural-born leader, but teamwork is more in tune with your strengths. Just knowing that information sets you apart from those who don’t. If you don’t know what your strengths are, then go to the VIA Institute on Character’s website and take the Via Survey. The cost is free but the self-knowledge is priceless.
You can’t get anything done with a cluttered mind. Find at least 10 minutes in your day for yourself. Bill George, a leader in business and academia, meditates daily. He says his best creative ideas are illuminated by meditation. By shedding thoughts of yesterday and worries of tomorrow and just focusing on the here and now, you will lower your stress and find peace of mind.
4. Be kind.
This one is easy. Taking the time to help someone else, even if it is a stranger, is like giving a gift to yourself. Studies suggest that even thinking about an act of kindness can boost your mood. You can do something small, like hold the door for someone and help carry groceries. Kindness doesn’t need to be a gift of money. In fact, a more enriching act of kindness is being a mentor for someone. I write in my book The Slight Edge, that one of the most influential persons in my life was a mentor to me. I benefited so greatly from that generosity that I return the favor because I know how powerful an act of kindness can be.
5. Build strong relationships.
]Many people think entrepreneurs are lone mavericks blazing their own trails, but trust me, no one can do it alone. What I mean by this is that behind every successful person are many people who are helping and who have helped along the way. Christopher Kukk, psychologist and author of the book The Compassionate Achiever,says anyone who believes their personal success hasn’t benefited from others is simply lying. Ask yourself: Who has helped me get to where I am today? How many positive relationships helped me build a great business or career? Take the time to properly thank those people. Whether it is employees, mentors, family members or friends, every positive connection in your life serves as a catalyst to move you forward on your journey to success.
Practice these five actions every day and I promise you will start to see a whole new world of positivity opening for you. Life is too short to not live your best life today.