It’s a safe assumption to say that all of us want to be happy. But did you know that in addition to feeling lighthearted and content, happiness also boosts our personal productivity?
Science has proven that happy people accomplish more.
And, there are simple, scientifically proven things we can do daily to increase our happiness quotient.
1. Smile more
A genuine smile make us feel good. Smiling enhances our mood, increasing our attention and focus while reducing stress, especially during challenging times. A true smile involves our entire face, reaching and including our eyes.
Science shows smiling is beneficial:
“A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.”
2. Exercise for 7 minutes
Exercise has an overwhelming impact on our happiness and well-being. Even a small, daily dose can dramatically enhance happiness. We can all find time to squeeze in 7 minutes to take a brisk walk, bust out some jumping jacks or dance to our favorite song.
Exercise can help you relax, increase your brainpower, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes.
3. Get more sleep
Sleep helps our body recover from the day and repair itself, helps us focus and be more productive. It is also crucial to nurture happiness as those who are deprived of sleep are less likely to recall pleasant memories and rather focus on negative ones.
Studies have shown that sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions and lack of sleep directly impacts our mood and performance throughout the day.
4. Spend more time with family and friends
Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference in how happy we feel, even for those who are introverted.
A study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than our relationships are worth more than $100,000:
“Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra 85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.”
5. Go outside
Spending time outside breathing in the fresh air and taking in the beauty of nature improves happiness. One study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory. A U.K. study found that, “Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.”
6. Help others
When we give our time and attention to others, we benefit from enhancing our own happiness. Studies have shown that our happiness increases more significantly when we give others gifts as well as when we volunteer our time and talents. Science has found that volunteering is personally rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction and that “doing a kindness produces the single most reliable increase in well-being.”
7. Plan a trip
Simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the sense of anticipation: “In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.”
Even if vacation or a night out with friends isn’t possible right now, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Just having that trip or event planned can boost happiness.
Meditation literally clears our mind and calms us down. It’s been proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. Research shows that regular meditation can “permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.” And when we are more balanced, happy and focused, our productivity and creative juices begin to flow.
9. Minimize commute time
Many of us endure lengthy commutes to and from work and this does tend to have a negative impact on our overall happiness. As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert puts it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.” To try and counteract our long commutes, we get a bigger house, a better job but “two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.” Minimizing time spent commuting when at all possible benefits our happiness and productivity more than compensating with material things.
10. Practice gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a powerful, simple strategy for enhancing happiness. There are numerous studies backing its influence on our outlook and well-being. In an experiment where participants wrote down their daily gratitudes, the results showed that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.” We can increase our happiness by jotting down our ‘thank yous’ in a journal, expressing appreciation to others or sharing three good things that happened around the dinner table.
11. Get older
Studies show that as we age, our overall happiness increases. Researchers have discovered that as people age, they focus on and remember happier times, seek out situations that lift their moods and learn to let go of loss and disappointment, focusing instead on greater life satisfaction and well-being.
Smiling, sleep, exercise, socializing, showing kindness to others, spending time outdoors, meditating…all of these are simple and scientifically proven ways that we can enhance our happiness as well as heighten our motivation, creativity and productivity.