8 Tips For Living a Happier Life
When you write a guide called “how to be happy”, you’re stepping into the role of philosophers and sages. “Being happy” is the easiest thing in the world for the happy, while next to impossible for the unhappy. Because everyone falls into one category or another, and it’s common to have make general assumptions based on our single experience, any two people are going to have wildly different conceptions of happiness and theories about being happy.
You might as well ask a person what the meaning of life is.
So with the big qualification in mind, let’s wade into a question that religions, great thinkers and self-help gurus have all tackled: how to be happy.
While people are going to have different theories about what will bring you happiness and contentment (find love, find religion, find your purpose), all of these have a few things in common. Below are some of the traits most happy people have, whatever structure they find happiness in.
1. Be An Optimist
This is one of the hardest things, if you’re not a natural optimist. But being optimistic about the future is a whole lot happier than constant dread and general pessimism about everything. Remember that life has a thousand little pleasures you can enjoy every day. No matter how bleak it may look at the moment, life is a blessing. People can make their lives better with a little hand from others every once in a while.
Optimism is not about your circumstances: it’s about your attitude. Some people tend to see the bad sign of everything, while others see the good. The pessimist will call himself a realist and figure the optimist lives in a fantasy. But the optimist is happier, so what’s the better policy?
Think about what I said earlier. Some people think finding love will bring you happiness. Others think that happiness can only be found in the spiritual. Still others think happy people are fulfilled by finding their purpose or goal in life, usually through a rewarding career. But what do all of these have in common?
These things make you optimistic. They make you look forward to tomorrow.
Make sure to smile more often. Studies show that people who smile more often are happier, even when you’re not always sincere with that smile. There’s something in the act of smiling that makes people feel better. It’s probably a good idea to laugh a few times throughout the day, too, because laughing releases endorphins to the brain that make us feel better, too.
3. Don’t Be So Serious
If someone is critical of you, don’t take it to heart. That’s one person’s opinion. Take it in good grace. Have the inner confidence in yourself that you can laugh off casual bad reviews of your life. You can’t please everybody and there are always going to be haters out there.
Don’t well on critical remarks. Someone being so negative is probably covering up their own insecurities or shortcomings. You see politicians who “go negative” do that all the time, and it’s really no different in office politics or interpersonal relationships. It’s hard not to take criticism to heart and want to defend yourself, but it’s really better if you just laugh it off and go about the business of living a happy, healthy life.
4. Remain Social
Closing yourself off gives a person way too much time to think. People need other people, at least some of the time. Certainly, avoid people who are overly negative, but find people who enrich your life and spend time with them. If you don’t have a family structure in your life, you can find people to share your life with. Join a local civic club, movie club or book club. If it fits into your belief system, start attending a church regularly. Join in a community of some sort (and not only an online community).
This might be hard for some. In current vogue among psychologists is the introvert/extrovert dichotomy, which is considered one of “Big Five” personality traits. Introverts aren’t defined as shy or depressed by this theory; they are defined as people who gain energy by being alone. An extrovert gains energy by being around other people. So if you’re an introvert, it’s possible that being around people all day saps your energy. What’s important to remember is that the extrovert/introvert scale is relative. Psychologists say that extroverts need to be alone sometimes, while introverts need social interaction at times.
So you need other people, even if you’re the type that doesn’t need them all the time. Being social exposes you to new thoughts and new ideas and keeps you from getting in a mental rut. Most of all, it keeps you from dwelling endlessly on your isolation.
5. Maintain a Support Network
This is closely related to “being social”, but it’s not quite the same. You can have lots of acquaintances who don’t make up a support network to you. You can have a very small number of acquaintances, yet these people can be a strong support and friendship. This is about having people who know you well and care about you, who have your best interests in mind. Everyone needs a little support sometime.
Maintain contact with your friends and family. Everyone needs a social support network. You might not think you need it, but there will come a time when you value your friends and family.
6. Maintain Financial Stability
I’m not saying that money can buy happiness, but stress is one of the quickest ways to be unhappy. If you stress about money all day everyday, you’re not very likely to be happy. I’m not suggesting you stress out about making that fortune you always wanted. I’m saying that, if you find a way to make yourself financial stable, you’ll be happier.
If you’re in debt, get a plan to get out of debt. Work towards that plan. Once you get there, live within your budget. You might think you’re making yourself happier maxing out your credit card for a new pair of shoes and a dress, but if you end up stressing about how to pay back that money, you’re contentment will turn into stress again real soon. Be free from the everyday worries of debt collectors and you’ll be happier.
7. Don’t Expect the Job To Make You Happy
We’re told we should find a job we love and we’ll be happier and more successful. That’s no doubt the case, but not everyone finds that job you absolutely love. Most of us have a boss and co-workers and all the stresses that come with office politics. Having in our mind that our job is there to make us happy is an unrealistic expectation.
I’m not suggesting you give up on finding that dream job. If your current job is making you miserable, get out of it. A job is supposed to make your quality of life better and it won’t, if it’s stressing you out all the time.
That being said, don’t expect your job to make you happy. Work is to give you financial means and stability. Make the best out of your job situation, but don’t expect your job to be the answer to all your problems. Do your job; do it with good cheer; but don’t expect your job to be all fun and games.
8. Don’t Over analyze Things
Some people analyze decisions in their lives with excruciating detail. I’m one of those people myself. That’s why I have to remind myself to sometimes go with my gut instinct when making a decision. Studies show that people who sweat decisions make no better decisions, and indecision is a form of procrastination.
Get all the facts. Don’t make decisions based on blind judgments. But don’t let over analysis turn into indecision, because you’ll be stressing about decisions when all that stress does you no good. Stressing out over every decision and questioning your judgment constantly is counterproductive.
As they say, leave the thinking to us. (That’s a joke.)
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