31 Strategies for Happiness
Updated: May 23, 2020
I am condensing the 100 Simple Secrets to the most salient feel good 31. For a full version, see reference below for the book. Here goes:
1. Your life has purpose and meaning: You’re the protagonist of your own life. You and your experiences aren’t background noise, and without you – life and people you associate with will be altered.
2. Choose your comparisons wisely: If you’re prone to comparing, do it with examples of those who are meaningful and that make you feel secure about who you are. Comparisons to those who have more or less can easily inflate and deflate a person, but a comparison if it must shape as that, to meaningful person has a higher probability to create a goal oriented, and more thoughtful approach to positive change.
3. Cultivate friendships: Solo introspection can be rewarding, but from time to time, step up, take the initiative and rekindle past relationships and keep the current ones alive. People need to be seen and heard, making that happen by taking the initiative or being on the receiving end promotes feelings of closeness. People who feel close to others are 4 times as likely to feel good about themselves, and this feeling of closeness, more than personal satisfaction or world view as a whole, is one of the most meaningful contributors of happiness. Closeness with loved ones including friends, closeness of family, and even relationship with co-workers as well as neighbors explains a whooping 70% of happiness.
4. Accept yourself unconditionally – the good, bad and the ugly: You’re a 86 billion, give or take a few thousand, bundle of strangely intertwined blend of abilities, desire, and limitations. Studies done on self esteem reveal that people who are happy with themselves have a knack for accepting, and explaining defeat (not to be confused with narcissism) as an isolated incident, not warranting a blemish about their ability, versus people who are unhappy often take defeat, zoom in, and predict future outcomes based off of this.
5. Limit yourself to thinking about a singular subject as you prepare to sleep: And this can be very difficult for some. In studies showcasing sleep quality, the better sleepers were ones who did not have a medley of subjects swirling at bedtime and predictably slept better. Trying some deep breathing can help. Sleeping better equals lesser anxiety, and hence more happiness; it turns out better sleepers are 25% more satisfied than average sleepers.
6. Embrace new ideas: Or at least be open to them. In research of older Americans, a willingness to adapt surpassed finances and and current relationships. Those resistant to change where one-third as likely to feel happy.
7. Share with others their importance: Mutual appreciation is a cementing block for relationships, and being able to share how important someone is to you can be a two-way happy street. University of Houston researchers poked at a significant question: why we don’t tell people how important they are to us, to find the answer to be human vulnerability. For these people, per Niven, relationships may be more of a competition than a celebration. Per the researchers: we don’t win at relationships, we win by having them.
8. Don’t believe in yourself too much: Allow a healthy dose of uncertainty to keep things happy. It’s promising to believe in yourself, but overdoing it and falling into the trap of never making a mistake can lead to not being able to learn from others and situations.
9. Don’t fear your age: Older people are as happy as young; seniors report “serene satisfaction” with their life. It turns out age is unrelated to personal happiness. Feel the wisdom of your years and revel in it. Age is unrelated to happiness.
10. Discard the over-protectiveness: Worrying and preventing loved ones from doing something they want? That’s higher levels of stress for parents resulting in unhappiness and discordant relationships.
11. You may have what you want: Recall your accomplishments. We tend to be swept away by want, often forgetting where we started and not taking account of what we already have. Research on professionals highlighted dissatisfaction with accomplished goals, and strangely, creation of negative self-image despite the apparent met goals.
12. Walk the talk: Stay committed to what you said you will do. It turns out the number of conflicts experienced by those with happy personal relationships versus unhappy is a simple commitment to following through on agreed upon changes.
13. Drop the aggression: Especially with loved ones, even if you’re right. Remembering how much more important the person is to you than the issue may help with this. Per Navin, prevalent criticism reduces happiness in relationships up to one-third.
14. Don’t confuse stuff with success: Learn to admire that old red car, and don’t let the swanky sizzle sway your grounding. It’s fun to enjoy the finer things in life, but let that not be your driving force. That house and car or the job title don’t, and shouldn’t, define you. It turns out the availability of material resources was nine times less important to happiness than the availability of friends and family.
15. Volunteer: To a cause you believe in. Volunteers tend to feel a sense of purpose, feel appreciated, less bored, and often, good about themselves.
16. Let your goals not bite you: Literally. Allow them to evolve with life's circumstances. Have room for changing priorities and resources to shape goals that are worth the effort instead of fixated, stubborn ones that cause despair and disappointment.
17. Exercise: It doesn’t have to be in a testosterone infused gym with blaring music, or it could be. Any form of exercise done routinely ups self confidence and in turn happiness by 12%.
18. Little things with big meaning: That grin, expression, and tone? It has meaning. And quite a bit of it. Our reactions to people and the world around us are discerned by subtle expressions, tones, and body language. Recognizing facial expression takes less than one-sixth of a second, and a lot of meaning is derived from there. Research shows that married couples who have that discerning eye – the ability to notice subtle changes in behavior, rate their satisfaction 17% higher than ones who do not.
19. Laugh: The ability to enjoy a good laugh – at life or a good joke, is a source of life satisfaction, and people who enjoy silly humor are one-third more likely to feel happy.
20. Satisfaction is relative: It’s a construct of your imagination. Its scale is fluid, and not a solid litmus test. If you compare the now to the happiest moments of your life, it’s going to be a letdown, and comparing it to the worst situations, the present may not look so bad. Revisit the happy scale in your mind. Lowering the threshold may increase the odds of happiness. Realize that complete satisfaction is non-existent and don’t set the stage for perfection in every aspect of life. Niven advises on being generally satisfied and happy with the acceptance for change, and realization of its inconsistency. Those who rate themselves happiest supposedly believe that they will meet, not all, but some goals, and get satisfaction from multiple facets in their life.
21. Think in concrete terms: Abstract ideas can be energizing, but penning down in black and white terms of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish will aide in making things more realistic. Vague hopes of wanting a good job, better co-workers, a nice relationship, being a better parent sound good, but offer no specificity for a follow through.
22. Appreciate animals: Those with pets are 22% more satisfied than those without. Animals bring immediate joy, but also long term positive feelings.
23. Discard pretense of things that bother you: If there is something that loved ones do that bother you, address it, without aggression, but don’t pretend that it doesn’t bother you.
24. How we see the world is more important that how the world is: Just that. Improve your ability to see the positives.
25. Listen to music: Per research, excitement and happiness are typical reactions to music, and this positive effect on mood was found with 92% of individuals when they listened to music. Bring on Billie Eilish.
26. Reminisce: Recalling happiness shared with friends, family, and co-workers from the past has the ability to promote the feel good factor in the present.
27. Smell enjoyable aromas: Nothing like a basil infused rice vermicelli filled to the brim steaming bowl of pho. Our senses are constantly working and the sense of smell can evoke feelings of surprise and happiness.
28. You’re a person, not a stereotype: Men who believe they have to act tough, and women who believe they have to be soft, often forego exploring their unique personalities to conform. Gender, cultural, and religious stereotypes are often damaging and too regulated to experience and celebrate you.
29. Keep reading: It brings satisfaction, along with exercising our memory and imagination.
30. You don’t have to win every time: It feels good momentarily. I scored (an epic) 403 on google doddle with snails playing cricket yesterday, but the early 30 to 50 to 100ish score beating rivalry banter with family and friends makes it memorable today. Ultra competitive people who always need to win, lose the simmer of enjoyment, even with silly things.
31. Focus on what really matters: To you. There isn’t a point in making effort if it isn’t worth much to you. Allow expectations and your life to unfold with personal reflections of what hold depth, energy, and motivation.
Niven, David. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It. HarperCollins, 2009.
Kingsley, Patrick. “A Closed Border Can't Stop This Elderly Couple: 'Love Is the Best Thing in the World'.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/world/europe/coronavirus-denmark-germany-border.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_NN_p_20200423&instance_id=17877&nl=morning-briefing®i_id&segment_id=25792&te=1&user_id=2d1d770d62145a114c71540cb216d4fb
©2020 by Irem Choksy, LMFT