Improve your happiness in 10 steps

By Hannah Turner

  1. Experiences over stuff

Experiences have a positive impact on our long-term happiness, especially when shared with another person. Purchases on experiences make you feel more alive and less susceptible to social comparisons. Materialistic purchases, however, give a very short burst of happiness before you’ve forgotten about it and you’re looking for the next thing to buy.

As an extra benefit, experiences sometimes include some form of exercise. Exercise has major benefits on our cognition and brain function and helps boost our mood. Moving your body sufficiently three times a week is as effective as medication for depression recovery.

  1. Don’t fear negative events

Often, we overestimate our emotions. We think that unplanned and negative events will destroy us, when in fact we just learn to adapt. We have a psychological immune system that helps us deal with negative events. For example, we often mispredict how we will feel when breaking up with a partner. Instead of feeling like the world is ending, we most likely feel better than expected.

Despite not wanting them, breaks from positive events are also not as bad as they seem. Breaks help us appreciate things more as they stop us from adapting and taking them for granted.

  1. Prioritise time over money

Unfortunately, our minds’ strongest intuitions are often wrong and what we traditionally think will make us happy doesn’t. More money, good grades, a perfect body, a good job and true love may give us a temporary happiness boost, but not a long term one. As a general rule, prioritise your time over money to increase your happiness.

  1. Savour moments

Life isn’t forever and it’s important to savour the good moments. Savouring is the act of stepping out of your experience, to review it and really appreciate it while it’s happening. Doing this increases happiness as it reminds us what is good in our lives and it keeps us in the moment.

  1. Be grateful

Practising gratitude not only makes you happy but also lowers your stress levels. It can help us through difficult times and to feel a stronger social connection. Receiving gratitude also has positive effects, making people feel valued and motivating them to be more generous.

  1. Use your strengths

Using our signature strengths in new ways can have a major impact on our happiness. Choosing a job that lets you use these strengths can also increase confidence and allow us to be more satisfied and productive at work. You can find your strengths through online quizzes.

  1. Try meditation

Most people mind wander around 50 per cent of the time to the detriment of their happiness levels. Meditation is a strategy that can help us decrease how much we day-dream and, therefore, make us feel happier. Practicing mindfulness also improves our memory, sleeping patterns, helps us control our emotions and think clearer throughout the day. Certain types of meditation can even help you feel more socially connected.

  1. Have a growth mindset

Keeping an open mind helps us increase motivation levels and achieve in the face of challenges. If we think we have the ability to improve, we will. Those with growth mindsets tend to bounce back better from failure, increasing the likelihood of learning success.

  1. Be kind

Participating in random acts of kindness is another way you can take action to make yourself happier. Some simple ways to practice this include spending money on others, smiling at those you walk past, complimenting friends and family or even saying hello to a stranger.

  1. Be aware of your reference points

Our minds don’t think in terms of absolutes. Instead, they judge to relative reference points. Unfortunately, our minds aren’t very good at filtering these reference points and get them from places such as our social media feeds, TV shows or co-workers. For example, Olympic bronze medal winners tend to be happier than silver ones as they are seeing their reference point as missing out on a medal compared to the silver winner who just missed out on the gold.

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