According to researchers like Martin Seligman, Daniel Kahneman and Ed Deiner, money may be able to buy happiness, but only to a very limited extent. On the other hand, not having money - that is, a family income of less than 30,000 a year - is related to less happiness. But luckily, once your basic needs are being met, the increase in happiness from say, $31,000 to $131,000 a year, is really not that great! Hard to believe, isn't it? Think of all of the time and energy we spend trying to attain more money, and it really doesn't make that big of a difference! The United States is a very rich country, but the overall level of happiness there is lower than in many poorer countries. So, the question is, if money can't buy happiness, what can? Things that are hard to buy.
Here are some tips for improving your feelings of happiness and well-being:
1. Develop a strong social support network.
Call your family members regularly. Make time to call and see your friends. Get involved in your community - coach a team, volunteer for a charity drive. Get to know your neighbors.
2. Acts of kindness ? random or otherwise.
Do these regularly. Hold the door open for someone. Add change to someone's parking meter. Drop off a meal for a family who is dealing with an illness. There are an infinite number of things that we can do for others every day, at little cost to ourselves, but with great reward.
3. Regularly write down the things that you are grateful for. Have a special place for this - a journal perhaps - and write down the top five things, small or large, that you are grateful for. Do this at least once per week.
4. Eat well and exercise consistently.
Just like your mother told you - lots of dark green and bright orange vegetables, at least 8 glasses of water per day, stay away from processed or fried foods, and eat sweet stuff only in moderation. Exercise does not have to be rigorous, but it should be consistent. Try to do at least 20 minutes of cardio 4-5 times per week. Try parking farther from the entrance, or take the stairs. Every little bit helps.
5. Have tools for coping with stress.
Learn relaxation techniques. Have a stress-free zone (either in your home or in nature) where it is easy for you to relax. Take a bubble bath. Call a friend. Do yoga. Rather than wait until you become stressed, be proactive and develop several relaxation tools that work for you and use them regularly. You'll find that you will get stressed less often this way. Also, remember that caffeine is stress in a cup.
6. Enjoy momentary pleasures.
Stop and smell the roses. Seriously. When you see a flower, don't walk on by. Stop. Look at its beauty. Smell it, and enjoy. When you go for a massage, don't think about all the things you have to do after, just focus on how nice it feels to be pampered at that moment.
7. Do new things.
Try a new sport, go to the theatre, go somewhere new for your summer holidays. Read a new kind of book, eat at a different restaurant, try listening to a different kind of music. We get habituated to the familiar - note the difference between the excitement you feel the first time you experience something new and the fifth time you experience it.
8. Forgive people who have wronged you.
You don't have to forget, just forgive. It takes a lot of energy hanging onto grudges and bad feelings. Think of all the happy things you could do with all that freed up energy!
9. Learn how to be more optimistic.
Yes, you can learn how. You need to pay careful attention to your thoughts so you can inspect them and refute the ones that aren't working for you. This takes practice; don't be afraid to ask for help with this one.
10. Get a coach.
A coach can help you implement systematic (and fun) strategies for improving your happiness and well-being.
It is widely agreed that there is a natural set-point range within which our happiness levels are likely to fall, and this is unique for each of us. But with knowledge and practice, we are able to ensure that we spend most of our time at the uppermost limits of our happiness range. Courses and coaching are available and measurable results have been proven to work. Go to www.get-happier.com for more information on a tele-class series (you just have to get on the phone) that can help you get happier immediately.
Dr. Gayla Swihart DeHart, from Vancouver, Canada, is a Professional Coach with a Ph.D. in Psychology. She helps busy professionals manage stress, improve goal-setting and follow-through, develop emotional intelligence, and increase life and work satisfaction. More information on Dr. DeHart and her services can be found at http://www.AchieveExcellence.ca.