When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence he argued that all people have the God-given right to pursue happiness. But what's the best way to go about doing it? Science has some thoughts on the topic. Check out findings from researchers who have reviewed the literature, examined their subjects and crunched the numbers to find out what kinds of actions lead to the highest feelings of subjective well-being.
1. Kiss your mate more.
Kory Floyd, professor of communication at the University of Arizona studied a group of 52 married or cohabitating couples, asking half of them to kiss more often and for longer duration. The other half of the group--the control group--wasn't given any instruction about kissing. At the conclusion of the six-week study the kissing group reported feeling less stressed and more satisfied with their relationships than the people in the control group. In fact, they said during the study they had exercised more, argued less and understood their mates better. Not only that, the kissers' bad cholesterol levels even dropped.
2. Join a group.
It's a proven fact that lonely people often die earlier than those with good social support. Along that line, researchers recently found a link between identification with a social group and enhanced health and well-being. Plus, people who identify with a group tend to feel more capable and in control of their lives.
3. Take control of your life.
Are you a slave to debt, or suffering under the thumb of a micromanaging boss? It turns out autonomy--the ability to make your own decisions and choose the paths you take in life--can affect your level of happiness. In fact, researchers at George Fox University in Oregon found a relationship between people's perceived levels of autonomy and the way they think about success and failure. In other words, the happiest people are those who feel they have control over their lives and not powerless to the things that have happened to them over time, whether good or bad.
4. Count your blessings.
Deepak Chopra and a slew of researchers (PDF) studying the effect of gratitude on heart failure patients determined that gratitude correlated with better mood and sleep, higher confidence, and lower fatigue and inflammation. Don't have anything to be thankful for? Start with electricity, running water and roof over your head.
5. Guard your weekends.
If working on Saturday or Sunday is a regular practice, you may want to change your ways. After analyzing the large sample size of the Gallup/Healthways U.S. daily poll, researchers (PDF) found that people report much more happiness, enjoyment, and laughter on weekends, compared with weekdays. On those precious days off they also experience far less worry, sadness, and anger than they do on workdays.