While a person's level of happiness is a subjective thing, there's no doubt people generally want more of it. Here's what science has to say about how to feel more content and blissful in the year to come.
1. Turn your New Year's resolutions into questions.
Would you be happier if you actually lived up to your New Year's resolutions? According to a study published this month in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, instead of making the statement "I am going to exercise more," you should ask yourself "Will you exercise next week?" Asking such a question makes people think of all the times they failed to do the behavior, while knowing that they should have. Scientifically speaking, it's called cognitive dissonance--simultaneously holding two inconsistent thoughts--which creates tension. What gets rid of the tension? Engaging in the behavior in question.
2. Pay off your debt to become more financially stable.
Canadian researchers recently published a study that found financial security was one variable strongly correlated with happiness. The best way to stand on firmer financial ground? Get out of debt. Do it by tackling your highest interest rate balance until it's paid off, then moving on to lower-cost balances. Also, if you don't have an emergency fund, create one as soon as possible so you can handle life's inevitable bumps and hiccups without having to rely on credit.
3. Stop ruminating and forgive people.
Ruminating--repeatedly thinking negative thoughts about causes and effects of events--is like walking around with a black cloud over your head. And according to a recent study conducted on nearly 400 Turkish university students, it lowers people's satisfaction with life. So does holding a grudge. People who exhibit higher levels of forgiveness are happier, as well.
4. Increase your physical activity.
Everybody knows exercise can help people be more healthy, which can lead to increased satisfaction with life. But a recent study found that people who are active domestically--doing things like gardening or taking care of their families--are happier than inactive people. In other words, you don't necessarily need to be killing yourself on the treadmill, but can reap emotional rewards just by getting off the couch and doing things around the house. Those who engage in a lot of leisure physical activity report being happier, as well, proving the value of playing sports with friends.
5. Invest more in your closest relationships.
According to Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, good relationships keep people happier and healthier. And it's not so much about how many you have, but their quality. "It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health," he said during a TED talk he gave in November. "High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective."