I know. I'm into the whole happiness thing. (And why not? Don't we all want to be happier?)
I've written about the things happier people do more often... and on the flip side things you should not do if you want to be happier... as well as 10 of the daily habits of exceptionally happy people... and that's just a start.
So that's why I love this post from by Courtney Seiter of Buffer, a tool that lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social media updates (and a company that has also taken the idea of transparency to extraordinary lengths.)
Science continues to study happiness, finding ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of this elusive quality into our lives.
I love keeping an eye on these studies, and here are 9 unique ways to be happier that you can start today!
1. Get into a cultural activity.
Need a boost of joy? Trying seeing a play or heading to a museum.
A study that collected data on the activities, mood, and health of 50,000 adults in Norway found that people who participated in more cultural activities reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.
"Participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both genders," the researchers write.
Curiously, men saw stronger benefits from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts, or theaters) while women more enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities, and dance).
2. Keep a diary: Rereading it brings joy.
To learn to find more gratitude and joy in every day--not just special occasions, but the boring days, too--try keeping a diary and rereading it from time to time.
Researchers who did a variety of experiments involving the keeping of a journal discovered that "ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time" as participants rediscovered them through their older writings.
In other words, simply writing down our ordinary, regular-day experiences is a way of banking up some happiness down the line, when the activities we describe could bring us unexpected joy.
3. Make small talk with a stranger.
Chatting up your barista or cashier? Good for your health!
Behavioral scientists gave a group of Chicago train commuters a $5 Starbucks gift card in exchange for striking up a conversation with a stranger during their ride. (Another group kept to themselves.)
Those who started conversations reported a more positive experience than those who had stayed quiet--even though they had predicted they would feel happier being solitary.
Another study saw similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a $5 gift card in exchange for having a "genuine interaction with the cashier."
It seems that connecting with another person--no matter how briefly--increases our happiness.
4. But have meaningful conversations, too.
While positive small talk is great, more substantial conversations can up our happiness quotient even higher.
A study that tracked the conversations of 80 people for four days found that, in keeping with the small-talk study, higher well-being is associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others.
But researchers also discovered that even higher well-being was associated with having less small talk and more substantive conversations.
"Together, the findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial," the researchers write.
So dive deep in your conversations with friends and loved ones--it's great for you.
5. Listen to sad songs: They provide emotional release.
How could sad songs make us happy? And why do we seek them out?
That's the question researchers wanted to answer with a survey of 722 people from around the world.
They discovered that there are four main reasons we take comfort in melancholy songs:
- They allow us to drift off into imagination
- They might provide us catharsis (emotion regulation)
- They allow us to relate to a common emotion (empathy), and
- They're divorced from our actual problems (no "real-life" implications)
Researchers determined that "listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation."
6. Spend money on experiences, not items.
Here's one that's easy to understand but might be tougher to fix.
We know that spending money on life experiences will make us happier than spending money on material things (and it does!) but we can't seem to stop ourselves from choosing the wrong option.
That's what a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found as researcherssurveyed people before and after they made purchases.
They concluded that we're more likely to spend on items than experiences because we can quantify them more easily and we want to see the best value for our dollars.
However, they found that the study subjects reported that after the money was spent, experiences brought them greater well-being and they considered them to be a better use of money.
So if we can keep that in mind, it's possible to have our cake and eat it, too--definitely something to be happy about!
7. Set tiny, attainable goals. Make someone smile.
It might be cliche, but making someone happy will make you happy, too.
And science says the more specific you can be with your goal, the better.
University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd found that a group of people who were told to make someone smile felt both happier and more confident that they'd actually achieved their goal than a similar group who'd been told simply to make someone else happy.
Even more interesting: In a separate experiment, people wrongly predicted that going for the bigger goal would make them happier.
"If you can meet or exceed your expectations of achieving a goal, you will be happier than if you fall short of your expectations," Rudd explained.
8. Look at beautiful things. Design makes us happy.
Could looking at a beautiful object make you feel happier?
Smart phone company HTC conducted a study that says yes.
In a series of laboratory and online experiments, volunteers looked at and interacted with objects that fell into three categories: beautiful, functional, or both beautiful and functional.
Their reactions uncovered some interesting findings, like:
- Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third.
- Purely beautiful objects (not functional) reduce negative emotions by 29 percent, increasing a sense of calmness and ease.
Objects that were both beautiful and functional created an especially high level of emotional arousal.
In general, people feel happier looking at and using beautiful objects that work well.
9. Eat more fruits and veggies.
We know that being healthier makes us happy, but can carrots give you purpose?
I have to admit I didn't expect such a direct link between happiness and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables as that which researchers in New Zealand report.
Their 13-day study of 405 people who kept food diaries showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher than average levels of curiosity, creativity, and positive emotions, as well as engagement, meaning, and purpose.
Even more interestingly, participants often scored higher on all of those scales on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.
"These findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake is related to other aspects of human flourishing, beyond just feeling happy," writes the research team.
What are some ways to be happy you may have discovered recently? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!