What would make you happier? More money? A better job? A good night's sleep? (You guessed it; I'm a proud dad to two small children.)

If you think different things make each of us happy, that's true...to an extent. But research shows that the five following practices can greatly increase happiness--in just about everyone.

Want more happiness in your life? Try the following.

1. Be content.

In terms of income, a famous research study by Princeton University in 2010 put the magic number for "happiness" at $75,000 a year. According to the study, however, a higher yearly salary did boost individuals' sense of "life satisfaction."

Would you agree? Or was the Notorious B.I.G. right all along? Does mo' money really equal mo' problems?

We spend a lot of time thinking about what we don't have. Sure, our smartphone gets the job done. But there's a newer one--and it gets the job done faster. Nothing wrong with that logic. But when the desire for more consumes us, we create a cycle that never gets satisfied.

Conversely, try focusing on what you do have. By pursuing an "attitude of gratitude," you won't stress so much about what you're missing. Instead, you'll realize that you already have more than enough--and that will make you happy.

2. Resist envy.

Merriam-Webster defines envy as the "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage."

A proper dose of competition can be healthy and motivating. But it's easy to find ourselves constantly competing to be the best, at everything. If we "fail" (i.e., come in second), it can lead to anger or depression.

By all means, be the best you can be. But if someone else is better, be a good sport. You'll feel better about yourself, they'll feel better about you--and you might even learn something from the other person. (By the way: Learning leads to happiness, too.)

3. Practice giving.

You know that co-worker who really gets on your nerves? Try treating him to lunch. Try to discover something positive that you didn't know about him--then tell him what you learned, and why you admire that.

If you give this an honest chance, I guarantee you'll begin to see that person in a different light. He's no longer the slacker who's always avoiding overtime; now, he's the hard-working dad who can't wait to get home to his kids.

And that will make the workplace environment happier--for both of you.

4. Forgive.

We all have enemies. This is sometimes unavoidable--if, say, you were a victim of office politics, or a target of extreme thoughtlessness. But if the other person isn't continuing to hurt us, can we just let it go?

Harboring resentment is like leaving a knife in a wound--we refuse to give ourselves the chance to heal. We end up hurting ourselves the most, while the offending party moves on with his or her life.

When we forgive, we give ourselves the chance to move on, too.

5. Love yourself.

Not in a selfish, arrogant, or conceited way. To be truly happy, you need a healthy view of yourself, with a sufficient amount of self-respect.

Recognize that you are special--there's no one exactly like you in this world. You have a unique combination of qualities and talents to share with others. As they learn from you, continue to learn from them.

And remember:

Happiness might not come easily. But it sure beats the alternative.

Published on: Feb 9, 2015
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