Last year I started out the year deeply unhappy. I spent the year making changes that I felt would lead to a happier life. I changed my diet. I selected better ways to spend my free time. I broke up with my then-boyfriend and met the love of my life. I was much much happier at the end of last year than I was at the beginning. Mission accomplished.
This year I started off doing more of the same. I found new changes I could make to my life. I hoped these would lead to even greater happiness. To some extent these continued improvements have worked, but I've found that I'm not as happy as I was in the latter half of last year. And so, I decided that one of the things I could do to improve my life this year is to study happiness. So far I've read four books on the subject:
|Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment||Martin E. P. Seligman|
|The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living||Dalai Lama, Howard C Cutler|
|Stumbling on Happiness||Daniel Gilbert|
|The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work||Shawn Achor|
Here's what I've learned:
1. You probably need people. Depending on who you are you may need close family, a wide circle of friends, or a close connection with your romantic partner. What kind of relationships and how many you need is going to vary greatly depending on what works for you. But in any case, you need the kind of people you can spill your guts to and who feel they can spill their guts to you when needed. You need to maintain your connection to these people. Having them will make you happier and help you live longer.
2. Maximize the experiences. Doing stuff is fun. It's the best use of your money; it's the most bang for your buck. It makes you happier and helps you live a richer life. It gives you fun stuff to look forward to and fun stuff to look back on. If you're really lucky, it's fun in the moment too. Experiences can be as simple as a walk in the park or board games with friends. It can be as complex as skydiving in a foreign country. It's all good.
3. It's all about your mind set. Be grateful, Make little lists of goals. Make little lists of how you've helped others today. rephrase things as what you want to do instead of what you need to do.
4. Help other people. Volunteer somewhere. Be nicer to people in your every day life. Stop focusing so much on how you're feeling and if you're accomplishing goals and instead focus on other people and other things.
5. Figure out what you love and then do that. Here's a survey to help you figure out what kinds of things that might entail: https://www.viacharacter.org/www/
6. Trust other people's opinions. Yes, we all think we're unique snowflakes, but mostly you'rte going to be terrible at predicting what will make you happy and remembering what made you happy. But what is going to predict if you'll like something is whether or not it makes other people happy. Everything in life can be treated like picking a restaurant based on Yelp reviews. Find someone in the thick of it and ask them what they think. Chances are it will be what you think when you're in it too.