Sadness and depression.
These are pains that a surprisingly large amount of us struggle with. Despite all of the progress in technology and wealth in the United States, it is one of the worst ranked nations in the happiness index.
Clearly, something is off.
Having struggled with mild depression and sadness for years, I have finally broken through to happiness and I want to share with you the science-backed approach that helped me break through the barrier.
How To Make Yourself Happy Immediately
Let’s address the elephant in the room:
Most of us have a better standard of living (in terms of technology, entertainment, living conditions, indoor plumbing, pretty much everything) than the richest people in the world 100 years ago or the wealthiest pharaohs 1,000 years ago. Yet there are there so many people of all income classes (wealthy, middle-income, low-income) who are miserable despite all the stuff they have.
The reason is simple.
We’re creatures of habit and comparison, which leads us to take our lives for granted. The same way a spoiled kid takes for granted the wealth he is born into because it’s simply all he knows – WE don’t know any better.
Scientists have spent decades studying this phenomenon – what they’ve labeled as the hedonic treadmill.
One research backed example of the phenomenon is the proven assertion that people who win the lottery or lose their limbs in an accident tend to retreat to their ordinary levels of happiness within a year after the catastrophic or crazy joyful event took place.
We all have a natural happiness set point range.
After tracking the happiness of thousands of individuals across the world in countries with different economic climates, it’s been proven that money does not make you much happier after you hit a moderately above average middle-class income.
It’s true that before you hit the point of some financial stability, money does increase happiness because you have to worry about your basic needs like food, shelter, and healthcare.
But after you hit that point, the correlation between happiness and financial status decreases significantly.
It’s a pretty shocking phenomenon. The research shows that we clearly do not need millions of dollars to be as happy as possible.
Modern society has fed us a lie.
Anyone who has lived in a capitalist first world country like America, Australia, or Europe knows what its like to be bombarded with imagery, social media, and marketing that tells us that we need to get rich to be happy. But the science shows that this is not the case.
Now, I am not saying I hate everything about first world countries. There is a lot I love. But in terms of happiness, they are clearly missing the mark.
If we really want to be happy, so-called “third world countries” might be able to teach us a thing or two.
Change The Way You Think About Happiness
When you ask someone what their motivation is behind any given action, the answer is usually “to be happy.”
Here’s an example:
Why do you work so hard? To make money. Why do you want to make money? To buy a house. Why do you want to buy a house? To impress your future wife. Why do you want to impress your wife? To get her to marry me. Why do you want her to marry you? To be happy.
You can break down almost every action you take and get to the same place.
The truth is, we think about happiness the wrong way. We should strive to be as happy as possible because being happy will affect the quality of our outside lives, not the other way around.
The Happiness Advantage makes this extremely clear with science-backed research. Happier people perform better in almost every measure you can think of. They earn more, they are more energetic, they have more friends, they achieve more goals, they get things done faster, and so on.
Happiness doesn’t come from “fortunate” external circumstances. Fortunate external circumstances could be the result of happiness.
Respect The Science
Science has a very rigorous process to test theories. The results they find are intended to be free of bias and opinions we generally are too subjective to come to. With science, data is data.
Before turning to the science of happiness, I talked to a lot of people of all backgrounds (from professors to religious leaders) to try to learn how a person could make themselves happy when they’re either alone or confused about their life. I got a bunch of ideas and opinions that all sounded great.
The issue was they were opinions.
Who knew if they were right or wrong? And after testing out some of these ideas, I wasn’t seeing the results I expected.
Just “having a happy attitude” doesn’t really work.
Long story short, I decided to go through a number of books on the “science of happiness” until I found exactly what I was looking for: an A to Z bible on the science of happiness with plenty of evidence to support its claims.
The book was called The How of Happiness.
Incredibly Simple Steps You Can Take To Make Yourself Happy
Here are some science-backed ways to improve your happiness:
Express Gratitude. I try to do gratitude exercises once a week. Studies show that once a week is enough and the effects are not much more after a week. What’s important is to get detailed and honest when you express your thanks, whatever it is for.
You may think you have nothing to be grateful for but it’s usually because you are too focused on what you don’t have to notice all you do have. It takes time to recognize what you overlook, but you can improve upon it like a skill.
Learn to cherish every moment. The next time you’re eating your favorite food, rather than scarf it down, try and take the time to appreciate every bit of it. Chew slower, appreciate each ingredient, and so on. This can be applied to anything you appreciate. You can take more time to appreciate the detailed nature of a leaf rather than just pass by a tree you admire quickly.
Give time and love to others (even strangers). According to a TED talk by Michael Norton, spending even a small amount of money (or time) on others can have a bigger impact on your long-lasting happiness than spending it on yourself.
If you don’t have money to spend, volunteer your time. That $3 cup of coffee creates a short-spurt of “delight” that fades quickly, but giving someone a few bucks for a meal when they are starving could mean a whole lot more.
We feel happy when we make others happy.
Exercise. There is almost nothing that can instantly make you happy the way exercise can. Your body needs to be worked. When you do work it, something magical happens. It literally rewards you with happiness in the form of endorphins. So get on that treadmill or go on a nice fast-paced walk. Anything you do to get that heart rate up will instantly change your mood.