The Happiness Dozen: 12 proven ways to increase your happiness

Happiness is defined here as the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.

We have been conditioned to believe that the wrong things will make us lastingly happy. We think money will bring lots of happiness for a long time, and actually it brings a little happiness for a short time. Wealth, fame and beauty don’t really matter all that much. We adapt to wealth, housing, possessions, beauty, good health and even to marriage

What determines happiness?

  • 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetically determined set points. But these need a specific environment, particular set of life experiences for it to be expressed. These are within our control.
  • 10% of our happiness is determined by our life circumstances or situations( rich or poor, married or unmarried, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, etc)
  • 40% of our happiness is determined by our intentional activities( what we do and how we think, our behaviour and what goals you set every day of your life)

Since we cannot change our genes and circumstances, what we do, how we think, how we behave and the goals that we set  daily determine our happiness. We have to do things that fit in with our strengths, our life-style and that counteract our particular type of unhappiness to make ourselves more happy.

The dozen activities that have been proven to increase our happiness are:

1. Expressing gratitude: This is a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life and can be expressed in many ways- thought, word or deed.

2. Cultivating optimism: This means visualising the best possible things for your life, the steps by which these things will happen, identifying pessimistic thoughts and reinterpreting the situation and having positive expectations for everything, small and big.

3.  Avoiding over thinking and social comparison: The ways to this are to distract yourself from that thought into another engrossing activity, asking yourself to stop doing it, fixing a specific amount of time to do it, writing a journal or talking to another person. You can take a small step to solve a problem, avoid the triggers that make you over think, meditate and see the big picture(whether it will matter in 5 years time, for example and see the insignificance of it). Don’t compare yourself with others, compare yourself with yourself.

4. Practicing acts of kindness: Do things for others anonymously and freely.

5. Nurturing social relationships: Make time to talk regularly with your spouse. Express admiration, appreciation and affection. Respond actively and constructively to your loved one’s good news. Manage conflict properly. Share your spouse’s dreams. Communicate. Be supportive and loyal.

6. Develop strategies for coping: Write. Talk. Dispute negative beliefs.

7. Learn to forgive.

8. Increase flow experiences: Be attentive. Be mindful. Adopt new values. Transform routine tasks. Exercise your skills.

9. Savouring life’s joys: Relish ordinary experiences. Savour and reminisce with family and friends. use imagery. Replay happy days. Be open to beauty and excellence. Celebrate good news. Be mindful. Take pleasure in the senses. Create a savouring album. Take pictures. Wax nostalgic. Seek bittersweet experiences.

10. Committing to your goals: Choose goals  because they are inherently satisfying and meaningful to you rather than what other people approve or desire for you. Choose goals that are your own goals rather than someone else’s. Choose goals where you are moving towards a desirable outcome rather than avoiding an undesirable outcome. Choose goals that are harmonious with your other goals. Be flexible with your goals, allow yourself to change goals with time. Choose goals that involve activity rather than getting new things or possessions. Break down your goals to smaller sub-goals.

11. Practise religion and spirituality: Seek meaning and purpose. Pray. Find the sacred in ordinary life.

12. Taking care of your yourself :Meditate. Be nonjudgmental. Be nonstriving. be patient. Be trusting. Be open. Let go. Do some exercise daily. Smile and laugh

When doing the above activities remember these things:

  • Be positive.
  • Take help from others.
  • Use variety of ways and mix them up.
  • Be motivated, be committed and take effort.
  • Make it a habit.

– notes from the book  The How of Happiness