Is there anyone who doesn’t want a happier life? Happiness may be rewarding, but it’s not easy. It requires lots of effort and a willingness to keep trying something until it works. If you’re ready to stop wading through an endless, painful morass of pain and stress, you’re not the only one. Check out these 10 tried-and-true (not to mention scientifically validated) tips for a happier life.
Organize Your Time
Time is one of the few things you can never earn back after you’ve spent it, so why would you waste it? Just like your money, your time needs to be budgeted. People who give conscious thought to how they spend their time – by planning their days, making realistic to-do lists, and sticking to a schedule for achieving goals – are happier and less stressed. Commit a few minutes each day – and a bigger chunk of time at the beginning of each week – to getting your schedule under control.
Exercise might help you achieve the body of your dreams, but its benefits have nothing to do with looking like a model. If you want to be happier, you need to exercise. Regular exercise releases endorphins – powerful feel-good chemicals that can boost your mood and self-esteem. Study after study shows that people who exercise regularly are happier and healthier. You can benefit from just seven minutes of exercise each day, but for the most benefits aim for 30 to 60 minutes at least five days per week.
Establish a Healthy Sleep Schedule
People who get just one extra hour of sleep per night feel fewer negative emotions. But quality sleep is about more than how many zzz’s you catch. Instead, the key is to get a regular schedule. Get up at about the same time each day and go to bed at the same time each night. This makes it easier for your body to adjust, which means you won’t feel so miserable next time you have to drag yourself out of bed.
Focus on Relationships
You’ve heard a million times that you can’t take the money you earn and the things you buy with you when you die. But sometimes thins are repeated over and over again because they’re true. Things don’t make people happy; people make people happy. If you want the surefire recipe for a better life, the key ingredient is a lot of love and plenty of social interaction. Schedule time each day to chat with someone you love, and be sure you hang out with the people who mean the most to you at least once per week.
Do Something for Someone Else
The happiest people don’t spend all their time thinking about their own problems. Instead, they’re more concerned with how life is for others. Even small gestures, such as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you, can add up to big happiness payoffs. For an even bigger happiness reward, sign up for a volunteer project.
Spend Time Outside
If you find yourself feeling happier as winter gives way to spring, it’s really not in your head. Sunlight offers Vitamin D, which can protect against seasonal affective disorder. A quick nature break can also take your mind off of mundane worries and the stress of a life spent primarily indoors. Sunlight is good for mental health. Aim to spend at least 15 minutes outside each day, or take up an outdoor sport such as hiking.
Commit to a Life of Learning
Ignore what you’ve heard about miserable, lonely nerds. People who commit themselves to learning something new every day are happier. Ask questions when you meet new people, and don’t be afraid to research strange questions that pop into your head. Most importantly, read. If you can cut out an hour of TV each week and replace it with reading, you’ll be happier – not to mention smarter.
Plan Mini-Breaks and Mini-Vacations
Can’t afford a vacation and have no time to take a work break? Find small ways to enjoy yourself. A daytime jaunt to a nearby mountain or wildlife preserve can have almost as many benefits as a longer vacation. And a quick break to chat with your mom or eat food you love – rather than wasting your break time scouring Facebook or gossiping with your co-workers – can, over time, yield a happier, more balanced life.
Celebrate Your Victories
You should spend at least as much time celebrating your triumphs as you do wallowing in your defeat. Each day, make a mental tally of what you’ve done right. When you achieve something great at work or school, don’t be afraid to tell people or to arrange a special dinner to celebrate. People who are proud of their accomplishments and who treat themselves for a job well done are much happier than those who are only able to notice their own failings.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean losing weight or giving up a cake. It means aiming for balance over time. Don’t be afraid to splurge on the foods you love; indeed, happy people don’t guilt themselves over every extra calorie. But if you really want to boost your happiness quotient, try some happiness superfoods such as avocados, bananas, and pomegranates. A multivitamin, a diet low in sugar, and cutting back on processed foods may also help you feel happier – not to mention more satisfied with your body.
Happiness, like any other goal, requires work. You’ll need to commit to making real changes, and you’ll have to believe that they work. You might not notice a change overnight, but with a little diligence and a lot of willingness to change the way you live, you can achieve the life you want – and you may even help a few loved ones to follow in your happiness footsteps.