10 things scientists have learned about the science of happiness.
It isn’t so much that I doubt that there is an afterlife (though I’m pretty sure this life is all I get), it is more that even if there is an afterlife, if I don’t live this life fully, what business do I have wishing for another one. The way I see it, even if there is an afterlife, I should still do this life justice by living it fully and happily.
This is a recurring theme for pretty much every Humanist I have ever met. We are pretty convinced this life is all we get so we aren’t going to waste it. We are going to embrace it and experience it fully.
The real question is, how to make the best of it. Life is hard and difficult. How do we keep from falling into despair? More importantly, how do we appreciate and find happiness with our life, such as it is.
It turns out that scientists have turned their attention to the topic of happiness and what contributes to happiness. Humanists are inclined to favor a scientific viewpoint as at least having some research and evidence for it. Yes! published a list of 10 things scientists say will help make you happy: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/sustainable-happiness/10-things-science-says-will-make-you I love this list as it reflect quite a bit of what I teach. It’s always nice when science backs you up.
For those of you who don’t like to click through the links – here is what the list is
- Savor the moment. Not all the time, but make sure to take the time now and again to pause and appreciate what is happening or reflect on the little things that bring you joy. Happiness is something that occurs during reflection so this is important.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others. I write about this in my book The Humanist Approach to Happiness. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. You will go broke trying and you can’t buy happiness anyway.
- Value something other than money. Money is important but if you judge your self-worth through what you own, your self-worth is very shallow. Have more depth to who you are and how you define yourself.
- Goals: Having something to work towards is essential. Doesn’t matter what it is, just have something you are working towards. It will give you a reason to get up in the morning.
- Initiative – Taking responsibility to get things done feels good. Take the initiative, don’t wait for others to take the lead.
- Relationships – we are social animals and we need other people to feel secure. Nurture close relationships and treat them well. A bunch of shallow friends don’t give you the same benefits that close friends and family do.
- Smile: Even when you are feeling down, if you take the time to think of something positive you can refocus your energy into doing something productive to fix your problem, which is way better than wallowing endlessly.
- Gratitude: Feelings of happiness occur most often during reflection. By reflecting on those things that you are grateful for, you a) remind yourself of what is positive in your life and you give yourself an opportunity to feel happy at the same time.
- Exercise – health benefits, feel good endorphins, a sense of accomplishment that you actually got your fat ass off the couch – yeah – use your body for good. Get out an exercise.
- Altruism – Volunteer, donate, make it a habit and a practice. Getting what is known as a helper’s high is well worth it.
What do you to do experience more happiness in your life? Do you have any rituals? Any simple task that you find joy in? Do you agree with this list?