While there is no one road to happiness, science tells us there are some small shifts we can make in our own lives that can help us cultivate a little more happiness in our lives. At a time where the pandemic and political division can have us feeling down, here are five science-backed ways to feel a bit happier in both your work life and home life.
Better communication: According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, relieving stress is the factor that can help us increase happiness the most. And while you may believe that stress at work comes from being too busy, Wiking says poor communication is usually at the heart of stress. “Stress comes from places where communication does not flow properly,” Wiking says.
His organization has found that the intervention with the most benefit is helping people across the organization talk openly about what is wrong, how it can be improved, and what they are feeling. The takeaway here is that by opening up to your colleagues and being clear about what may bother you, you can pave the way to better communication and less stress overall.
Funny stuff: When you laugh, you help depress the release of cortisol, which can help us feel less stressed. But what if you have trouble finding anything to laugh about these days? Naomi Bagdonas, a lecturer at Stanford University, suggests you practice priming. Priming is the concept that we find what we set out to look for. Just as if you’re primed with the word doctor, you might see the word nurse more readily in a word puzzle, you can introduce concepts that will make you more likely to find humorous moments in your day-to-day life.
One way to go about this is to go through your day and jot down any moment when you laughed or shared laughter. In a study, students who engaged in this practice reported experiencing much more joy and laughter in their lives by the seventh day of this practice.
Rut-free connections: A study from Southern Methodist University in Dallas discovered that people actually feel happier around friends than family. However, the study’s author pointed out that the finding had more to do with the type of activity being engaged in rather than the people with whom it was shared. With family, we’re more prone to simply coexist together, doing things like chores whereas, with friends, we tend to do more fun activities. The important takeaway here is that you can create better social connections with your family (or the people you share your home with) when you try to engage in more fun activities like board games or baking rather than just coexisting.
Outdoor time: We have said it before and we’ll say it again, spending time outdoors will boost your mental health. In fact, one UK study found that people who spent two hours outdoors each week were significantly more likely to report better health and well-being than those who spent less time outside.
Meaningfulness: Whether it’s connecting to art or sharing stories with friends, building meaningfulness into your life is a known way to add more satisfaction to your life.