Last year, the Journal of Happiness Studies published research by Michael Minkov and Michael Harris Bond that claims happiness has a genetic component -- some people are just programmed to be happier. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn a bad day around. Regardless of what your genes dictate, there are a few time-tested ways to improve your happiness.
Stop doing these ten things and you’ll be well on your way to a happier you.
1. Dwelling on the past
Focusing too much on past events doesn’t allow you to live in the present or strive for the future. You can’t change the past and focusing on something without a solution is sure to put you in a melancholy mood. It’s better to live in the present, and to channel your energies to what you can do as opposed to what you can’t.
2. Being complacent
It's important to focus on what you have right now, but you can attain sustainable happiness by thinking about what you want in the future and setting the groundwork to get there. Whether it's for something major like working toward a new job or as minor as starting a new hobby, expanding your skills could lead to new and exciting opportunities.
3. Spending hours on social media
Recent research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine concluded that social media usage and depression have a symbiotic relationship. Researchers cited what we all know about social media, but sometimes forget to acknowledge -- people post the best versions of themselves online. This leads to envy, and envy leads to despair. Remember that everyone does things at his or her own pace. Turn off your screen and start living your own life, not vicariously through others.
4. Forgetting about JOMO
Social media causes FOMO -- the fear of missing out. Instead, think about JOMO -- the joy of missing out. Practice mindfulness, which is the mental state of being completely aware and engaged in the present. Being mindful opens you up to experiencing new things that you have otherwise overlooked -- and, just as importantly, often blocks out unneeded distractions.
5. Overlooking small joys
Nice weather. A cute puppy running toward you. A really great run. There are 24 hours in a day, and during that time, something pleasant is bound to happen, if only for a minute. Show appreciation for the little things in life.
6. Staying on the couch
Exercise has long been linked with happiness. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and monoamines. These brain chemicals help the body deal with pain, stress and certain mental disorders like anxiety. There’s a reason why “runner’s high” has become a household term: Exercising makes you feel better.
7. Letting unpleasant events affect your whole day
All too often, people subconsciously choose to be angry. Little things bother us, and we let that negative energy seep into our entire day. Unpleasant events happen to everyone. Choose which things truly matter to you, and let go of the things that don’t. If you spend less time dwelling on negative thoughts, you open yourself up to receiving happier ones.
8. Holding grudges
Grudges are associated with anger, hurt and negative feelings toward someone. While you can acknowledge you’ve been slighted, holding onto such overwhelming emotions does not promote happiness. Instead, try to forgive. Think about why you were hurt. Be empathetic toward the other person, and, if necessary, express your feelings. If all goes well, you’ll both have a deeper relationship and understanding of each other. If not, forgive anyway.
9. Ignoring relationships
In today’s digitally driven world, making time for face-to-face connections is increasingly difficult. But for that reason, it’s increasingly necessary. Numerous research has proven that people with friends don't just live more fulfilled lives -- they also recover from illness more quickly, they have a lower risk of various diseases and they tend to think more positively because they know that they have people to support them.
10. Forgetting to make time for the things you love
What is your passion? Regardless of how silly, small or difficult, be sure to carve out time to pursue activities that bring you joy. Time is always of the essence in today’s world, but you’ll feel like a hamster running on a wheel if you don’t stop for a moment to foster the things that you truly love.
More often than not, happiness is a choice. Hopefully, it’s not a hard one to make. It’s about taking the time to think about what truly matters and making sure you follow through on whatever that may be.