And let's face it: Who doesn't want to be happier?
Happiness shouldn't have limits. Rarely does anyone think to themselves, "I'm happy enough. I'll just keep myself at this level of happiness and I'll be fine." If we're miserable and aren't OK with it, we want to be happy; if we're happy to start with, we want to be even happier.
In an article in Psychology Today, Raj Raghunathan, author of the book If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy?, says that as human beings there are some things we absolutely need in order to be happy.
"The first thing we need is that our basic necessities are met: food clothing, shelter, etc... As you can easily imagine, if basic necessities are not met, we can't be happy," he says.
Once our basic needs are met, we can focus on the best ways to find happiness, and Raghunathan believes that there are three other requirements for happiness: social connection or a sense of belonging, feeling that you're good at whatever you've chosen to master in life, and autonomy and freedom (the feeling of having control over our own lot in life).
The trick is to approach these happiness requirements in the right way. For example, you can approach belongingness through two ways: the need to be loved or to love. You can master your craft either by seeking superiority or by following your passion, and you can achieve autonomy either by fighting for external power and control or by internal control.
"Although the need to be loved, the need for superiority and the need for external control can enhance happiness levels in the short run, they are likely to lower it in the long run," Raghunathan says. "By contrast, the need to love, pursuing passion, and the need for internal control have much better potential to enhance not just short-term happiness, but long-term happiness. Further, they also have the potential to enhance the happiness of others around us."
So what are the keys to becoming happier that fit along with Raghunathan's theories?
1. Focus on what you enjoy and don't compare yourself to others.
In a piece on Forbes, writer Lisa Quest says, "There is an endless supply of people to whom you could compare yourself and your accomplishments, but, inevitably, you'll always end up on the losing side of the comparison. That's because there will always be someone who has done something that you wished you could also accomplish. And it will only take you down a never-ending spiral."
Research has shown that major accomplishments, like getting into an Ivy League school or getting a promotion, contribute to about 40 percent of happiness during that time, but that it wears off in a few months. This is the reason that it's best to direct your energies to what you enjoy doing rather than inwardly competing with others you think are doing better than yourself.
2. Smile more.
A study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal found that if you smile or stand up straight, it can have a very positive effect on your mood, stress levels, and outlook. Deciding to be happy over being sad can help you feel happier.
3. Put more importance on experiences, not money.
Rather than money, the things that give us the most lasting happiness are experiences such as traveling, outdoor activities, new skills and visiting museums, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
4. Give up Facebook — or at least cut way back on it.
A study conducted by the Happiness Research Institute found that participants who gave up Facebook were happier and felt more enthusiastic, more decisive, wasted less time, and felt as if they enjoyed life more.
5. Remember the good times.
A study from the University of Liverpool found that one way to build inner strength without seeking external validation is to foster positive thoughts and feelings, and that one way to improve your positive thinking is to remember the happy, joyous times. Happiness is something that one can never have too much of and something that we all deserve, after all.