Love, Self

5 Ways To Get (And Stay) Genuinely Happy, According To Science

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People want to be happy. I don't think anyone goes around saying, "No, I want to be completely miserable — a sad, horrible life is the one I want." We not only want happiness; we all think that we're owed happiness and deserve (as good people) to be happy.

Happiness can be long-lasting or disappear all too quickly. So how can we get, and stay, happy?

Some people think we can become happy by achieving a secure family life or having lots of money. It turns out that getting those things can be great, but a large chuck of our happiness is genetic. An Edinburgh University study suggests that genes may control half the personality traits keeping us happy. 

Another large study of 20,000 pairs of fraternal and identical twins found that approximately 33 percent of the variation of life satisfaction is explained by genetic differences. Other studies suggest that anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of our happiness comes from our attitude and overall outlook on life. 

It doesn't take a math-genius to see that just a small percent — maybe only 10 percent — of our happiness comes from the external things that happen to us, including spectacular jobs, amazing relationships, and having truckloads of money.

In the 1970s, researchers came up with the term "hedonic adaption," which has since morphed into hedonic treadmill. Hedonic treadmill says that we all have a base level of happiness that's basically unchangeable, no matter what happens in our lives.

If you get that job promotion or marriage proposal, you'll celebrate and feel good, but those emotions are only temporary. And soon enough, you'll be back to the same level of happiness you had before those things happened.

Here are some science-backed ways in which we can improve our overall well-being and grow happier in the long run.

1. Meditate. Studies suggest that meditation can help lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. Can I get an ohm?

2. Enjoy nature. One study (which used the term forest-bathing) found that a group of students who spent two nights in the forest had lower levels of cortisol (a hormone often used as a marker for stress) than those who spent the same two nights in a city.

3. Do something cultural. The HUNT study looked at the anxiety, depression, and life satisfaction of over 50,000 adults in Norway and learned that people who participated in more cultural activities, like seeing a play or joining a club, reported lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as a higher satisfaction with their overall quality of life.

So, when your actor friends beg you to come to their show, do it! Not for them, but for your own happiness.

4. Spend money on others. This study gave 46 participants an envelope with money in it. Half were told to spend the money on themselves and the other half put the money towards a charitable donation or a gift for someone they knew.

The participants recorded their happiness levels before receiving the envelope and after spending their money. The participants who had been randomly selected to spend money on others reported greater happiness than those who had spent the money on themselves.

5. Volunteer. In a recent review of 40 studies done over the last wo years, researchers found that volunteering was the most important activity for boosting psychological health. Volunteers have been found to have a reduced risk of depression, a higher amount of overall satisfaction, and even a reduced risk of death from a physical illness as a consequence of mental distress.

In the end, if you're looking to be happier longer, stay focused in the present, be grateful, and enjoy what you have.