If you really want to live a happy life, science says start doing these 9 things every day

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Happiness. It’s something we all yearn for, but it can often feel elusive. Science, however, suggests otherwise.

There are certain habits that, if adopted, can significantly increase your happiness levels. It’s not about pretending that everything is perfect or faking a smile.

Instead, it’s about cultivating and embracing certain behaviors that can make us feel genuinely content and fulfilled.

If you’re ready to lead a truly happy life, science suggests incorporating these nine habits into your daily routine.

Let’s get started. 

1) Be present

The first step towards living a happier life, according to science, is to practice mindfulness. That means being present in the moment.

It’s so easy in our fast-paced world to let our minds wander off. We often find ourselves worrying about the future, or dwelling on the past. But science says that this scattered mindset is detrimental to our happiness.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, allows us to fully engage with the present moment. It’s about experiencing life as it’s happening rather than being lost in thought.

Studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness report lower levels of stress and anxiety, and higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

How do you become more mindful? It starts by paying closer attention to your surroundings and your actions.

Savoring a meal, listening intently when someone is speaking, or simply taking a walk without distractions can all be forms of practicing mindfulness.

It’s not about eliminating thoughts or achieving a state of eternal calm. Rather, it’s about noticing when your mind has wandered and gently bringing it back to the present.

Embrace mindfulness and you might just discover an immense source of happiness that’s been within you all along.

2) Practice gratitude

This one’s a game-changer for me personally. Practicing gratitude has practically rewired my brain to focus more on the positive aspects of life.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

It’s not just about saying “thank you”, but actually taking time to reflect on the things that we are thankful for.

I started maintaining a gratitude journal a few years ago, jotting down three things I’m grateful for each day. It could be as simple as a good cup of coffee or a kind gesture from a stranger.

Over time, I noticed that I was not only happier but also more positive and less stressed. Even on tough days, looking at my gratitude journal reminded me of the good in my life, helping me keep things in perspective.

The famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, once said, “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

This quote resonates with me deeply and reminds me to appreciate the good in every day, even amidst struggles.

Incorporating gratitude into your daily routine might feel strange at first, but stick with it. With time, you’ll start to find joy in the little things and realize how rich you are in terms of happiness.

3) Stay physically active

Engaging in regular physical activity isn’t just good for your body; it’s also beneficial for your happiness.

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These are often termed as the “feel-good” hormones because they trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains:

“When you exercise, it increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid — these are all brain chemicals associated with feeling happy, feeling confident, feeling capable, feeling less anxiety and stress and even less physical pain.”

Whether it’s a brisk walk, a high-intensity interval training session, or a calming yoga routine, being active can help to elevate your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety or depression.

Moreover, regular physical activity can boost your self-esteem and improve your sleep, both of which contribute to overall happiness.

Keep in mind that it’s not about how intense your workout is, but rather about moving your body consistently.

Find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your routine for a happier life.

4) Nurture social connections

It turns out, we humans are social creatures. We thrive on connections and relationships. Science tells us that maintaining strong social ties can significantly contribute to our happiness.

A Harvard study spanning over 85 years found that the key to happiness in life is maintaining positive relationships, which enhance our health and longevity more than career success, wealth, exercise, or diet.

Whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues, having people around who care about us, support us, and with whom we can share moments of joy and sorrow, is essential.

Nurturing these relationships isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort. It can involve regular check-ins, spending quality time together, or expressing appreciation for each other.

It’s not just about the quantity of social connections, but the quality too. So invest in meaningful relationships and watch how they enrich your life and boost your happiness.

5) Practice acceptance

Acceptance is a powerful habit that can drastically transform our happiness levels. Whether it’s accepting our current circumstances or accepting others as they are, this habit is a game-changer.

Buddhism and mindfulness teach us about the importance of accepting reality as it is, without trying to change or resist it. This doesn’t mean we have to be passive or complacent. Instead, it means acknowledging the present moment without judgment or resistance.

Science supports this too. Psychological studies have found that acceptance-based therapies help reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.

The truth is, life isn’t always fair. People aren’t always kind. Things don’t always go as planned. But resisting these facts only leads to suffering. Acceptance, on the other hand, allows us to navigate life’s ups and downs with grace and resilience.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It’s about understanding that some things are beyond our control, and that’s okay.

When we learn to accept what we can’t change, we free up energy to focus on what we can influence: our attitude, our actions, and our response to life’s challenges.

6) Show kindness

It’s often said that a little kindness goes a long way. But did you know that being kind to others can also make us happier? Science backs this up.

When we perform acts of kindness, our brain releases oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone”.

This hormone helps create a feeling of warmth, generosity, and connection towards others.

In my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I delve deeper into the importance of compassion from a Buddhist perspective and offer practical tips on how to cultivate it in your day-to-day life.

Remember, compassion isn’t just about grand gestures. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference. 

When you have an opportunity to show compassion, seize it. It might just make someone’s day and yours too.

7) Meditate regularly

Meditation is not just a buzzword. It’s a powerful habit that can significantly improve our mental well-being and happiness.

Scientific studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration, increase self-awareness, and even boost happiness levels. It’s a simple practice with profound effects.

Buddhism has long revered meditation as a pathway to enlightenment and inner peace. Buddhist monks meditate for hours each day to cultivate mindfulness and compassion.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a renowned mindfulness expert, once said, “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

Whether you’re new to meditation or a seasoned practitioner, the key is consistency. Even just a few minutes each day can make a difference.

Meditation isn’t about emptying your mind or achieving some mystical state. It’s about becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

And that’s something we can all benefit from. So why not give it a try? The journey to happiness might be closer than you think.

8) Cultivate optimism

Being optimistic might sound like cliché advice, but science shows there’s some truth behind it. Having a positive outlook on life can significantly enhance our happiness.

Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring life’s challenges or pretending everything is perfect. Rather, it’s about having confidence in our abilities to handle whatever life throws at us and expecting good results.

Optimism has a positive effect on happiness, according to multiple studies. It is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive affect .

Cultivating optimism involves focusing on positive aspects of a situation, maintaining a hopeful outlook, and reframing negative thoughts. It’s not always easy, but with practice, you can develop a more optimistic mindset.

Optimism is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Stay positive and see how your happiness levels soar.

9) Embrace stillness

In our fast-paced world, it’s counterintuitive to stop and embrace stillness. We’re conditioned to always be doing something, achieving something. But here’s the thing: Constant busyness doesn’t equate to happiness.

Mindfulness teaches us the value of stillness. It’s in these quiet moments that we truly tune in to ourselves and our surroundings. It’s when we allow ourselves to just be.

Science supports this too. Studies have found that quiet time can boost creativity, reduce stress, and even improve mental well-being.

A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2016 demonstrated that dedicating time to creative goals during the day is linked with a higher activation of positive affect (PA) that day.

Positive affect refers to the experience of positive moods such as joy, happiness, and optimism, and its enhancement is known to lower stress levels and broaden an individual’s perspective, making it easier to perceive and seize opportunities in life.

Embracing stillness doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in silence. It could be taking a slow walk in nature, enjoying a cup of tea without distractions, or simply taking a few moments to breathe deeply.

You don’t need to fill every moment with activity. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most productive thing you can do.

Give yourself permission to slow down, embrace stillness, and just be. You might be surprised at the sense of peace and happiness it can bring.

Happiness is not a destination, but a journey. By adopting these simple, science-backed habits, you’re taking significant steps towards creating a more contented and fulfilled life.

Conclusion

Remember, these habits are not quick fixes. They require practice and patience. But the beauty of it is that you can start right where you are.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into how Buddhism and mindfulness can enrich your life, I invite you to check out my book Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego. It’s packed with practical tips and insightful wisdom to help you navigate life’s ups and downs with grace and resilience.

Here’s to your journey towards a happier life. Every step counts. So be patient with yourself, keep going, and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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