Recent reviews of research on happiness have summarized at least ten activities that contribute to sustainable increases in life satisfaction. To increase your life satisfaction, choose one or two items from the lists below and begin doing them consistently.
1. Express and Experience Gratitude
Gratitude correlates with increased energy, improved mood, and health benefits (such as improved heart rhythm patterns, increased immune system function, reduction in stress hormones, increase in exercise, and improved sleep).
- Write letters of gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Regularly express sincere appreciation to others.
2. Do Acts of Kindness
Doing kind things voluntarily for others can increase life satisfaction. One study found that completing a variety of kind acts in one day once a week found it to be more enjoyable than doing one kind act daily that became routine.
- Do a variety of kind acts for people.
- Volunteer for a charitable organization.
- Help a family member or friend.
3. Take Care of Your Body
Life is more enjoyable and easier to manage when experiencing the vitality, health, and sense of well-being that comes from living a healthy lifestyle.
- Get sufficient sleep each night.
- Eat foods that provide good nutrition.
- Exercise daily.
4. Take Care of Your Spirit
Religious people are healthier mentally and physically and live longer. They are more resilient under stress, have more hope and meaning in life, have more social support, and report higher life satisfaction. Religion provides a relationship with God to give comfort and meaning in troubled times and aids with self-esteem and feeling unconditionally valued.
- Immerse yourself in the scriptures.
- Take time to ponder and pray.
- Go to the temple often.
5. Take Time for Things You Enjoy
Pleasant events need to be paced for maximal pleasure. Everyday events become more pleasurable when you take time to savor them by experiencing and noticing tastes, sights, sounds, or touch.
- Schedule in time to do things that brings you enjoyment.
- Write out what a perfect day would be like and then live that day.
- Savor the positive events in your life.
- Stop and notice the smells, sights, feelings, etc. around you for at least 10 minutes.
6. Learn to Forgive
As you make peace with the past, you can live more fully in the present.
- Search for the silver lining.
- What have I learned from this situation?
- How have I grown from this trial?
- Am I proud of the way I handled the situation?
- Pray for a forgiving heart.
- Look at the situation from the other person's perspective.
7. Cultivate Optimism
The way we think influences how we feel. Optimistic people are more likely to be happier, do better at school and sports, win elections, get promotions, succeed in relationships, recover from negative events, live longer, and be healthier.
- Write about a positive future for yourself.
- Improve what you say to yourself when something bad happens.
- See things in an optimistic light:
- Temporary (they won't last forever),
- Limited in scope (they won't ruin all aspects of my life), and
- Not all your fault (other factors may be responsible).
8. Deal with Your Challenges
People are often able to make sense and meaning out of traumatic events or challenging experiences through expression in writing or talking with those who have been through similar experiences.
- Write down your problem and possible solutions. Make a plan and carry it out.
- Get support from family, friends or support group.
- Take responsibility for your part of the situation.
9. Connect with Others
One of the most robust findings is that happy people have better relationships and social support networks.
- Set aside time to reconnect with old friends or rarely-seen family members.
- Do something to support others' roles and dreams.
- Join a group who shares your same interests.
10. Set Goals
Goals can add meaning and control in our lives. We find satisfaction both in working on a goal as well as in achieving it.
- Write down a specific, achievable goal.
- Schedule time to make it happen.
- Track your progress.
- Celebrate your success.
Happiness: Dean E. Barley Ph.D. Associate Director of Clinical Services BYU Comprehensive Clinic
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth by Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert Emmons Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enright The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubormirsky Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman