Happiness is so much more than just a feeling. It is indicative of success and health and correlates with other positive outcomes like wealth and educational attainment. The causes of happiness, or well-being, are remarkably consistent across countries, cultures, and languages. Your own happiness should be important to you and making choices to maximize your own happiness is not selfish; happy people have richer relationships, find more meaning in their work, are more involved in their communities, tend to be more generous, enjoy better health, and stand up for their personal values. So what can you do to maximize your well-being every day?
The quality of your relationships is far and away the most powerful factor that predicts happiness. Find ways to engage with close family and friends every day. Doing so increases your feelings of belonging and connection–especially important factors in overall well-being. Make plans to check in by phone or email with the friends and family members who make you feel the most cherished and refreshed. As difficult as it may be, try to capture something deep in each conversation, however short your conversation may be. Mention why you care about someone, bring up a fond memory, or plan to do something together.
Find flow at work
A key factor in happiness is feeling as though you contribute something meaningful through your work. This is closely related to the happiness boost you get from exerting control over your situation and surroundings or from acting autonomously and competently. Doing work well really is its own reward; deploying your highest talent to meet your highest challenges provides you with a sense of accomplishment. However, your talents have to be appropriately matched with the challenges your encounter, so find ways to engage with more challenging work that’s especially suited to your gifts– seek it, ask for it, achieve it.
Prioritize your health
There’s almost nothing that, in the long term, can change an individual’s happiness set point. Amidst everything from lottery winnings to amputations, people generally return to their basic level of happiness within about a year—a testament to human resilience. However, long-term health problems can definitely cause enduring unhappiness. This means that your daily checklist includes enjoying the health you have and protecting your long-term health. Guard that gym time as if it were an important meeting. Make doctors appointments regularly and proactively. Challenge your physical limits (wisely). Make health a relational activity by involving friends in your pursuits.
Happiness is not strongly swayed by money in terms of amounts, but it is incredibly dependent on comparison. We are sensitive to our relative position among our peer groups. One of the worst things you can do for your own happiness is to compare yourself to others. When you’re tempted to think about your co-worker’s swanky new apartment or your inability to buy that new statement bag, train yourself instead to consider the things in your life you value deeply and that make you feel satisfied. Do you have friends and family you can call to share celebrations and support? Did you have a stroke of luck finding your current job? Are you feeling especially engaged and empowered by your work in and out of the office? The switch from fixating on deficits to picturing abundance in your life is enough to amp up your happiness for the day.
Speak up and act out
Enjoying personal and political freedoms and articulating personal values are major components of a happy life. This may mean contributing time or money to a campaign you believe in, volunteering in your neighborhood, or encouraging peers through an online community. The benefits of acting on your values are ultimately reciprocal—you benefit as much as the cause or individuals to which you contribute.
How do you pursue happiness every day?
Ask Patricia Mae Maristch what she includes in her daily happiness checklist!