But is it really that hard to be happy? According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, it isn’t. She says that while demographic and life circumstances—such as education, work environment, and income—certainly play a role in determining our level of happiness, those factors only account for 10 percent of our happiness quotient. Genetic predisposition accounts for 50 percent and the remaining 40 percent is determined by what we do—the intentional activities that we choose to engage in on a daily basis.
From practicing random acts of kindness, like picking up bagels and coffee for your team, to expressing gratitude when a team member goes the extra mile, Lyubomirsky shares her tips to bring a little bit of cheer into your work day.
1. Count your blessings. Keep a “gratitude journal” and once a week list three to five things for which you are thankful.
2. Practice acts of kindness. Do something nice for others. Make it both random (help a team member with a difficult task) and planned (volunteer at a fundraiser for your local humane society).
3. Nurture optimism. Practice finding the silver lining in negative events—notice what’s right (rather than what’s wrong) in a given situation, feel good about the future (your own and the world’s), or simply remind yourself that you can get through the day.
4. Learn to forgive. Write—but don’t send—a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. It may help you let go of anger and resentment.
5. Increase “flow” experiences. When you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing that you don’t notice the passage of time, you’re in a state called “flow.” Try to increase the number of these experiences in your life.
6. Invest in relationships. Having strong personal relationships is one of the major contributing factors to happiness. Put effort into healing, cultivating, and enjoying your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
7. Avoid over-thinking. Pick a distracting, attention-grabbing activity that has compelled you in the past and do it whenever you notice yourself obsessing about the bad stuff in your life.
8. Savor life’s joys. Pay close attention to and take delight in momentary pleasures, wonders, and magical moments. Focus on the thank-you note your team received from a satisfied client or the cute new puppy in the clinic.
9. Take care of your soul. Studies show that spiritual people are happier and healthier than others. Whether it’s joining a religious community or meditating on your own, find an activity that suits you.
10. Commit to your goals. Strive for something significant in your pursuits, whether it’s learning a new skill on the job or going back to school. You’ll be far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations.
11. Use your body. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, stretch, meditate, smile, and laugh to enhance your mood in the short term and promote strong mental health in the long term.
For more happiness boosters from Sonja Lyubomirsky, please visit www.thehowofhappiness.com.