3 Tips to Increase Your Happiness

Written into the Declaration of Independence, happiness is much pursued and seldom reached - for long. 

I read this article in the Times on the plane a few weeks ago and took some notes, so I thought I'd share them here.  

1. Try new things

Our happiness would be bred, instead of an almost adolescent restlessness, an itch to do the Next Big Thing. (...) That first moon landing - Apollo 11 - was a very big deal, something we had pursued like nothing else. But Apollo 12? Sort of a letdown.

This makes sense, doesn't it? First of all, in terms of age of country, the USA are in their adolescence. But you don't have to be US American to get excited about a new pair of shoes only to get bored by them a few days later. Your brain gets used to them, so all of us experience this phenomenon. Belle Beth Cooper writes about it here, and giving examples from her recent expatriation. 

So, while routine gives us stability and a sense of security, it may also get you down. Why not try new ways home from work, a new dish at the local restaurant, or - gasp - a new hairdo to flex your new-change muscles?  

2. Stay focused

In a recent research study,  

people operating under that so-called cognitive load showed reduced empathy reactions, with neural activity down across four different brain regions. People with uncluttered brains processed - and felt - things more deeply.

According to one of the researchers, "it's possible that being distracted may also reduce our own happiness." In other words - stop doing more than one thing at a time. Don't play Angry Birds while watching a movie, stop listening to an audiobook while baby-sitting, and for goodness' sake, if you're maxed out at work, don't schlepp your laptop into meetings and answer emails at the same time. It's not good for your health, not even to mention the cross-cultural messages you're sending to those who think it's rude. In the US, I know everybody does it, but in Germany it looks like "you're not important enough to have my full attention".  Have a chat with your team to set boundaries and see how you can fit your workload back into a realistic 40 hours. 

3. Appreciate what you've got

You've probably heard the thing where money doesn't buy happiness, or happiness levels don't increase much above a certain pay-grade. Sorry to bust that bubble: 

while happiness may not rise as quickly as income (doubling your salary from $75,000 to $150,000 will not make you twice as happy) there is no such thing as growing numb to money. (...) not only does subjective well-being rise along with income but in wealthy countries the slope is actually sharper than it is in poorer countries. 

What does this mean? If you make six figures but would like to make seven, your happiness isn't where it could be. If you continue comparing yourself to those who have more, you're not giving your happiness a chance to catch up.  

Click on the image up top to read the full article online, or buy the magazine for more interesting facts. For example, when asked "Which makes you happier?" 35 % of people said "Working toward a goal", and 59 % said, "Achieving a goal". Now, does that sound like a Perceiving and Judging preference, or what?!