How to Build and Maintain Your Happiness
December 11, 2020
Happiness is more than just a mood. It can be the feeling that drives you out of bed in the morning--or the goal post you feel like you can never reach. The human pursuit of happiness has yielded bountiful research to help further our understanding of the concept. Now the knowledge of attaining happiness and keeping it are at your fingertips. With these tips, you’ll understand:
- How happiness works
- How to increase your happiness
- How to maintain happiness long-term
Whether you’re curious for self-care tips or looking to escape from a low point in your life, this article can give you a greater understanding of the concept of happiness.
How does Happiness Work?
Happiness is the multidimensional experience of positive emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It can make the sun shine a little brighter and life seem a little easier. Sometimes it may feel like it’s completely out of your control, but happiness is a combination of factors both within and beyond your influence.
Now that you understand what happiness is, you may also wonder why it’s worth pursuing. The brain’s production of happy chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin can feel pleasant and make tasks easier to complete. Well-adjusted people tend to have stronger immune systems, fewer psychopathological symptoms, and more positive employment outcomes in comparison to their less happy peers. Happiness can have an extraordinary influence on the biological, psychological, and social aspects of your life. Though the motivation to be happy is simple to understand, there are still complex layers in the concept of happiness.
Psychological research has determined three factors that influence one’s level of happiness: a genetically determined set point, life circumstances, and purposeful activities. The set point is a generally fixed range of happiness that one returns to following most positive and negative life events, making it a factor of happiness beyond your control.
The ease of controlling life circumstances, such as your religion or education level, varies between individuals-- but at the most, changing your circumstances will produce a temporary joy that you quickly get used to.
Intentional activities can produce the most long-lasting results of happiness, especially when the activities are varied and longer in duration. The freedom to act on your life rather than life acting on you is why intentional activities yield the highest levels of happiness.
While your set point returns you to your emotional baseline, your life circumstances can feel cumbersome to overcome. Each factor in happiness contributes differently to the concept, and each one is still essential in determining your overall elation. However, focusing more energy on intentional activities will yield the most positive outcomes for boosting your happy levels.
With the understanding of how happiness works and its benefits, now you’re ready for tips on increasing and sustaining happiness for yourself.
How to Build Happiness
Adjusting your natural set point or a life circumstance can be draining or intimidating to attempt. The most efficient and accessible way to maximize your happiness levels is by optimizing your intentional activities. These activities can include hobbies, work, and other leisure activities. There are a few things to consider in regards to enhancing how you spend your time on these pursuits.
Tip #1: Control the variation and duration of your activities
The most influential aspects of activities on happiness are variation of activity and duration. You may think it’s more sensible to spend all of your time on hobbies and interests you love to be the most happy you, but it’s easy to grow bored of any activity when it’s done too often and for too long.
Variety is essential because it helps prevent you from growing bored while also keeping you stimulated. Duration of each activity is essential because it determines how productive one perceives their time to be. Research suggests that a high variation of activities with longer duration is most optimal for increasing happiness because the combination leaves you feeling both stimulated and productive.
Consider diversifying the tasks you focus on at work so you can feel productive and efficient. Time yourself during each task to avoid burnout and boredom. Similar logic can be used for hobbies and other leisure activities. With reduced burnout and feelings of unproductiveness, happiness grows closer to being at your fingertips.
Tip #2: Make sure your activities are enjoyable
You can’t deny how happy you feel when spending time on a beloved hobby. When your intentional activities are enjoyable and seemingly come natural to you, there’s little difficulty and effort in completing them. There’s a reason why it feels more difficult to complete mundane work tasks than indulging in a personal pastime-- when an activity has an appropriate fit with your interests and hobbies, happiness isn’t the only thing that can be increased.
The way an endeavor fits you is essential to your happiness because it can increase your effort and motivation. And individuals with high motivation have higher outcomes for increased happiness with their fit interests. Fit activities encourage a cycle of enjoyment and repeated practice of the activity that can promote positive changes in your mood.
Consider making a list of things that interest you if you’re having a hard time finding hobbies. Then connect yourself to activities that cater to your interests and fulfill a sense of purpose for you. Whether it’s exercising, scrapbooking, or a book club, an enjoyable activity that calms you while making your energy feel purposeful can have exponential effects on your happiness.
Tip #3: Process negative experiences
It’s impossible to pursue happiness without addressing the negative obstacles that have previously blocked your path. Focusing on activities that allow you to push through dark memories to reach a brighter place is key in boosting your happiness.
Processing negative life events externally, such as through writing or speaking, is more likely to increase happiness than thinking privately through the events. While private thoughts restrict negative events to simplistic memories, processing traumas outwardly allows for a detailed, coherent story that you can make sense of. Unleashing negative memories from the confines of your subconscious may seem daunting, but there are ways to overcome the difficulties.
Journaling is an ideal outlet for processing negative experiences if you still prefer to remain private. Writing allows you to process your story as you’re expressing it. Professional treatment such as therapy is also an effective way to process traumas and seek additional help if it’s needed.
How to Maintain Happiness
Maintaining higher levels of happiness requires a combination of upkeeping practices to sustain happiness while gaining a resilience to negative life events. When you gain resilience, it’s easier to psychologically recover from negativity. The same resilience that drives the sun to reappear after a storm can also help you bounce back from a setback. When you build up resilience and learn to destroy negativity with positivity, maintaining happiness can become a reality. The tips below will explain how to build resilience following negative life events.
Tip #1: Do What Makes You Happy
Following a trauma or negative life event, it’s easy to ruminate over dark thoughts and perceive life around you from the worst possible perspective. As difficult of a feat as it can be, the best way you can feel better is by making yourself feel that way.
Indulging in positive emotions can provide perspective on a negative life situation and help you see through any dark fog. Once you’re lifted from that negative funk, you may realize that your life is still salvageable and that a light exists at the end of the tunnel.
If you’ve experienced a negative event, counteract that by indulging in intentional activities to provoke a positive emotion. Whether it’s watching your favorite comedy or making your favorite meal, focus on the things that make you feel joyful. Even the smallest of gestures such as laughing and smiling can release dopamine and serotonin in your brain, counteracting the effects of life negativity.
Tip #2: Think Happy Thoughts
The world can appear to be a dark and miserable place following a negative life event. Thoughts of uselessness and hopelessness can flood your mind and blind you from seeing things in a better light. The only way out of this mental prison is brighter thoughts.
Cancelling out negative thoughts with positive ones requires intentional effort. Changing your thought process can seem impossible, especially after a traumatizing event--but it is possible.
Practicing thoughts of optimism and gratitude can counteract negative ones. When dark thoughts start to cloud your mind, clear them away with positive affirmations and reminders of all that’s favorable in your life. When your perspective of yourself and the world become brighter, it can create a domino effect of positivity in various aspects of your life.
Attaining and sustaining happiness aren’t simple tasks with simple fixes. And every person’s case is different from the other. Hopefully these science-backed tips have given you a better understanding of happiness and how you can have it at your fingertips. And if things ever feel too hopeless, never to be afraid to seek help with a professional.