Happiness Greatest Hits

By Jeremy Adam Smith | March 20, 2015 | 0 comments

Today is the UN's International Day of Happiness! To celebrate, here's a list of some of our most illuminating and helpful happiness research, tools, and tips.

Today is the International Day of Happiness, launched in 2014 by the United Nations to promote subjective well-being as a legitimate goal of public policy and social progress.

That’s a goal we share at the Greater Good Science Center, and through the years we’ve covered happiness research from every conceivable angle. Here are some highlights—the most interesting, provocative, or helpful pieces we’ve published on the science of happiness.

What is happiness anyway?

Many scientists use happiness interchangeably with “subjective well-being,” which they measure by simply asking people to report how satisfied they feel with their own lives and how much positive and negative emotion they’re experiencing. Leading researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness more precisely as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Here are some pieces that explore the nuances of happiness.

What are the benefits of happiness?

In addition to making us feel good, studies have found that happiness actually improves other aspects of our lives, as well as the lives of the people around us.

Can you cultivate happiness?

Happiness doesn’t just happen. Based on her research, Lyubomirsky has concluded that roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities. Here are steps you can take to boost your happiness.

Asian woman drawing

Do more activities that truly engage you

At home and at work, seek out more challenging and absorbing experiences in which you “lose yourself,” experiencing what researchers call “flow.”
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Savor life’s joys

Pay close attention to life’s momentary pleasures and wonders through thinking, writing, or drawing, or by sharing them with others.
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Learn to forgive

Keep a journal or write a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment toward someone who has hurt or wronged you.
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Practice acts of kindness

Do good things for others—whether friends or strangers, directly or anonymously, spontaneously or planned.
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Nurture relationships

Pick a relationship in need of strengthening, and invest time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming, and enjoying it.
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Cultivate optimism

Keep a journal in which you imagine and write about the best possible future for yourself, or practice looking at the bright side of every situation.
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Avoid over-thinking and social comparison

Use strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems, and guard against comparing yourself to others.
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Develop strategies for coping

Practice ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship, or trauma.
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Count your blessings

Express gratitude for what you have—either privately, through contemplation or journaling, or to someone else—or convey your appreciation to people whom you’ve never properly thanked.
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Strengthen your spiritual connections

Religious and spiritual people are happier, perhaps because of the social connections they get through their community.
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Now not later

Commit to your goals

Pick one, two, or three significant goals that are meaningful to you and devote time and effort to pursuing them.
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Take care of your body

This could mean exercise, of course, but also meditating, smiling, or laughing.
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Download our “6 Habits of Happiness” poster.

Fostering happiness at home and in the world

Can you help the people around you become happier? You bet! Here are some insights and ideas.

What are the problems with happiness?

Happiness isn’t all flowers and sunshine. Research suggests that it’s possible to be too happy or to embrace false beliefs about what will make you happy. There are many forces that can undermine happiness, no matter what steps you take to cultivate it within yourself. These insights might help you to understand what foils happiness and well-being.

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About The Author

Jeremy Adam Smith edits the GGSC’s online magazine, Greater Good. He is also the author or coeditor of four books, including The Daddy Shift, Are We Born Racist?, and The Compassionate Instinct. Before joining the GGSC, Jeremy was a 2010-11 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. You can follow him on Twitter!


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