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5 Tips To Live a Happier, Healthier Life

5 tips to live happier, healthier life

The desire to be happy--and people have their own definition of what that means to them--is universal, without cultural, ethnic, religious, language, or socioeconomic boundaries. The ways to have more joy in your life can be counted on one hand, and they even are supported by research. So here are 5 tips to live a happier, healthier life.

Love yourself
You may be familiar with the adage (anonymous), "To love others, we must first learn to love ourselves." Loving oneself is equated with self-esteem, or how you feel about yourself. In a 2011 study, researchers examined the hypothesis set forth by the psychologist William James, who in 1890 proposed that people's self-esteem (love of self) depends on the values they place on various factors in their lives.

More than 1,800 people were evaluated in the study, and the investigators found that:

  • People who valued their individuals abilities tended to have higher self-esteem scores
  • Awareness of one's physical attractiveness was important for self-esteem and self-worth
  • People who rated themselves low for a particular ability did not let their feelings negatively affect their self-esteem

In other words, this study showed that the importance people attach to their abilities have a direct impact on their level of self-esteem, or loving themselves.

Do good
Many studies have shown that people who do good, such as volunteering their time and effort for worthwhile causes, tend to be happier than people who don't give of themselves. A new study illustrates this point and also shows that doing good and feeling happy crosses age and ethnic boundaries.

Researchers from the University of Alaska evaluated data from the New Zealand Health, Work, and Retirement Longitudinal Study, which included individuals of different ethnic backgrounds (Maori and non-Maori) and economic living standards. They found that:

  • The amount of volunteering people did per week was a unique predictor of their overall level of happiness.
  • Ethnicity did not change the relationship between volunteering and happiness
  • People with a lower economic status were more likely to benefit from volunteering than those at the higher end of the economic scale. This was especially true for older volunteers.

Overall, the authors reported that "This study provides evidence that volunteering is related to increased happiness, irrespective of ethnicity." Therefore, do good and be happier.

Always forgive
Do you hold a grudge? Do you have thoughts of revenge? Such negative thoughts not only can be a black cloud over happiness, but also be detrimental to your health. A good example of this was illustrated in a new study published in Psychosomatic Medicine (September 2012).

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A University of California, San Diego, team examined the impact of forgiveness versus repeated rumination on offenses on cardiovascular health. To do this, investigators measured blood pressure and heart rate of 202 individuals while they thought about a previous offense from while in an angry state of mind and while in a forgiving state of mind.

The greatest increase in blood pressure was recorded when participants were in an angry versus a forgiving state of mind, while there was no significant change in heart rate. The authors concluded that "forgiveness seems to lower reactivity both during the initial cognitive process and, more importantly, during mental recreations of an offense soon thereafter, potentially offering sustained protection."

Harm no one
The tip "harm no one" could be about, say, choosing not to slap someone when they make you angry or not saying something hurtful to a friend, but it also is about acts of kindness. The phrase "acts of kindness" is more than a bumper stick slogan; in fact, it has been the subject of research. Here's one recent study.

At the University of Kent, investigators designed a study to determine the impact of acts of kindness and acts of novelty on life satisfaction. Volunteers ages 18 to 60 were randomly assigned to perform either acts of kindness, acts of novelty, or no acts on a daily basis for 10 days. Individuals who performed acts of kindness or acts of novelty measured higher on life satisfaction than those who did not do kind deeds.

Be positive
It's been said that misery loves company, but is that company you want to share? Maintaining a positive attitude can make your life happier and healthier. A recent study of centenarians reported on the link between positive thinking, happiness, and long life.

Although genetics play a part in how long a person lives, other factors such as attitude do as well. Investigators evaluated a group of centenarians using the Personality Outlook Profile Scale (POPS). Two main personality characteristics--Positive Attitude Towards Life (e.g., optimism, laughter, outgoing) and Emotional Expression (e.g., expressing emotions openly)--were evident. Among the conclusions of the researchers was that these personality traits "as well as dispositional optimism...may contribute to successful aging."

According to Ken Keyes, Jr., a personal growth lecturer and author of several books, including How to Enjoy Your Life In Spite Of It All, "A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror."

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a loving, positive, forgiving person who does good deeds and does no harm? Are you ready to take the steps to live a happier, healthier life?

Buchanan KE, Bardi A. Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. Journal of Social Psychology 2010 May-Jun; 150(3): 235-37
Dulin PL et al. Volunteering predicts happiness among older Maori and non-Maori in the New Zealand health, work, and retirement longitudinal study. Aging and Mental Health 2012; 16(5): 617-24
Kato K et al. Positive attitude towards life and emotional expression as personality phenotypes for centenarians. Aging (Albany NY) 2012 May; 4(5): 359-67
Larsen BA et al. The immediate and delayed cardiovascular benefits of forgiving. Psychosomatic Medicine 2012 Sep; 74(7): 745-50
Lindwall M et al. The importance of importance in the physical self: support for the theoretically appealing but empirically elusive model of James. Journal of Personality 2011 Apr; 79(2): 303-34

Image: Morguefile



As the founder of the Secret Society of Happy People, I've found the tips above to be true ... happiness is a combination of genetics and habits.
Thank you for your comment. Hopefully your "secret" society won't be so secret now that you've shared its existence on this website, as more people discover they can take charge of their happiness.
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