How to become happier
Is it better to give than to receive?
If it’s happiness that you’re after, then the answer is yes, according to the latest brain research! As it turns out, money does buy happiness, but only if it’s spent on others. Spending money on others will make you feel happier. Spending money on yourself won’t make you feel happier. Spending money on yourself won’t decrease your happiness, either…it just doesn’t do anything to make you feel better. Yet, it’s a material society we live in with so many people buying things for themselves in an effort to increase self-esteem, compete, and out-do everyone else. Nothing wrong with buying things for yourself. Just know that you will be disappointed if you think it will make you feel happier and science now supports this.
But doesn’t having more material items increase happiness?
Nope. Past having your basic resources covered, having an increase in material items doesn’t increase your happiness level. Although, not having your basic resources covered and living in poverty will decrease happiness. Some people, who are able to pay their bills and have basic resources, may waste time trying to figure out how to become rich quick because they believe this will make them happier. The desire for overnight success, joining all sorts of multi-level marketing scams and seeking ways to get rich quick is popular because of this belief.
But what about my trust-funder friends? Aren’t they happier than me?
Quick note about those who have unearned “success.” This actually leads to unhappiness. If your trust funder friends are happier than you, then it’s not necessarily because of the trust fund.
Where do I begin to find happiness?
According to one happiness researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, happiness is found where you have a medium skill set and you are challenged to use those skills. Csikszentmihalyi calls this “flow.” People become stressed because they confuse success with biting off more than they can chew yet do not possess the skills or experience to get the job done, resulting in anxiety. Many of us have to go through this phase when we are brand new on the job. It can feel like being thrown to the wolves when you are inexperienced and the job calls for more skill than you’ve had time to acquire. After gaining experience, our skill set increases and our anxiety level generally decreases. If you find yourself with high anxiety on the job, is it because you really need more experience and skills? If so, seek out ways to increase your skill set and find a mentor with more experience and knowledge.
With a medium (instead of low skill set), you can start enjoying your work and get into flow. Enjoying your work will give you more happiness.
On the other side, those with experience and skills that surpass the job at hand may underachieve, feel anxious or bored, or chronically dissatisfied, leading to other destructive behaviors. Some of the more common destructive behaviors I see in clients are the use of drugs, alcohol, sex, affairs, and porn addiction without motivation to gain any real insight. Immaturity and a sense of entitlement combined with the numbing behaviors above often leads to blaming others for their own unhappiness.
But if people would just act right, wouldn’t I be better off?
I love this one. Let’s be clear: People don’t act right. I’ve started using the acronym: P-DAR. People don’t and won’t ever act “right” or according to you standard of what “right” may be. Funny enough, you are the person who isn’t in line with someone else’s standards, even if you aren’t aware of this.
Control of the outside world is temporary and illusory. The more arrogant we are, the more negativity enters our minds and the more miserable we feel. It can actually be a relief to know that people don’t act right and accept that we don’t have the capability to control others.
“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory.” -Matthieu Ricard
If you truly feel upset with certain behaviors in this world, then volunteering or putting effort towards the injustices you see will go a lot farther toward change than complaining to your family, ranting on Facebook or trolling on social media.
Bottom line: it is a delusion that other people need to behave a certain way for you to feel happy. If you hold the belief that others need to act a certain way for you to feel happy, then you won’t feel happy.
Exercise & Nutrition
Exercise affects the chemicals in your brain in such a way that it wards off depression, improves mood, decreases anxiety and prevents a plethora of medical conditions. Good nutrition will provide you with “phyto”-chemicals that “fight” off disease. Sure, you can decrease calories to a certain number per day and lose weight, but the foods you choose to eat can be like preventative medicine.
Feel Good Brain Chemicals
Being grateful increases serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical in your brain. Even if you scan your brain for things to be grateful for and can’t think of anything, serotonin still increases. It is the act of searching your brain for things to be grateful for that increases serotonin.