Vol. 2, Issue 4September 2010


The Science of Happiness

It turns out that happiness is a scientific fact, and that there are things you can do to make yourself happier.

Researchers, including scientists, psychologists and ethics experts, have spent years studying people to see what makes them happy. And they have come up with a list of 10 things that seem to promote happiness in human beings:

  1. Enjoy simple moments. Take the time to savor a sunset, to enjoy the feel of the breeze on your face, to take your dog for a walk. People who notice and enjoy these kinds of simple, ordinary, everyday events are significantly happier than those who rush through them.

  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. Take pride and enjoyment in your own accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if the neighbor has a bigger car than you do, or if your brother got a bigger raise. Rather than comparing yourself to others, focus on the things that you have accomplished, and be proud of them.

  3. Value more than money. Certainly money is nice, and financial security is comforting. But scientists have found that the higher you put money on your list of priorities, the more likely you are to be depressed.

  4. Work toward goals that matter. Rather than trying to make a lot of money, focus on making a difference. Take pride in raising children who are emotionally healthy, or on the contributions you make to your community. It is important to have goals, but those goals should have meaning.

  5. Take action in your workplace. It is much better to do something than to sit around and complain about problems on the job. People who look for a chance to make a difference at work are much more likely to be happy with their job – and their life.

  6. Build deep bonds. Everyone has casual friends – people you see at work or the parents of your kids’ friends. But these are not the kinds of friendships that promote happiness. Nurture your relationship with family and close friends. Become part of their lives, and let them become part of yours. You will feel less isolated and more supported.

  7. Smile. The simple act of smiling makes you happier, even if you are unhappy to start with. Be an optimist. Look for the silver lining. Make it a habit to count your blessings.

  8. Be grateful. Research shows that people who keep journals about the things they are thankful for live happier and more productive lives. Think about the good things in your life. And don’t be afraid to say thank you to the people who help you along the way.

  9. Move around. Exercise not only helps you look better, it helps you feel better. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and lets you feel good about yourself. Doctors even recommend exercise as a way to combat depression.

  10. Be helpful. Studies show that people who make themselves useful -- through activities from donating goods to helping out in your child’s classroom to taking on major volunteer work -- get more than a pat on the back. They get a health and happiness boost. They feel more cheerful, have greater self-esteem and feel more connected to the community.

    Photo © Roberto Caucino |