“I don’t want to be happier,” said nobody ever.
Even if you identify as being generally happy, the idea that you could increase your happiness is still appealing. That’s exactly what I thought when I saw that longevity researcher, Dan Buettner, had written a book on how to be happier.
Aptly titled The Blue Zones of Happiness, the book offers a host of happiness lessons from the happiest places in the world. (If you’re going to learn how to be happier, why not learn from the masters, right?)
According to Dan’s research, there are six factors that correspond with personal happiness, and they hold true no matter where in the world you live. He lists:
- Trust. Can I trust my neighbor?
- Tolerance. Can I live out my values?
- Community. Do I have strong social connections?
- Healthy life expectancy. Take our True Vitality Test to measure your life expectancy.
- GDP. Money does matter…up to a certain point.
- Freedom. Do I have the freedom to do the work that is right for me?
When these factors are in place life is sweet. Of course for most of us, our current environment may only offer a few of these key ingredients for a happy life. If that’s the case for you, all is not lost.
HOW TO BE HAPPIER
There are things you can do to stack the happiness deck in your favor. When asked what the average person could do right now to increase their happiness, Dan suggested three things.
1. Make a Happy, New Friend
The distinction here is ‘happy.’ It’s important to surround yourself with people who support you. More than that, your friendship circle should have a positive effect on you. If you leave a social interaction feeling drained, it’s time to make a change.
We all have bad days, but if you have a Debbie Downer in your life who does nothing but complain, you definitely need to break up with them and find yourself a new, happy friend. According to Dan, your happiness will go up by 15 percent when you do.
There’s something about kindness that has a knock-on effect. Do something nice for someone else, and you’ll feel good, too. Even better, if a third person witnesses your act, they benefit as well.
Dan is emphatic on this one. He recommends volunteering even if you think you don’t have the time. His research shows that people who find meaningful ways to give back are happier.
3. Seep at Least 7.5 Hours a Night
We’ve all know what it feels like to wake up after a bad night’s sleep. Hello Mr Grumpy Pants. It make perfect sense then that people who sleep six hours a night are 30 percent less happy than those who sleep more.
Research has shown that 7.5 hours of shut-eye is what that average person needs to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Want to know how to be happier? Make getting enough sleep a habit.
As an added bonus, buy yourself a rainbow umbrella and a pair of yellow galoshes, and go jump in some puddles. Why? Research (not Dan’s) has shown that playing also makes you happy.