There is at least one difficult thing about studying the science of happiness habit laws. It is that most people when they hear about this field of research, want to know the secret formulas.
Have scientists discovered how these patterns work? If so, then it stands to reason that they must have also found a recipe for the magic of happiness, right?
If only it were that easy.
It’s not that formulas don’t exist. The problem is that there isn’t one formula for changing the laws of happiness habits. There are thousands. At least, in my opinion.
Individuals and habits are all different, aren’t they? Therefore, the specifics of diagnosing and changing the patterns in our happiness differ.
They differ from person to person and from behavior to behavior. That leaves lots of combinations, doesn’t it?
Giving up cigarettes is different than curbing overeating, which is different from changing how you communicate with your spouse. It is also different from how you prioritize tasks at work. What’s more, each person’s habits are driven by different cravings.
As a result, this article doesn’t contain one prescription. Rather, I hoped to deliver something else. My goal is to give a framework for understanding how happiness habits work. I’ll target a guide to experimenting with how they might change.
Some habits are easy to analyze and influence. Others are more complex and obstinate and require prolonged study.
And for others, change is a process that never fully concludes.
Let’s define habits
Habits are the small decisions you make and the actions you perform every day. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape are you? A result of your habits.
How happy or unhappy are you? A result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful are you? A result of your habits.
What you repeatedly do is what you spend time thinking about and doing each day. It ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.
Everything I write about starts with better habits. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.
Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that while our genetics and environment determine 60 percent of happiness, the remaining 40 percent is up to us.
In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives. The first is a pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can.
The second is the life of engagement, where you find life in your work, parenting, love and leisure, and meaningful life.
The meaning of life “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are. It consists of using them to belong to and in the service of, something larger than you are.”
After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised.
The third is the pursuit of pleasure. His research determined that it has hardly any contribution to lasting fulfillment.
Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives. Lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.
Here are laws of happiness habits that my research has uncovered:
“When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge. This is versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts,” writes David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism.
“You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are positive about yourself. This means you are radiating positive energy.”
Good listening is a skill that strengthens relationships and leads to more satisfying experiences.
A good listener may walk away from a conversation feeling as if their presence served a purpose. This is an experience that is closely connected with increased well-being.
As HuffPost Healthy Living reported, longevity is often among those with heart disease. When you choose to see the silver lining, you’re also choosing health and happiness.
Seligman summed up perhaps the greatest characteristic of the optimist in one of his most acclaimed books, Learned Optimism.
Value good music
Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages.
“Volunteer work was good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression,” reported Peggy Thoits, the leader of one of the studies.
Givers also experience what researchers call “the helper’s high.” This is a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts.
“The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains. This reward center is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.”
Let go of time
When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating, and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.”
Happy people seek this sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away,” which diminishes self-consciousness. It promotes the feelings associated with success.
As explained by Pursuit-of-happiness.org, “For a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable, and motivating. It must require skill and be challenging. It should have clear goals toward success.”
Spend money on others
Maybe money does buy happiness.
A study published in Science found that spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.
“Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”
You’ve heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. In the case of The Blues, this may hold some truth.
A good, old-fashioned chuckle releases happy brain chemicals. These chemicals, other than providing the exuberant buzz we seek, make humans better equipped to tolerate both pain and stress.
Make your laughter vivid by including what comes naturally to you. For example, you may not be able to imagine sequences of images very well, but you may excel in imagining other modalities such as smell, touch, and sound.
You may be excellent in infusing your visualization with emotional charge and great feelings. DO not feel compelled to stay within any single modality but make your laugher and imagination vivid and rich by including numerous modalities.
Your senses are wonderful tools for you to engage while unleashing the power of the imaginative mind. Make it colorful and exciting. Make your imagination your ally and your best friend.
The bottom line
Individuals and habits are all different. Therefore, the specifics of diagnosing and changing the patterns in our happiness differ. They differ from person to person and from behavior to behavior. That leaves lots of combinations.
There are many happiness prescriptions. As you have seen, there is a framework for understanding how happiness habits work.
Some habits are easy to analyze and influence. Others are more complex and obstinate and require prolonged study. And for others, change is a process that never fully concludes.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to continually improving your continuous learning?
More reading on mentoring from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, Digital Spark Marketing, and LinkedIn.