Let's face it — some people are just happier than others. It would be misleading to say that everyone can achieve the same level of joy if they just work at it. However, says psychology and marketing professor Art Markman, we all have a set point at which we are at our best.
"Like a thermostat that helps keep the temperature in a room relatively constant, there are mechanisms that people have that lead them to return to a baseline level of well-being," Markman explains. One of these is cultivating habits that influence your levels of felicity.
Keep reading for four such practices you can begin engaging in today.
Focus On The Positive
There is a good and a bad side to nearly everything that happens. For example, says Markman, "A great meal at a restaurant may have started with problems finding a parking spot or a table that was a little too close to a potted plant." Instead of honing in on the frustrations you are feeling, why not use your mental energy to savor the food?
Choosing what to focus on in a given situation will help you enjoy your life and make memories. If you are having a lot of trouble getting the downside of a situation out of your head, try distracting yourself with physical activity. "This would help you divert your attention to other matters," says author and life advisor Remez Sasson. "Go for a walk, swim, or go to the gym, cook, bake, or go to dance or fix something at home."
When it comes to friendships, don't be a passive participant. "Happy people actually work on maintaining these relationships by checking in on loved ones, being active and constructive listeners and not being conversational narcissists," entrepreneur Peter Daisyme says. Just remember, this proactivity also means saying no to folks who are bringing you down.
Spend Time In Nature
"Spending time outside – especially in nature – is one of the easiest ways to improve our levels of happiness, while also giving our health a nice little boost," outlet Develop Good Habits notes. As wellness writer Pam Levin says, heading into the great outdoors "hints at relaxation, beauty (which often goes unrecognized) and a sense of bliss."
And science backs this up — one study found that when participants went on a 90-minute walk, they "reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment." To give yourself an even bigger dose of endorphins, take your entire workout routine outdoors.
If you wonder whether sharing your time, energy or money will really make you happy, consider what researchers in a study about generosity and joy discovered. "We find that a public pledge to be generous efficiently boosted generous behavior and happiness in experimental relative to control participants, who had committed to spend money on themselves," the study notes.
Furthermore, "all participants who had performed, or had been willing to perform, an act of generosity – no matter how small – viewed themselves as happier at the end of the experiment," says the outlet Medical News Today.
Mindset coach Dr. Kerry Petsinger gives the following suggestions for those who want to be more giving — donate blood, "give your talents," "host a party for a purpose" and "involve the entire family."
When it comes to feeling those warm fuzzies, remember not to minimize your experiences of pain, disappointment or sorrow. "We want to be positive and hopeful while remaining realistic," says entrepreneur Shayne Seymour.
After all, he explains, "We only grow from overcoming adversity, not from prosperity."
With this balanced perspective — and a host of healthy habits under your belt — you are in for a truly blessed life.