Searching for happiness and success is arguably something we all do, something we all want. Most of us think about happiness and success in terms of conventional goals like having a good job or working for ourselves, a family, and money.
While these goals are important, they won’t necessarily increase your happiness and success. The following 4 steps are important for balance, and they’re scientifically-proven to increase happiness and success. Are you ready for the challenge? Ready to put a smile on your face? Read on!
Are you ready for the challenge?
1. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
We often want to hear about the benefits of exercise on our bodies (and the negative effects of a long commute), but what about the effect it has on our emotions? Exercise not only makes us feel physically great but also helps treat a range of mental conditions from depression to improving memory.
We often hear that when we exercise our body releases endorphins, but how many of us understand what this means? Our bodies produce endorphins as a response to stress, fear, or pain. They originate in various parts of your body – the pituitary gland, spinal cord, and various parts of your brain and nervous system.
Here comes the science bit.
When we begin exercising and our heart rate increases, our body recognizes this as stress and sends signals to the brain saying that we might be under attack. To protect ourselves from this ‘attack’ our body releases a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which then works to protect the neurons in our brain and stimulate the growth of new ones. The BDNF proteins boost the production of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that help us feel good and calm.
If you are searching for happiness and success, exercise can improve your mood and make you feel good about yourself. Scientists recommend moderately intense cardio exercise for 30 minutes each day (like treadmill walking) to maximize the benefits of exercise on the production of dopamine and serotonin.
Don’t have enough time to exercise? Lack of time is not a valid excuse. Science comes to the rescue again with scientists from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who have developed a quick 7-minute workout that works almost every part of your body.
What are you waiting for? Take the first step searching for happiness and success, get away from the desk for at least 20 minutes each day (maybe even grab some fellow colleagues as well), and reap the benefits of a quick workout.
2. Get More Zen
Ever wonder why monks seem so calm? Researchers have been getting very interested in what happens when we meditate properly and how it can lift our moods. In a study conducted by Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, they scanned an experienced monk’s brain while he was in deep meditation. The results demonstrated that meditation helps access parts of the brain associated with happiness, joy, and enthusiasm.
There are plenty of methods for short meditation exercises that you can do at home or even in the office.
Sleep for Happiness and Success
Sleep is effective in increasing the joy and creativity in our lives. After researching the effect of sleep on happiness and success at the University of Michigan, researcher Norbert Schwarz stated results that showed
“Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night” (Source)
So how much sleep should we be getting? Studies show that adults should sleep between 7-9 hours a night, and you should make a personal assessment of how much sleep you need. People who get a healthy amount of sleep have the tendency to live the longest and are also pretty good morning people.
3. Reconsider Priorities and Set Your Goals
Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but around 20 percent of us chronically procrastinate. Constant inaction isn’t good for you, and it can lead to depression and unhappiness.
We often prioritize our lives into tangible successes: getting a raise at work, losing weight, traveling the world. However, these successes don’t automatically bring us happiness.
How we set our goals can bring us more happiness and success
Set your goals and make them happen
1. Set your goals – it doesn’t matter what your goal is, as long as it’s something that you want to do, you’re interested and excited by it, and it’s a bit of stretch for you
2. Write down your goals – writing down our goals increases our chance of sticking with them and achieving them
As you write your goals, make sure they are SMART:
- Specific: I want to run the NY marathon rather than I want to be fit
- Measurable: I will send three marketing emails a week not I will send more marketing emails
- Attainable: I want to act in one movie rather than I want to win the Academy Award for my first role
- Relevant: Make sure your goals align with your life and priorities instead of adding to a big to-do list
- Time-Bound: When do you want to achieve this goal? How long will it take to get there?
3. Tell someone your goal – sharing your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them. A 2013 study stated that people who shared their progress on Twitter lost more weight than study participants who kept to themselves.
4. Break your goal down – especially if it is a big goal. Breaking a big project into specific smaller goals makes each of them more achievable. Each small goal achievement gives you the feeling of happiness and success from the progress you are making to your bigger goal.
5. Plan how to start – Having a plan helps you nail down the details that will be important down the road. Online tools like Trello, Asana, or Real-Time Board are a great way to plan your strategy over time.
6. Don’t give up – it may be frustrating and difficult. If your first step isn’t working, think of an alternative first step and give that a try. Experimenting with different ways to reach your goal makes it more likely you’ll achieve happiness and success.
7. Celebrate – enjoy the small wins and celebrate them with anyone who has helped you along the way.
4. Give (And Take) Risks
A lot of us think that if we had more money, we stop searching for happiness and success. Researchers have proven this wrong and found that selfish spending has no direct link to a person’s happiness. However, spending on others or giving to charity does boost your happiness and success.
Giving, much like exercise and overcoming procrastination is an easy step when you are searching for happiness and success. If you work in a small business organize regular group charity activities or budget some of your earnings towards giving to those who need it. Do you really need those extra handbags, video games, or extra drinks after work? Not only will this step help you it will, more importantly, help others in achieving their own happiness and success.
Giving is something new and different for most people. So is taking a chance on a new business, adventure, or friend. Risk-taking is scary and difficult, but worth the effort. It is easier to overthink a change or to disregard a great idea and miss an incredible opportunity.
Studies show that we don’t always know what will bring us happiness and success. Our bodies get used to most changes emotionally in about a year, even big events like an accident or winning the lottery! Those same studies show that regret and indecision have a negative impact on our emotions.
Have you been feeling stuck and want to make a change? Put yourself out there and make something happen. Learn something new. You may surprise yourself and reap the rewards.
Tell us about your goals and tips in the pursuit of happiness and success by leaving us a comment.
This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.