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Raising Your Happy Meter

To some people, happiness is a faithful friend that frequently comes to visit. To others, it’s a distant companion that only occasionally stops by.

But what is happiness?

Well, assorted people seem to agree it’s a beneficial emotion that uplifts the spirit. Thus, since happiness apparently adds value to our lives, we’ll examine the sentiment a little more closely.

The Grant Study, a project conducted by Harvard examining human development, produced some interesting findings. George Vaillant directed the study for 30 years or so before its conclusion, but it actually began in 1938. The venture followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates. Naturally, assorted categories were analyzed and assessed, but a key finding?

“Happiness is love.”

Happiness is love? Wow, that’s kind of simple yet profound. But how can we be happier?

Experts suggest the following.

  • Cultivate important relationships. The Grant Study revealed that supportive connections were fundamental to happiness.
  • Engage in regular exercise (if your doctor allows). Workouts tend to boost both energy and happiness.  By the way, brisk walking is considered a great form of exercise.
  • Be proactive about the things you want to try (e.g., new hobby, different language, salsa dancing, golf, woodworking, senior center social). Your personality may not be inherently assertive, but you should not let that keep you from venturing beyond your comfort zone.
  • Get enough sleep: typically 7 to 8 hours per night is recommended. Studies have revealed that sleep is pivotal to well-being.
  • Think positive thoughts. No one is suggesting darkness does not exist. However, if darkness is primarily what we dwell on, darkness will almost surely find us.
  • Regularly meditate or pray. Researchers suggest prayer/meditation can minimize stress, increase empathy, relax our minds, and better allow us to constructively connect with others.
  • Play calming music (or music you enjoy). Many professionals are amazed at the multifaceted abilities of music. In fact, music therapy is a sought-after science.
  • Appreciate what you have been blessed with. Other people may have more, but we have gifts unique to only us. When we reflect upon those gifts, we can see how truly beautiful they are.

Interestingly, other studies, like ones at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, found that happiness is contagious. This means that a happy person has an infectious influence on others. Once other people are infected, they go on to infect their connections. It’s the kind of bug many of us hope to catch.

To learn more about the abovementioned studies, check out these great articles from Forbes and The Washington Post.

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