The Happiness Factor: 5 Ways to Get More of It

We all strive to be "happy and healthy," yet both can be elusive and even subjective. How one person describes their level of happiness might seem snooze-worthy to someone else. So how do we figure out what really makes us happy? And what is happiness anyway?

First, let's start with a simple definition. Happiness is a noun, used to describe 'the state of being happy.' Pretty simple. But if we expand on that definition a bit, we might say that happiness is the feeling that comes over you when you know life is good, and you can't help but smile. It's the opposite of sadness. Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. When people are safe or successful, or lucky, they feel happy.

By maintaining a strong sense of happiness and well-being, you will likely influence others to feel the same way. Simple things such as a smile shared with a stranger can boost your happiness hormones very quickly. 

Here are a few ways you can lift your spirits (and improve your overall health)!

Keep a gratitude journal
Psychologists at UC Davis found that those who kept a regular log of things they were grateful for, had more optimism and experienced greater satisfaction in their lives as compared to those who wrote down only major events or daily hassles. For those that cultivated gratitude, they noticed an improvement of physical symptoms, including runny noses and headaches.

Go on a literature adventure
If time and travel prohibit you from taking your own adventure, you can tag along with someone else's by picking up a good book. In 2012, researchers found that when volunteers simply read about an adventure from another perspective, they experienced less stress, were more satisfied, and more willing to help others.

Look for ways to volunteer
One of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. As it turns out, volunteers experience improved psychological health, decreased risk of depression, and higher overall satisfaction with their life. In other words, it makes them happier.

Smile more often
We are born with an instinct to smile. Even babies in the womb have been caught on camera, smiling proudly about whatever babies smile about. 😊 And when we smile, our brains receive a signal, telling them that life is good. So if you want more of the good life, set a goal of smiling genuinely at least 25 times every day. Wearing a fake smile doesn’t count!

Get your hands dirty
It's true. Breathing in the smell of dirt can have a similar effect on the brain to antidepressant drugs. Certain bacteria found in the soil seem to stimulate the release of serotonin in the brain when injected into mice. And in a human test, cancer patients who received this bacteria reported increases in their quality of life as well.

So whether you read an adventure, cultivate the daily practice of gratitude, or smile at every stranger, happiness shouldn't be far behind.

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