How many times have you heard someone say that a lottery win would make them happy?
How many times have you thought this yourself?
Lottery winners have actually been the subject of research studies. What we know from this research is their happiness is only boosted for about six months. After that first rush of euphoric spending they return to their previous levels of happiness. So if they were unhappy before winning, they’re likely to be wealthier, but not happier, people.
This is also known as ‘hedonistic adaptation’. The idea that circumstances and possessions can only boost our happiness temporarily. Once we get used to them, or notice that other people have things that are even nicer, they stop making us happier.
Have you ever bought a new car and felt a real rush of joy every time you drive? Then weeks down the track you notice a dent in the door. Suddenly the car becomes a source of anxiety as you scan it for further damage. Your new car is no longer contributing to your happiness. It becomes an ordinary part of your life.
Research suggests that we have a happiness ‘set-point’ that we return to after good and bad events. The upside is that we can be remarkably resilient following bad news. The downside is that constant happiness is not guaranteed.
This everyday happiness is therefore something largely under our control – a daily habit.
So to boost your everyday happiness from its set-point, here are eight tips proven by research.
Savour the ordinary moments in life
The smell and taste of your first coffee. The feeling of sunshine on your face. The moment when you slide into your soft warm bed at night.
Start a ritual saying three things you appreciated that day
Gratitude is connected to happiness. Keeping a gratitude journal is another good option.
Practise small acts of kindness
Pop a funny post card in the mail to cheer up a friend. Express some appreciation to a colleague who tends to be overlooked. The happiness boost we get from helping other people is often far greater than the pleasure they receive.
Do not compare your life to anyone else’s
Your best friend may have just bought an apartment you would love to live in. You feel happy for her, but jealous at the same time. Remember focusing on the discrepancy between your lives will reduce your happiness.
Squeeze in a regular walk, or exercise you enjoy
People who exercise regularly are happier than those who don’t.
Have a meaningful goal to work towards
It doesn’t have to relate to work or study. Put together a digital family album, or grow vegetables. If it’s important to you, it will boost your happiness.
Keep a rein on your tendency to ruminate
Bad things happen to us all, but the happiest amongst us keep their focus on the present, rather than dwelling on the past.
Invite your best mate out for a coffee no matter how busy you are
Go to that barbeque even if you don’t feel in the mood. Socialising with people we care for on a regular basis provides the biggest happiness boost of all.
The great thing about these strategies is that they are available to us on a daily basis. We don’t have to wait for a new relationship or a promotion to feel happy. We can take control of our happiness and make it a daily habit.
Remember to mix it up. Finding new ways to engage in happiness habits will give you the biggest boost of all.
For information, advice and referral on mental illness, contact the SANE Helpline, 1800 18 SANE (7263).