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The human brain remembers negative experiences more easily than positive ones. Our brains may have developed this way because threats, like dangerous animals, had a more immediate effect on our ancestors’ survival compared to positive things like food or shelter. As a result, you likely know what makes you unhappy, but do you know what makes you happy?
Research suggests that our level of happiness depends partly on factors we cannot control — our genes and our life circumstances. But our level of happiness is also shaped by the choices we make. If you’ve been chasing wealth, fame, good looks, material things, and power, you may be looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Psychologists suggest that the following seven habits make people happier.
1. Forming close relationships
People who form close relationships tend to be happier than those who do not. The number of friends we have is not important. What matters is the quality of our relationships. Relationships that bring happiness usually involve the sharing of feelings, mutual respect, acceptance, trust, fun, and empathy.
2. Being kind
People who make a habit of caring for the well-being of others tend to be happier. This might involve volunteering for an organization or reaching out to support friends and family on a regular basis.
3. Getting exercise
People who exercise regularly improve both their physical and mental well-being. Some research has shown that exercise can be as effective as medication in treating depression.
4. Finding your flow
When we are so interested in an activity we enjoy that we lose track of time, we are in a state of flow. The activity could be making art, playing piano, surfing, or playing a game. People who experience flow in their work or hobbies tend to be happier.
5. Getting in touch with your spirituality
People who include spirituality in their daily life tend to be happier. Practicing spirituality is a way of recognizing and trying to understand the wonder and beauty of existence. Some people do this by going to a place of worship or praying. Some people practice yoga or meditation. Some people go for long walks in nature.
6. Discovering and using your strengths
People are more likely to be happy if they know what their strengths are and use them regularly. People who set goals and use their strengths to achieve them tend to be happier. People are especially happy when they can use their strengths to serve the greater good.
7. Thinking positively
People who think positively by being grateful, mindful, and optimistic are more likely to be happy. Being grateful means being thankful. Being mindful means being open to, focusing on, and enjoying the experiences of the present moment. Being optimistic means being hopeful about the future.
Take good care of your brain. The “most amazing structure on Earth” deserves your appreciation.