The new year is upon us, and as you start to think of resolutions and goals for the year, it’s important to keep in mind the big picture in addition to all the smaller challenges you want to take on in 2016.Often, we brainstorm different ways to make ourselves healthier, wealthier, or more successful, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That being said, its important to realize that those goals are all means to a far more meaningful end: happiness. Here’s five tips to help you enjoy life and experience happiness this year. Cheers to 2016!
1. Surf More
Well, just in general, exercise more, be it surfing, snowboarding, skiing, wakeboarding, or riding a unicycle. There’s an abundance of research demonstrating that regular exercise is an amazing tool to keep depression and anxiety at bay. In fact, the University of Toronto analyzed over 26 years of data, and has found that moderate exercise can be an effective tool for both treating and preventing episodes of depression. Exercise makes you happy and keeps you happy. Do it.
2. Positive > Negative
How you perceive the world around seriously impacts how happy you are. In fact, according to Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher, lecturer, author, and happiness expert, how you perceive the world can predict 90% of your long term happiness. That’s a lot. In a wonderful TED Talk (which you should listen to if you have time, he’s hilarious) Achor says that “if you can raise someone’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage. Your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy rises.” In other words, if you can train yourself to think positive, you’re likely to see your happiness rise and your success in all other areas of your life (cough cough, in the lineup) rise as well.
3. Fake It ’til You Make It
As it turns out, although happiness makes you smile, apparently smiling can make you happy too. Studies such as “Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response” have shown that smiling, even if feigned, can actually lead to genuine feelings of happiness and reduced stress. So next time you’re feeling down, get out, visit with friends, and pretend to be happy instead of feeling sorry for yourself. It might turn your mood around. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.
4. Sleep Tight
Hippocampus=happy. The hippocampus is the part of the brain mainly responsible for processing positive thoughts. Unfortunately, when you skip out on the zz’s, this part of the brain skips out on its job, while the part responsible for processing negative thoughts keeps chugging away. The result is a tipping of the scale toward the negative, leaving you irritable and stressed. Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep helps keep the hippo happy and your thoughts in balance.
5. Spend Your Money Right
Splurge on experiences rather than material items- science says so. Thomas Gilovich and researchers at Cornell University have found that people get much more enjoyment and satisfaction from spending money on experiences than spending money on material purchases. While people anticipate a huge amount of satisfaction from buying “stuff,” the truth is that once they have it, it brings them far less happiness. Rather, experiences create both something to look forward to as well as memories that last long after. Yes, this is an absolute green light to spend your money on that surf trip you keep putting off instead of buying that new car. The car depreciates as soon as you drive off the lot, but the memory of a perfect barrel stays golden forever.