What Makes You Happy?

by Rob Wicker

We all think about happiness, and I guess most of us strive for it, but what does make us happy?

Dan Buettner is a writer for National Geographic. He spent five years studying people who consistently rank as the happiest in the world. These are the insights Buettner recently shared in an interview with Bottom Line Personal:

Employ yourself. If you work for yourself, you are more likely to have a sense of well-being. This may be because you are engaged in work that you enjoy. You also have more control over how you spend your time. Good news for Realtors since they are essentially self-employed.

Own one television.  Americans spend 4 hours a day in front of the tube. This is time that could be spent on activities that are more likely to generate happiness such as engaging with family and friends, sports and hobbies.

Create a flow room. In Denmark people often have an area in the house where people come together. Flow rooms have no screens (computer or tv) and no clocks. If you have a room with a view, that might be the best choice. Good books, magazines, puzzles and games are the kinds of things you might stock in your flow room.

Experience the “sun bonus.” Even though it is a poor country, Mexico is, for the most part, a happy place. This is an example of the sun bonus. The sun produces Vitamin D, which increases brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with serenity and happiness. If you live in the North, vacation in the sun.

Stop shopping. Shopping can be fun in short bursts, but serial shoppers spend a lot of time on an activity without much return. You’re just putting yourself on a hamster wheel. You could better spend the money traveling, learning, or engaging in other activities that bring rewards that last.

Make new friends. Every additional friend you make increases your chance of being happy by 9%, according to Buettner. Belonging to clubs, sports teams and other social groups where you meet people enhance your opportunity for happiness.

Volunteer. The happiest people volunteer to help others.

Keep the faith. People with religious faith tend to be happier than those without faith. Buettner says that even if you are not religious, you can achieve similar benefits by cultivating your sense of spirituality.

Heredity and circumstance play a big part in how happy you are too. However, the key point Buettner makes in his new book, Thrive, is that personal choices are even more important than genes and circumstance. In fact, personal choice accounts for approximately 55% of where you score on the happiness meter.

Be mindful about what you are doing and make good choices.   


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