According to Jim Barker, a business strategy expert writing in a recent column in Business Insider, there really isn’t a deep dark secret strategy for achieving personal happiness. Instead, his research and that of others shows that it’s quite simple – the single biggest factor impacting our happiness is the strength of our social connections.
Barker cites two Harvard studies about lifelong happiness. One study, of 1,600 Harvard undergraduates, found that social support was a greater predictor of happiness than was GPA, family income, age, race or gender. These results mirror those of the Harvard Study, an on-going, seminal project that has been following a group of Harvard men for the last 70 years, which found that “the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty.”
Barker offers several not-so-secret secrets about how to stay socially connected to achieve happiness:
1. Do More, Not Less: Newly published research suggests that people who have little or no excess time are happiest and that they seldom feel rushed.
2. Do Things That You’re Good At: Your signature strengths are the things that you are uniquely talented at – and using them makes you happy!
3. Quit A Job You Hate: Do not waste time in a job you hate. Staying for years in a job you hate is a recipe for regret and a serious mistake.
4. Schedule Time to Do the Things You Love: Identify the activities and people with whom you want to spend more time and put it on your calendar! Setting aside the time will make you more likely to do them and to be with the people you love!
5. Give Back to Others: Doing nice things for others can bring us joy. But don’t overdo it – it will stress you out. Researchers say that the solution is to set aside one day each week to give back. A good rule of thumb is the 100 hours/year rule – it will help you maintain a healthy life balance.