As a doctor and scientist, I prefer to make decisions (from what I have for breakfast to how I travel) based on research. A recent U.S. study evaluated some of the most common strategies people use to get happier and provided valuable insight into which methods are most effective.
Based on that study, 60 percent of our positive feelings and 70 percent of our negative feelings are predicted by things that are difficult or impossible to change immediately (or at all): things like our genes, our age, and certain personal traits. That might sound like a downer, but the bright side is that 40 percent of our positive feelings and 30 percent of our negative feelings can be influenced by the choices we make right now.
But remember, whatever you feel is okay. Negative emotions are part of the human experience. Never feel bad about feeling bad: Cut yourself a little slack. That said, let’s move forward. Here are the top 20 happiness-boosting strategies, backed by science. These are ranked roughly by how well they predict happiness:
1. Decide to be happier.
This opens the door to other effective strategies.
2. Do something that gets you into a happy mood.
For me, it’s creating original music. I get completely caught up in the experience of flow. Find your own source of that feeling.
3. If you’re in an unfortunate predicament, change it or accept it.
Then go on with the rest of your life. Don’t get trapped by rumination about what’s wrong with your life.