As we continue to edit our movie, A Strange Brand of Happy, I’m growing more excited to see what discussions it will prompt around the spirituality of happiness.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows a historic rise in binge drinking among American adults.
20% of Americans say they drink 8 mixed drinks within 2 hours at least 4 days per month.
From a guy who enjoys a few beers, that shocked me. It’s way more than a passing college phenomenon to get silly drunk these days. It shocked the researchers as well. The general consensus is that what people thought would make them happy isn’t available to them in a down economy, so they are turning to a quick buzz. (8 drinks in 2 hours is a really quick buzz.)
It seems like a good time to look to science and see what has been proven to increase happiness.
Here are the top ten ways to be happy according to the data:
1. Be Present.
Happy people have learned the art of paying attention more to the now than the past and future. They “savor” moments like fine chocolate.
2. Avoid Comparisons.
Happy people focus more on what they already have vs. what others have that they want.
3. Money is a Lower Priority.
Research shows that people who say making money or acquiring possessions is a top priority are more prone to depression, anxiety, low self-worth and an overall lack of vitality.
4. Set Meaningful Goals.
People who can verbalize a long-term meaningful goal in their life (like raising kids or mastering an art) score happier than those who can’t.
5. Take Initiative at Work.
People who have jobs where they actively contribute ideas, skills or strategies are happier than those who do not.
6. Have a Few Deep Friendships
People with fewer, deeper relationships score happier than popular or famous people who say they have a lot of “shallow” relationships.
7. Force a Smile.
People who consciously smile more often end up actually becoming happier.
8. Express Gratitude.
Research shows that expressing thanks is perhaps the biggest factor in happiness. People score higher on happiness assessments after they write one heartfelt gratitude letter to someone important to them. The amazing thing is that the positive effect of the letter for the writer lasts several weeks – generally way longer than the person receiving the letter.
9. Give More Away.
Being generous makes people happy. The effect is even greater if the generosity is interactive and purposeful.
10. Exercise Daily.
I find it interesting that most all of these suggestions could be mined from the life of Jesus and Hebrew wisdom literature. I used to have this warped perception that unhappiness was a sign of Christian devotion. Turns out, that’s pretty dumb.
Do you see anything here you can do tomorrow that you didn’t do today?
Are you gonna do it?
*Most all of the above data is available at this Yes Magazine article by Jen Angel.