A few things – like chocolate, chick flicks and clean sheets-are almost guaranteed to boost your mood. But when it comes to achieving true happiness, there are a ton of misconceptions.

#1: Live in the present.

Getting that promotion doesn’t guarantee bliss. Research did find, though, that if you work on improving your happiness in the present, your job success in the future increases. Go join the gym, start walking the dog, run or enjoy cycling. Happiness actually fuels success – not the other way around.

#2: Be aware of how you perceive things, there is more than one way.

Most people think it’s impossible for them to be content while their career / relationship / social life is at a low point. However only 10% of your long-term happiness is based on the external world, while 90% is based on how your brain processes the world. That’s good news because, while you
may not be able to change your circumstances, you can change the way you perceive them.

#3: Be generous to yourself and others.

According to research, spending money on experiences (like a trip) rather than material things (like new shoes) is associated with greater happiness. Another study found that spending pro-socially (like bringing friends together, donating to a charity, or buying flowers for your mom) significantly boosts happiness. The bottom line: Splurge wisely for the best benefits.

#4: Happy people are creative and intelligent.

Irrational optimism obviously isn’t ideal, but if you’re happy and realistic, you’ll see a huge benefit. In fact, when your brain is happy it increases your creativity, intelligence scores as well as problem solving abilities. Everyday should be a celebration of life.

#5: Do positive things in the present.

Thinking you’ll feel better once you lose 10kg, buy a home or get engaged? Think again. Every time you reach a benchmark, your brain just starts looking toward a new one. So focus on doing positive things in the present rather than assuming you’ll only be happy once you’ve reached a certain milestone.

#6: Just be positive.

A lot of people think happiness has nothing to do with performance. But it’s an incredible advantage in school, sports and the workplace. Need proof?Research shows that positive doctors have a higher accuracy rate, happier salespeople have higher levels of sales and positive athletes bounce back from a loss faster. The human brain just works better when you’re positive.

#7 Pick up your negative friends.

While it’s true that you can catch negativity from the downers in your life, your own positivity can also cause them to perk up – so there’s no need to ditch them. Positivity and negativity are both equally contagious, but studies show it’s the most expressive person – both verbally and non-verbally who has the most influence. So instead of cutting out your downer friends, make it a point to start conversations with the positive and be upbeat in your responses.

#8 Use stress to your advantage.

Studies show that stress can actually speed up cognitive processing, improve memory and deepen social bonds. Your mindset about stress predicts how it will affect you. The experts’ suggestion: Think of moments you’ve been successful in the face of stress, write them down and display it prominently so you’re reminded of it every day. Your brain practices what it visualizes, so the more you see it, the more it quiets the noise.

#9 Exercise for long-term benefits.

You know you can get a quick pick-me-up from a good sweat session, but exercising has amazing long-term benefits, too. Researchers found that 30 minutes of cardio done multiple times a week for six months was the equivalent of taking an antidepressant but showed lower relapse rates. Exercise works so well because it’s a gateway drug. You start believing that your behaviour matters.

#10 Happiness means identifying the negatives and changing it.

You do not need to don rose-coloured glasses all the time to be happy. In fact, that can actually backfire. If you deny that there are any negatives, it could cause you more stress. But if you can acknowledge why you are feeling bad and how you can work to change it, you’ll ultimately be better off than someone who represses those emotions.

SOURCE: Just There, Vol. Two Issue 12 – September 2014.

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