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Live Well

Simple ways to create everyday happiness

Is happiness nature or nurture? Is it our behavior that makes us happy or our brain? Scientists and psychologists continue to research and study this. While genetics plays a big role, it’s agreed upon that at least 40 percent of our happiness is within our control, even though it may not feel that way.

People use the word “happiness” and say they want to be happy, and they want to make others happy as well, but what exactly are we trying to move toward?

Studies indicate happiness shows up as a positive reflection of your day-to-day experiences. So, it’s everyday happiness that we need to focus on to make a positive difference in our lives. It’s the moments that matter, not what we “think” makes us happy.

There’s a growing movement to cultivate happiness at any age. So whether it’s for yourself, others, your kids or grandkids, here’s the latest from behavioral scientist Paul Dolan on what you can do to make a defined difference in your happiness level.

>> Stop clock watching: Allow as much flexibility as you can when you are with your friends and family. Clock-watching reduces happiness.

>> Relook at who you spend time with: Evaluate your relationships. Those that have lost pleasure and purpose over time and make you feel miserable is worth limiting your time with (even if it’s a long-term partner).

>> Be fully present by putting away your phone: You will enjoy your time with others much more if you are clear with others that you are not available 24/7.

>> Get outside or at least look at nature: Prisoners whose cells have a view make fewer visits to health care facilities. Hospital patients with a view recover faster. Bring in plants and nature to your work or home if you can’t get outdoors once in a while.

>> Talk about experiences: You’ll up your happiness level if you converse with others about your own experiences. Everything counts: Meals, places you’ve been and who you went with.

>> Give up on things you don’t enjoy: Many of us tend to feel like if we’ve invested time or money upfront, we need to stick with something. If you are at a theater watching a bad movie, for example, walk out.

>> Smile more: Studies show that smiling causes you to remember an experience as happier, even if it’s a false and contrived smile. Smiling helps, even when alone.

>> Pay now and enjoy later: This is my favorite happiness-­enhancing idea. We enjoy experiences more when we have already paid for them. So regularly set aside money for “fun” and you will feel less guilt and more joy when spending it. Pay for most of your vacation prior to going and it will feel like it’s “free” when you are on it.

Small things make a difference. Only you can control your experience of life.

Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.

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